Eclecticism has been a hallmark of Richard Patrick’s career in Filter, and it’s administered with crushing efficiency on The Trouble With Angels. Fans weaned on the industrial outbursts and corrosive beats of 1995’s Short Bus and 1999’s Title of Record will be ecstatic to hear Patrick’s unmistakable scream and unflinching honesty dominating the new album.
The prolific multi-instrumentalist couches intensely personal narratives in throwback industrial crushers subject to multiple interpretations. On the surface, leadoff single “The Inevitable Relapse” details a shattered man succumbing to addiction, but can be read as a study of love lost, consumption or obsession, depending on your perspective. Not to mention its isolated bass line and thudding chord collapse both conjure and modernize Filter’s breakthrough smash, “Hey Man, Nice Shot.”
The guessing game continues down Angels’ track list. Is the hammering “Absentee Father” about the man upstairs or an unreliable blood relation? Does the fist-pumping “No Love” take a nation addicted to warfare to task, or is it a flagellation of the narrator’s own selfishness? Patrick prefers ambiguity, but one thing is obvious: The Trouble With Angels boasts his strongest, most aggressive songwriting yet. “I’ve heard people say, ‘Well, Richard is mellowing with age…’ and I was like, really?” he exclaims with characteristic intensity. “Mellow?! You know what? I’ve been looking for an excuse to tear people’s heads off again!”
“The first three songs [on the new record] are for people who are super-pissed and want Short Bus, and then everything after that, it’s like what we did with Title and [2002’s] Amalgamut,” Patrick continues. “There’s one song that’s maybe as soft as [Title’s crossover hit] ‘Take a Picture.’ [But] I truly believe to this day my audience should be as eclectic as I am. If they can listen to Radiohead, then Pantera, they should be able to listen to that within the same band.”
Lyrically and musically, Patrick’s taken it to the next level. Employing the talents of collaborators new and old (drummer Mika Fineo and original right-hand man Brian Liesegang, who contributes sound design to the lush “Fades Like a Photograph”), he unleashes serrated riffs that recall old-school pit-starters like “Dose,” “Under” and “Welcome to the Fold.” Sometimes they even have to be dragged into the world kicking and screaming. “The solo in ‘Absentee Father,’ it’s like total disregard,” Patrick laughs. “A complete and utter fuck you-ism solo that doesn’t follow any rules whatsoever; completely avant-garde, and it’s the third song on the record. It’s the ultimate [example of] At-this-moment-I-have-absolutely-no-regard-for-the-rules-of-music-whatsoever-and-it’s-time-to-break-them-to-make-this-thing-say-what-I-need-to-say.”
For an album of closed fists and open ends, the title track can’t possibly be misinterpreted. Patrick confronts the scientifically-challenged tenets of fundamentalist proselytizers, assuring, “When you take a better second look, miracles fade.” On the other side of the coin, he remains unafraid to explore his own failings and make honest music out of them. Take “Drug Boy”: “When we were kids, we’d trip out on whatever and just walk around graveyards in Cleveland. Somebody would inevitably stumble across a mausoleum, palm a skull and take off with it. ‘12 hours of acid, let’s dig up a casket,’” he laughs, quoting the lyrics.
Patrick is quick to give credit to producer Bob Marlette for not only putting the perfect corrosive “finishing touches” on the record, but encouraging his brutally candid lyrical approach. Ultimately, though, provocative his Angels are, the frontman insists, “I don’t want to come off as if I’ve got an agenda on this record—I really don’t. I want to tell the truth inside of me and relate it to the folks who are going through these lives we lead.”