Filter album review of "Crazy Eyes" by Bryan Fontez from Last Bullet
It’s not often that I get to review an album for a band that I’ve never really listened to. I think I might have heard one Filter single back in the day but that’s about it. I don’t really know anything about them so I’m looking forward to listening with fresh ears. Here goes…
1. Mother E
The album opens up with a whisper among an escalating force of distorted/electronic drum sounds. Angry and distorted vocals over top booming bass samples makes it sound like this track is channeling Nine Inch Nails and maybe even some Marilyn Manson. There's also some EDM/Hip-hop influence here which you’re starting to hear more of from bands like Shinedown, Three Days Grace and Skillet. I really like the inclusion of strings halfway through, it’s a nice break from the chorus. Lyrically this seems to have somewhat of an Enviro-Political; I’m also assuming that Mother E stands for Earth. But I could be way off the mark there.
My biggest gripe with this track is that I don't hear any guitars in the song until the end when they introduce some drone notes and if they are there, they're tucked way to far back in the mix (for my liking anyway). This is not a radio friendly song by any means, but we're doing an album review here, so fuck radio.
2. Nothing In My Hands
This one has “single” written all over it. I like it a lot. This opens with some soft vocals and eerie synth over top of electronic drums that are 100% channeling Marilyn Manson in the best way possible. In fact the dissonant vocal harmonies in the pre-chorus sound a lot like Manson himself. The chorus is catchy, especially when you lose yourself in the Nine Inch Nails inspired heavy, down-tempo, disco beat that makes you want to shake your ass. This song reminded me of a really heavy version of "Closer". I Dig.
With lines like "they've taken your freedom" and "your justice is dead”, this is definitely political. Vocals sound great, the softer sections are creepy and the heavy sections are raw and powerful. Guitar tones are sludgy and get the job done. I like the 4 note escalating pattern in the bridge. There are some clichéè electronic sounds in the background throughout but in my opinion they add to the vibe and eeriness, while the song climaxes to a raging boiling point and then just cuts the cord full stop. This song is Bluesy, grungy, industrial, heavy and dark.
3. Pride Flag
The son opens up with ambient, theatrical-styled electronic music that you'd likely hear in a Transformers film. And then BANG! This track slams the album into 5th gear changing up the tempo to a quicker head-banging friendly rhythm that clocks in at around 135bpm.Everything comes to a halt for an emotionally serene chorus that includes some more strings and a soothing vocal melody, right up until the point when the second verse explodes back in. The guitars in the verses remind me a lot of the song “Sick, Sick, Sick” by Queen’s Of The Stone Age.
Given the title of the song and the words used to express its meaning, I’m going to guess that this is about human rights, but more specifically gay rights, which coming from a city like Toronto, I am completely in support of. Expressions like “Now that the battle’s won, I think the time has come, push away all the hate, pages from an ancient faith” seem to be clear references to religious texts and ignorant beliefs. And then lines like “We don’t have to run and hide, stand up tall full of pride” only further solidify the subject matter in my eyes. After an uneventful guitar solo the song comes back to that verse riff, then ups the intensity on everything it can call upon to bring the song to an epic climax.
4. The City Of Blinding Riots
This is a dark, industrial, electro dance-fest of a tune that would have been gladly welcomed on the soundtrack for the movie Blade right next to heavy techno classics like “Blood Rave”. I don’t hear any organic instruments on this one however so I’d be interested to see how they’d play this live without pressing play and having the vocalist sing solo.
There are lots of political and socio-political overtones in this one. Riot and revolution seem to be the overarching theme, with 1984 references to Big Brother, and being watched. The production on all the synths and sounds are solid like a banger out of Steve Aoki’s playbook, but it also doesn’t offer anything truly lasting or unique in its initial delivery. It feels a lot like newer Linkin Park, but a bit angrier and without any sort of memorable melody.
This is the strongest, catchiest tune on the album thus far. This one is fun and bouncy without losing any of the edge and darkness that the rest of the songs have been displaying. I’m picking up a huge Stereophonic vibe here. The entire chorus melodically and instrumentally sounds like a heavier version of a song like “Help Me”. Even the raspy vocals sound super similar to Kelly Jones’ tone and style, it’s eerie how much similarity I hear in this song. Not sure if that’s intended or just fluke, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
The lyrics seem to insinuate someone no longer fearing the concept of death. But like most catchy singles, the focus is less about the lyrics and more about the hook. The bridge on this track goes full out electro and then it all ends with a stripped back section of vocal harmonies that drift and intertwine around each other until the band comes back in for the final chorus. This track has some stellar guitar work by Patrick here, extremely unfortunate that it’s tucked so far back in the mix. I really wanted to hear that solo, loud and up front.
6. Welcome To The Suck (Destiny Not Luck)
Heartfelt, passionate, emotional and exactly what this album needed at this point. This track goes in a slightly different but very welcomed direction. I don’t know how but Filter makes the awkward song title work in this chorus. The chorus is powerful, the vocal melody rips and instrumentally it erupts into what I can only explain as a slow march of pure pain and loss. This chorus hits so hard it makes you feel like going to war. With lines like “Welcome to the hurting, welcome to the suck, feel your heart is burning, destiny not luck”, this one hits home for me. I’ve had nothing and no one there for me at some of the worst times of my life, so when I hear words like this, I understand and can sympathize. I'll give kudos to Patrick for a genuine and gut wrenching performance with this song.
7. Head Of Fire
This one starts with simple vocal line and bass guitar accompaniment. The chorus hits and we’re in a sweet spot of catchy hard rock with pop influences rhythmically and melodically. Some nice falsettos work in the chorus vocally. There’s some great drum sounds in this one interlaced throughout the track, tones that you can tell are the real deal. The bridge is really heavy and has a lot of cool FX mixed with filthy guitar tones and screaming vocals, but like many of the tunes on this album it relies on being a moment of sounds, rage and a simple riff as opposed to having a prominent melody or solo performance of some kind that sticks out. Lyrically it sounds like it’s about a girl who’s completely messed with this guy’s head. Catchy tune.
We’re back to the rage. Immediately I feel like Richard Patrick is channeling his inner Josh Todd from Buckcherry. In fact this sounds like a Buckcherry tune that was way too hard to make the cut. I dig the double bass and I love the way the tune kicks in with that drum fill. This is a drum heavy tune that’s light on guitars, but when they do come in they hit like a truck full of gorilla shit. Kudos to Filter for being able to put a silky bridge with strings right in the middle of a nasty, double kicking, pissed off chorus. The lyrics? Drugs and shit. But who cares this tune rocks.
9. Kid Blue From The Short Bus, Drunk Bunk
This one’s interesting. It’s got a playful tone in the verse as if it were written like a children's rhyme, then the second half get’s heavy and twisted, until the chorus comes in and sounds like a pop song covered in filth. The band sounds great on this one, drums are solid, bass has some nice fuzz, guitar tones are nasty, and I like it. In particular, I absolutely love the intro, there are heavy guitars and unorthodox drum parts that really get a chance to shine. The drums eventually let loose here, pushing and pulling, syncopating, odd accents, triplets, pretty much everything under the sun while still keeping within the framework of the time signature. As a drummer it’s fantastic to listen to.
10. Your Bullets
This one starts fast and abrasive and then cuts to a vocal/bass duo with lyrics about self-reflection, until it breaks to a heavy pre-chorus and then a catchy chorus with a great vocal melody. The only issue is that there are so many FX on the vocal that I had a hard time making out the lyrics in the chorus and it took me a bunch of listens, which is super unfortunate. Like many of the others this tune drops off in the bridge for an ambient section only this time absolutely nothing significant happens. It sounds like a change for the sake of change, with just a little bit of nuanced/background vocal that just builds back up again to the same chorus riff. Which I might add is a great riff and sounds A LOT like the riff I wrote for Last Bullet’s latest single “SIN”.
11. Under The Tongue
This one begins with a long intro of predominantly drums and bass with a little bit of ambient guitar and vocals in the background that both seem to have a generous amount of delay. At about the 2:45 mark is when the guitars kick on the dirt/overdrive. It’s at this moment that I realized this is an instrumental track. This is an odd choice to have on the tail end of an album. I can imagine this being used as an intro to the start of a live show, but on an album it’s pretty uneventful and serves little purpose. It’s basically 6 minutes of escalating drums, delayed background guitar and some ooh/ahh’s that never really leave a mark. There is a bunch of key and synth noises that come in at around the 4 minute mark, but it’s just white noise for the most part.
12. (Can’t She See) Head Of Fire, Part 2
This track offers a nice beautiful acoustic guitar sound. I love when heavy albums end on a soft note, it’s a nice way to reset the palate and close off the musical journey you just experienced. Patrick comes in with somber vocals repeating the words “can’t she see”. A call back to the lyrics in “Head Of Fire”. There’s some haunting and ethereal synth going on in the background that really adds to the ghostly vibe of this track. Eventually all the instruments drop out, leaving the vocals and some spacey synth tones. This gives me a Radiohead vibe of drifting through space and time all alone. They definitely could have gotten away with a little more of this on the album.
Having never really heard Filter’s music before, I took it upon myself to look up some more info on the band after listening to the album and what I found made me laugh out loud. Lead Singer/Guitarist Richard Patrick was the former live guitarist for Nine Inch Nails "between" 1989-1993. That Makes A LOT of sense now, and validates the majority of the influences I was hearing and picking out on this album.
This is a solid industrial rock album with a lot of interesting creative choices, some great choruses, melodies and some very brief moments of instrumental wizardry. There’s some stuff here that I loved and a ton that I liked, but ultimately I was left wanting just a little more. By the end of the album I felt like the band could have pushed even harder in sections or produced moments that were a little more sonically interesting. But at the same time, I’m a huge fan of the less is more approach, so I can understand as a musician and a songwriter where Patrick’s head might have been at if that was the route he wanted to go. I think I just really wanted the album to ROCK a little more. Maybe even some more guitars with nasty tones dialed-in would have done the trick.
One thing I really enjoyed among many others was the lyrics. Musicians and bands aren’t talking about issues that matter anymore, all the angry rock music with a message seems to have disappeared for some reason. The world we live in is fucked up and music is too powerful not to use as a force for change. Where are the RATM’s and SOAD’s of the world? This album at least isn’t afraid to make its points and stand by them with assertive and powerful aggression.
Songs like Pride Flag, Your Bullets, Welcome To The Suck and Nothing In My Hands, all really stuck with me lyrically and sonically. I have no idea what the previous Filter albums sounded like, but this one is really good and I was pleasantly surprised. I’d probably listen to this again, which is saying A LOT. I’d say at this point I’m now definitely a fan of Filter, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for tickets when they make their way to Toronto.
I give Filter’s album “Crazy Eyes” 4 Visine Eye Drops out of 5.