Filter’s first album in six years, Anthems for the Damned, is an angry record. Sometimes, that anger is directed at current events – specifically, at the ongoing Iraq War – but it’s also expressed in terms of the daily agonies that pull apart the fabric of civilized societies: addiction, ignorance, selfishness. Anthems for the Damned may come across as unflinching, but Filter frontman Richard Patrick leavens his rage through compelling songwriting and a few moments of hope amidst the scenes of political and personal turmoil.
Attacking the Iraq War
Best known for the seething ‘90s industrial rock song “Hey Man, Nice Shot,” Filter kicks off Anthems for the Damned with a few tracks that could be its spiritual cousins. Whether on the more mid-tempo “Soldiers of Misfortune” or the fiery “What’s Next,” Patrick expresses his unhappiness with the mismanaged Iraq War and the climate of bogus information that brought about its beginning. But neither song reaches the level of volume or anger that the next track, “The Wake,” achieves. But interestingly, “The Wake” isn’t after political protest – it’s a song about self-deception, setting the tone for much of the rest of the album.
Intimate Personal Songs
While the antiwar songs, not to mention the soldier’s helmet and rifle on the cover, lead one to think that Anthems for the Damned is chiefly concerned with the conflict in Iraq, a larger portion of the album is given over to songs of a more personal nature. In truth, Anthems for the Damned is a smart merging of the styles of Filter’s two biggest hits, “Hey Man, Nice Shot” (a hard-edged rocker about the suicide of a Pennsylvania politician) and “Take a Picture” (a softer track about Patrick’s alcoholism). At its best, the new album encapsulates Patrick’s ability to tie aggressive guitar textures to soaring choruses while the lyrics discuss his doubts about himself and the world around him.
Searching for Happiness
“Cold (Anthem for the Damned)” adheres closest to the “Take a Picture” model of melodic songwriting. Starting with an acoustic guitar opening, the song pleasingly transitions into an energetic chorus powered by electric guitars. The song has a searching quality as Patrick sings about a desire to find some sort of contentment. As upset as the news makes him, it’s clear that he’s unafraid to look at his own flaws too, and other tracks, such as “Kill the Day,” hint at intimate confessions about the daily struggles to achieve personal happiness in a world that seems dominated by greed and stupidity – a world that, as he suggests on “Only You,” is running out of time unless people begin to take an interest in making positive changes.
Compelling and Thoughtful
Anthems for the Damned was released just after Patrick’s 40th birthday, and a measure of the album’s maturity and thoughtfulness can be attributed to its songwriter’s age. But beyond that, Anthems for the Damned is impressive for its willingness to be so candid about a flawed society and the singer’s place in it, provoking a series of songs that are sonically rich but also thematically compelling. Filter may not be as popular as they once were, but Richard Patrick continues to make records that speak to the culture at large. Now, people just need to listen.
Release date – May 13, 2008