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Small Victories – Adrian Harte (Jawbone, 2018)

10 November 2018

In Small Victories: The True Story of Faith No More, Adrian Harte has written a comprehensive history of Faith No More. It is an obvious read for all fans of this band and but also recommended for those who know little beyond the band’s rise to fame via MTV in the early 90s. Numerous interviews and historical documents were used to provide an unbiased history. There is much to enjoy and new revelations appear throughout the book.

The book does a fantastic job of providing the details of the band’s early rise in San Francisco, especially how they were close peers to the thrash metal bands in the mid-80s but clearly were carving out their own genre. Reading this book, I decided to go back and listen to their catalog from beginning to end and the most interesting thing about Faith No More is they evolved during each of their recordings.

Sadly, this band is often blamed for the rise of Nü-metal and that linkage is covered brilliantly in a later chapter. Though true they had many imitators, none of those bands had the same level of creative output. It is a shame FNM get lost in the mishaps of alternative metal in the 90s, as their catalog, especially their three albums, Angel Dust (1992), King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime (1995), and Album of the Year (1997), are all masterpieces

Throughout the book the author provides the realization that many of the members simply did not get along. There is almost a Spinal Tap analogy of the number of guitarists that went through the lineup, but the core members remained the same. Much of their mainstream stardom was a flash in the pan with the extremely fast rise as MTV darlings off of their Real Thing release and video for “Epic”. In one of the biggest middle fingers of that era, their next album, Angel Dust , guaranteed no airplay due to the extremity of style (incorporation of death metal growls) and subject matter. See their performance on MTV for “Caffeine”, if you watch closely the crowd appears stunned.

Even more ironically, the albums that followed, in 1995 and 1997 had plenty of beautiful tracks, but ultimately band member in-fighting, sticking with their punk attitude, numerous side projects, some addiction issues, and the changing of the industry lead to their decision to not continue. Having personally been a huge fan of this band, their performance at Roseland [NY] in 1992 was one of the best shows I have ever seen by any band and their show in 1997 at the same venue was one the most disappointing, so there was no shock when they disbanded slowly after that time. In the past few years the band has returned to the stage and released Sol Invictus in 2015.

It is finally great to have the full story and congratulations to the author for his work on this well researched, enjoyable, and exhaustive read. The publication serves as an important documentation of this highly influential and unique band.