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Music Review: Filter – Anthems For The Damned

It’s hard to believe that nine years have passed since Richard Patrick and Filter recorded the near-masterpiece Title Of Record, which, other than following up their excellent 1995 debut CD Short Bus spawned top hits like the dreamy “Take A Picture” and the heavy-hitting “Welcome To The Fold.” Filter did release one album between then and now, 2002’s The Amalgamut. Though it was their heaviest to date, the album was largely average and a commercial flop because of it. That said, it did have a few bright spots, including “Where Do We Go From Here,” “God Damn Me,” and “The…

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Summary : For Richard Patrick and Filter, this new and fourth album is a mix of almost everything that made them great.

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It’s hard to believe that nine years have passed since Richard Patrick and Filter recorded the near-masterpiece Title Of Record, which, other than following up their excellent 1995 debut CD Short Bus spawned top hits like the dreamy “Take A Picture” and the heavy-hitting “Welcome To The Fold.”

Filter did release one album between then and now, 2002’s The Amalgamut. Though it was their heaviest to date, the album was largely average and a commercial flop because of it. That said, it did have a few bright spots, including “Where Do We Go From Here,” “God Damn Me,” and “The Only Way (Is The Wrong Way).”

Afterwards, Patrick wasn’t heard from again — largely because of alcohol issues — until he fronted Army Of Anyone, a supergroup of sorts that featured the DeLeo brothers (Robert DeLeo and Dean DeLeo from Stone Temple Pilots) and David Lee Roth’s drummer Ray Luzier. They released a self-titled album in late 2006, which had limited success in the form of a hit single, “Goodbye,” and toured behind the album in 2007. All members have since moved on to other projects, with Luzier having joined Korn, the DeLeo brothers reformed Stone Temple Pilots with Scott Weiland, and Patrick reformed Filter to record its fourth album. Thus, Anthems For The Damned (Pulse Recordings) was born.

After a few spins of the long-awaited Josh Abraham-produced new record, you get the sense that Patrick, who started Filter in 1993 with former partner and programmer Brian Liesegang, has both expanded his sound and reclaimed many of the best elements of his previous records. Thus, there are very few weak tracks on this new album, which should please many of the band’s longtime fans.

There are also a few notable guests here as well, including guitarist Wes Borland (ex-Limp Bizkit, Black Light Burns), Josh Freeze (A Perfect Circle, NIN), and John 5 (Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson). And speaking of collaborators, joining Patrick (vocals/guitar) for the new edition of Filter are Mitchell Marlow (guitar), John Spiker (bass) and Mika Fineo (drums).

It should be no surprise to any Filter fan that many of Patrick’s new songs are political, even if the lyrics on many of them aren’t overtly so. The press release for the album, in fact says the bandleader considers the new release his “howl in the night,” a harsh indictment of civilization that doesn’t exclude himself from its vision of a world falling apart.

First single “Soldiers of Misfortune” is an emotional tribute — with a chorus that hints at vintage U2 — to fallen U.S. Army Reservist (and Filter fan) Sgt. Justin Eyerly who lost his life within days of being deployed to Iraq. And, it’s an instant classic. Recall that Filter’s first hit, “Hey Man, Nice Shot” (from Short Bus) was also a tribute, this one being to the late Republican Pennsylvania state treasurer Budd Dwyer, who took his own life in 1987 during a televised press conference. So, political (and patriotic) tributes are nothing new to Richard Patrick.

Track two, “What’s Next” starts off with that familiar slightly distorted bass (as heard on early Filter tracks) and the lyrics are an outright indictment of our government. Check out lyrics like “George Bush is f***ing us up,” and “look what they’ve done to us/we don’t know who to trust.”

But instead of moping about current state of affairs, he wants us to do something about it, hence the lyrics: ”It’s time we took up a stand/Take a wrong out of our hands.” It’s another vintage heavy and intense Filter number that doesn’t let up ‘til its end. The industrial metal of “The Take” has a similar vibe, though it does include an acoustic breakdown that leads to a crushing finale.

Elsewhere, there are a couple of future hit singles on the record that are in the vain of the last two records’ catchiest tunes, including “Kill The Day.” It’s a definite repeat-worthy midtempo number that could easily fit right in with Amalgamut’s quieter standouts like “The Only Way (Is The Wrong Way).” But the track’s flute-like high-end guitars add a new dimension to the Filter sound, at least in a way not easily identifiable before now.

The spacious track “Only You” definitely has its own identity but thematically, it is linked to the hypnotic, ambient and dreamy instrumental “Can Stop This,” as both songs share a “tentative hope” for the future, as well as the same acoustic guitar riffs. [Put together as one, the song becomes “Only You Can Stop This”]

Traces of Filter’s super-heavy (“nu metal”) numbers from previous records can be found on a couple of Anthems tracks, but “In Dreams” in particular, which has its ultra heavy guitars tuned down to Drop A (as they are on “Welcome To The Fold” and “Columind,” from Title of Record and Amalgamut, respectively).

As mentioned earlier, there are very few truly unmemorable missteps on Anthems. One of them is “I Keep Flowers Around,” which starts out with a promising bass groove but has Patrick singing — more like yelling — over a refrain that just doesn’t go anywhere, and ends unpleasantly with Patrick yelling “You lie/To me” to himself.

Speaking of “lies,” there appears to be a running theme on the record of pointing out how someone “lie[d],” “lied” to him or to the country. The problem is that other than calling out President Bush (“What’s Next”) for lying us into the current Iraq war, Patrick never really delves into specific instances of who lied and what they lied about, and therefore the use of that word becomes generic after several uses.

But I digress, because the vocal performances on this album are strong and overcome such lyrical deficiencies. And Richard Patrick’s singing is terribly underrated — the man can sing his butt off.

In all, Anthems For The Damned has given Filter new life. Richard Patrick has shown he can still channel his anger and frustrations with the world in a tuneful way fifteen years into his post-NIN career. He and his new band have given Filter fans young and old twelve new tracks to rock out to or relax and enjoy. They are a mix of heavy (sometimes industrial) hard rock/metal and radio-friendly rock, with the balance of material being of the just plain heavy kind.

More importantly, about two-thirds of the record is definitely worth listening to again and again, while the rest isn’t bad, just so-so. Therefore, Anthems as a whole is one of Filter’s best and highly recommended.

Key tracks to crank up: “The Take,” “In Dreams,” “Soldiers of Misfortune,” “Kill The Day”

For more information on the band and its current tour, visit http://www.officialfilter.com

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About Charlie Doherty

Copy editor/content writer for Penn Multimedia; print/web journalist/freelancer, formerly for Boston Examiner, EMSI, Demand Media, Brookline TAB, Suite 101 and Helium.com; co-head sports editor & asst. music editor at Blogcritics Magazine; Media Nation independent newspaper staff writer, printed/published by the Boston Globe at 2004 DNC (Boston, MA); Featured in Guitar World May 2014. See me on twitter.com/chucko33, myspace.com/charlied, & Facebook.