To start things off, I need to admit that when "Anthems for the Damned" came out, I listened to it once or twice, and then quickly came to the conclusion that Filter was done. Anthems was pretty much a complete disaster- stale sounding and boring, it seemed like Richard Patrick had almost completely forgotten about the edgy, industrial qualities of the Filter's early sound. "Anthems" seemed like Filter dying to be U2, to be considered more grown-up, and completely vanquish that angry, angsty, rough around the edges sound of their early years. Complete with hollow production and vacuous, politcal lyrics, it was easy to see why Anthems sent so many Filter fans running, occasionally mourning the loss of one of their favorite bands with repeat listens of Short Bus and Title of Record. Well, here's a message for anyone who left the Filter camp: Now would be a damn good time to come back.
When Rich started posting Facebook updates about the new record being a return to the Short Bus sound, I laughed, and figured he was just full of it. Once I heard the lead single, "The Inevitable Replapse," my doubt transformed into eager anticipation. The song was heavy, very reminiscent of Short Bus, except now Rich could sing pretty well. Fast forward to the release of "The Trouble With Angels," and it only took one or two listens to know that my anticipation of the new Filter album was not in vain- this is great stuff, and while not every song here is in the Short Bus fashion, every song is, I am glad to say, interesting and good.
The opening trio of "The Trouble With Angels" is the type of material that should get old, disenchanted fans excited. The first three songs are as heavy as anything Filter has ever done- opener "The Inevitable Relapse" still sounds great, even though I overplayed it big time when it was released as a single. "Drug Boy" is the quintessential second track, upping the already high energy of the album with urgent, bone crushing riffs. The song is the stand out track of the album for me, and mixes all the heaviness of the verses with a beautiful and surprisingly melodic chorus, similar to what the Deftones did with "Diamond Eyes." "Absentee Father" closes out this opening trio of songs, relinquishing none of the surging momentum from "Drug Boy." The song boasts more powerful riffage, but the best part of it all is the unique and abstract guitar solo. It sounds amazing and is definitely one of Richard's best.
After the first three songs, a lot of fans seem to talk about a drop off in quality. I see what they mean- Filter sounds a little less like Short Bus here and a little more like Title of Record and The Amalgamut. However, most of the songs still have quite a bit of heaviness to them, they just focus much more on melody than the industrial chaos present on the first three. "No Love" is a radio ready anthem. It's fist pumping, and it makes you want to sing along. This type of song is what so many modern, radio rock bands try to do, but end up sounding generic and watered down when they attempt it. While Filter gets no points for originality with this song, they sound great playing it, and, for being probably the worst song on the record, it says a lot for the quality and consistency of this album. "No Re-entry" is Richard Patrick finally striking gold with the ballad's hes been mining for years now. the song is incredibly atmospheric, with beautiful piano interludes and amazing vocals. "Down With Me" is similar to "No Love" in the fact that it sounds a lot like modern radio rock, except this time with some nice electronic touches to seperate it from the pack. "Catch a Falling Knife" is likely the darkest song on the record, with haunting vocals and a creeping bassline. The song starts off with dark, metallic riff that has been produced to make it sound like it is coming out of a Sega Genesis or something- it's an interesting touch and helps the stand out. The title track is up next, and it's great, especially lyrically. It's a classic Richard Patrick rant on religion, except it is finally equipped with decent lyrics! "Clouds" has perhaps the most addictive chorus I have heard in years, and sets up the closer "Fades Like A Photograph," which has been upgraded nicely from its 2012 soundtrack incarnation, nicely.
In conclusion, you can see I had great things to say about every song here. Perhaps I am being a little generous with my 5 star rating, because few albums are perfect in my mind. But this album is pretty close to that, and you can't do ratings with decimal points here so I am going to go ahead and round it up to a 5. Richard deserves the praise he has been getting with this album- He came back and struck gold, and this is perhaps the best album he has ever done. Filter emerged from their lowest point, and made an incredible album that improved in every way- the production sounds great again, Rich finally wrote some decent lyrics (and yeah, I only mentioned the lyrics on the title track, but they are solid throughout the whole album) which has always had trouble with, and most importantly, it showed Filter was still capable of making a heavy, industrial sound. Just dont expect a whole album of it, as about half of it resembles the "Title of Record" and "Amalgamut" sound- but in a very, very good way. There isn't a weak track on this album. It can easily be considered a triumph, a return to glory with a promise of more to come. Welcome back, Filter. We missed you.