Two bands; both formed in Ohio; both electronic infused industrial metal; both are one-man-as-a-band outfits. One is Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails, and the other is Richard Patrick’s Filter. At this point in his career Patrick is probably sick to death of such comparisons, but in the music industry you get compared to the popular, the archetypal, and the critically acclaimed; these are the ones against which the benchmarks are set. That Patrick has stated that Reznor is a good friend – “like a brother” – and “a mentor”, as well as the fact that he and Filter co-founder – now former-member – Brian Liesegang, played in Pretty Hate Machine era Nine Inch Nails just makes the comparison even more apt.
Sonically Crazy Eyes, the seventh album from Filter, harks back to Short Bus and Title of Record but has been produced to provide a bit of ‘oomph’ – that kick that ties a band’s live sound and energy to their studio work – that these earlier records lacked. Album opener Mother E perfectly exemplifies this update to the angsty, lo-fi, Filter of the nineties with Patrick intoning “I’ve got my reasons and my reasons are sound” defiantly before giving voice to the angst and screaming “Mother/I’m a man in hell”. It’s Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral all over, but satisfying all the same. The least satisfying part of the song is Patrick’s voice, and this is a bugbear throughout Crazy Eyes, which sounds like he gargled with gravel and kerosene before each take. As mean as it may sound, I kind of hope that there is a medical reason for Patrick’s rough and raspy vocals because a conscious choice to apply this vocal style to the album would represent a major misstep.
Welcome To The Suck (Destiny Not Luck) feints that it’ll fulfil the role of the obligatory soft song, but quickly dives head first into being a brutal, dark, aural assault. Even the soft orchestral sounds of a string section during the song’s bridge are used to augment the song’s tension, showing a maturity in composition, and making it the records standout track. Wedging Welcome To The Suck between Take Me To Heaven and Head Of Fire, which are both examples of the alternative/hard-rock radio-friendly-unit-shifter songs that Patrick seems compelled to throw on each album would, on the face of it, seem to amplify the songs strengths through juxtaposition, but in reality it simple acts to dilute and dissipate its power by removing an sense of cohesion across the record.
The six minute Under The Tongue, with its gorgeous snare drum, tonal explorations, and voice as just another instrument, should have been used as an exclamation mark to end Crazy Eyes, but instead the quiet, acoustic guitar driven lament of (Can’t She See) Head Of Fire, Part 2 ends the record, which is disappointing as Head Of Fire didn’t need a revisit, and Part 2 is no Hurt. And this brings me back to Reznor and Nine Inch Nails; Nine Inch Nails has never been limited to one particular sound, one small patch of aural ground within the genre’s confines, but a cohesion across an album has always been maintained, with any drastic shifts occurring in the space between records, not on them. Patrick tries to cover too much ground on one record, creating the feeling of a collection of songs instead of the feeling of an album. Had Crazy Eyes featured a unity of purpose, the great songs on the record could have been extended to making a great album.