As a lifelong Filter fan, I really wanted to love this album. However, I just don’t find it that engaging. It’s definitely not a bad album, its just not all it could be. My first time through, I was super excited to listen again and get into it. That feeling faded ridiculously fast, however. To give a in-a-nutshell type of summary before I dive in further: it kinda sounds like a good remix album of what were once better songs.
OK, let me get my complaints out of the way first. A lot of this album seems to equate intensity with simple volume fluctuations. “Hey, I bet this mediocre riff would sound way heavier if we put near silence before it hits. Right?” It’s like a horror movie that relies solely on jump scares. Its a great thrill at first, but it kills any reason to go back because it lacks depth.
A lot of the energy feels feigned. I really think Richard Patrick wanted to write a radio album more along the lines of Title of the Record or Trouble with Angles but instead felt compelled to try and recapture that Short Bus vibe. That’s not to say there aren’t any good moments on this album, there are quite a few, just not enough, or any entire songs.
Songs like The City of Blinding Riots just fall flat for me. The opener, Mother E, is a great example of what I feel like they were trying to do with this album, but it still feels more like a single great idea that was overproduced/overextended into a full song. The real standout song on the album is Welcome to the Suck. Its one of the few tracks where it sounds like Richard is genuinely emotionally invested. Most of the rest of the songs have great bits, but just fail to live up to what they could have been. Something like Take me to Heaven doesn’t really gel until the last 30 seconds. When the guitar solo comes in, it gets a fantastic arena rock, almost Guns’N Roses-type vibe that the rest of the track really could have used. Another example of a nearly great track is Tremors. You really expect the chorus to just go all out with crazy guitar rock, but it stays restrained and gets synth-y. It really works well. Too bad the rest of the track sounds half baked.
Side note – good golly the drums on this album are boring as hell. Seriously, they are like AC/DC boring. WTF?
One of the things I absolutely love Love LOVE about this album is the sound. The tones, the mix, the balance, the synths, the bass guitars especially, all of them sound fantastic. Its got a great balance between liveliness and clarity. Its just an awesome album to crank up.
Ok, lets wrap it up. I really like Filter in one of two ways – dirty, rough sounding, and immediate (Short Bus, live shows) or way overproduced and intricate (Title, Angels, Amalgamut). Amalgamut is actually my favorite album. This album (and the last album, When the Sun…) tries to combine the two and doesn’t quite get it. I think they wanted to do a whole album kinda like Trip Like I Do and it just didn’t have that magic. I do love that Filter changes their sound quite a bit between albums. A bit like Manson in that regard. But also like Manson, you are gonna get some duds when you work like that. I really hope the next album is just dirty and gross as all heck. I would love that. Richard, if you read this, please get back to the sludgier stuff, maybe check out some bands like Whores to see what I am talking about. I really think like Filter doing sludge/doom would be amazing.