The Mainstream: Filter at Full Industrial Strength with Crazy Eyes

Filter at Full Industrial Strength with Crazy Eyes

Richard Patrick is to Filter as Trent Reznor is to Nine Inch Nails, and when Patrick left Nine Inch Nails twenty plus years ago, and started Filter, his own project got lumped under the “industrial rock” moniker along with Nine Inch Nails, even though the two projects sounded quite different. On Crazy Eyes though, the sonic differences are scrubbed away slightly by the industrial strength of Patrick’s new, and brilliant, album. This is not to say that Patrick has begun to copy his mentor’s schick. No, Filter still sounds about as much like Nine Inch Nails as Trent’s other protege Marilyn Manson does, and that is to say they sound quite different. What Patrick taps into most on Crazy Eyes is the unbridled anger that Trent wallowed in, and in turn struck a major chord with millions of listeners over.

On Filter’s previous 7 albums, Patrick has waxed poetic (The Sun Comes Out Tonight), faced down his demons (The Trouble With Angels), gone almost full on pop (Title of Record), and gone full blown political (Anthems for The Damned). Here, Patrick puts it all together in one package, slathers it in a grimy industrial sheen and makes the best album of his career. It might have taken Filter six albums to get to the masterpiece that is Crazy Eyes, but it was well worth the wait, and definitely NOT too little too late…

A few moments into the album’s first track “Mother E,” it’s evident that Patrick is well and ready to slog through the knee deep sludge that is evocative of not only a ton of sticky angst, but an angry explosion of sonic energy while revolting against his “mother e” lyrically. (Could it be ecstasy? Could it be earth? Frankly it doesn’t much matter and that’s part of the brilliance). The loud/quiet dynamic engaged in by much of his native 90s compatriots, as well as in his previous work, is on full display here as well. What’s most striking is that while there is a wall of guitar noise, it’s more noise than it is coherent riffing. It sounds like Filter, but it sounds more fresh than Filter has sounded since Short Bus, or at least since “Jurassitol.” This is smartly ironic since here the music is often dripping with the sonic equivalent of the art of decay.

The next track continues the industrial revolution, as “Nothing In My Hands” brings the guitars back into focus sonically, but washes the whole affair into a grinding background noise that consists of electronic beeps as much as it does the sense that the song’s guitars are being grinded up as much as played.

Lyrically, “Nothing In My Hands” is demonstrative of Patrick learning how to address political and social topics obliquely, as well as poetically, enough to actually qualify as art instead of preaching. The song is obviously inspired by the many police shootings that have plagued the U.S. over the last few years. Patrick repeats “Face down/On the ground” repeatedly while the guitar riffs pile on top of the listener unrelentingly.

The social commentary continues with the less obliquely titled “City of Blinding Riots,” a very obvious reaction to the riots of a few years ago that engulfed cities like Baltimore and Ferguson. The song itself continues Patrick’s serious dedication to a much more industrial sound, but also brings back a bit of the dance music inspiration that was evident on The Sun Comes Out Tonight. “Pride Flag,” one of the album’s standout tracks beats along to the same socio-political theme lyrically, but at its heart is the best representation of Patrick’s fusion of the old traditional Filter sound and his new bend towards the hard core industrial in his music. The steady crushing beat of the drums and the massive slab “wall of guitar” that makes up the bulk of the song is surprisingly brought to a crescendo by a heated guitar solo of all things.

The album’s first single “Take Me To Heaven” surprisingly sounds discernibly unlike anything else on the album. It’s a song much more in the straightforward rock of Anthems for The Damned or the more pop leanings of Title of Record. There’s enough industrial rock sounding clangs in it to link it to the rest of the record, but if this track, as the album’s lead single, turns you off (as it did me), the rest of the album more than makes up for it. “Welcome to The Suck (Destiney Not Luck)” brings the album right back into the dark hole (that’s not completely devoid of hope). It’s a track that would have been at home on The Matrix soundtrack or Pandorum.

Even where the album still delivers solid industrial rock tunes, but of a nature that is rather uninspiring, since they sound a little too similar to Filter songs we’ve heard before, Crazy Eyes is still leaps and bounds better than the vast majority of Patrick’s previous work. The songs “Head of Fire,” and “Tremors” fall squarely into this category, but the album’s successes, like the six minute instrumental “Under The Tongue,” more than make up for the short periods where Patrick nods. “Under The Tongue” is reminiscent of the open spaces and, at times, overly long industrial-jams that Reznor engaged in on The Fragile, but never falters or slips out of place or overstays its welcome. If Patrick ever decided to follow his mentor into the movie scoring business, “Under The Tongue” would serve as a perfect door opener in that respect.

Richard Patrick will always been under the shadow of his former bandmate and mentor, but over the years has gone places just as interesting as he did while part of Reznor’s crew. He’s always managed to engrave his own take on industrial rock with machine-like precision that ensured it was not only his own, but uniquely artistic while still managing to reach a large audience. Crazy Eyes is the masterpiece that Patrick was always capable of and has finally delivered. It’s his Downward Spiral, and it’s while it might be just a few notes short of perfect, it’s nothing short of brilliant.

“Crazy Eyes” due April 8, 2016 via Wind-up Records

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