After seven years, American rock band Filter is back with their eighth studio album The Algorithm. The eleven-track project was originally meant to be titled ‘ReBus’, a follow-up to their highly praised debut. It now presents as a nod to the digital world in which we live, but its ultimate message is to work together to protect one another in a divisive society. Since their formation in 1993 out of Cleveland, Ohio, the outfit has grown beyond state lines and gained considerable recognition for their alternative blend of industrial rock, grunge and electronic rock. Nearly thirty years after their platinum debut Short Bus, The Algorithm comes as a reboot of the original Filter.
With Filter’s line-up seeing several changes over the past three decades, a complete return to their origins is out of the picture. Filter is presently led by founding member and former Nine Inch Nails touring guitarist Richard Patrick (vocals, guitar, bass, programming) and comprised of Jonathan Radtke (guitar), Bobby Miller (bass) and Elias Mallin (drums). Despite Patrick being the only consistent member, The Algorithm is a collection of deeply felt tracks built upon hard rock as a call to their early sound, while embracing digital presence with sharp electronic undertones.
The Algorithm begins on a heavy note with The Drowning. Brought in with a short, ominous synth wave, the track becomes muddy with mechanical riffs. Patrick speaks of a man who is sinking in his alcoholism through shadowy vocals. ‘A man is drowning/We watch from shore/He laughs, he taunts us/And he drinks some more.’ Witnessing someone’s downfall is unbearable, particularly when the person does not want help. It ultimately leads Patrick to ask: ‘How long do we have to watch you/Be so sick and act like you know it?/How long do we have to watch you/Be so sick and act like you can control it?’ The track is open and crushing, a possible reference to Patrick’s own difficulties with heavy substance use. Whether the drowning man is Patrick himself or someone else, pain and frustration are evident from beginning to end.
The world feels bleak in Up Against The Wall, a choppy arrangement of miry guitar that is slightly disjointed against upbeat percussion. It embodies entrapment and confusion, something released through Patrick’s high cry of ‘You make me feel like I just want to go die!’. Sludge-powered riffs extend into third track and first single of the album For The Beaten to tangle with bursts of electronic noise as Patrick seeks peace in a world on fire. An enduring sense of destruction does not just affect the world, but also for Patrick as he spirals out in the next single, Obliteration. Cleverly, the singles stand alone as separate stories while predicting a similar fate for their subjects.
Summer Child may sound like a feel-good Woodstock tribute number by name, but it oozes with MTV Unplugged grunge tones in most of its verses. The track’s crooning chorus ‘Oh sweet summer child,’ rings out like a classic rock ballad, making it an interesting addition to the record when compared to its heavier, more industrial counterparts. Balmy acoustic track Burn Out The Sun is a similar surprise with instrumentation that builds without reaching a harsher boiling point. Patrick appears tiresome, desiring clear skies and a change of pace. Closing track Command Z plays as an unpretentiously honest stream of thought along acoustic strums and fluctuating electronic pulses. Instrumentally it sounds like a motivational backtrack. Lyrically it is not particularly inspirational nor is it a final moment of realisation as Patrick openly sings on losing his ‘heart of gold’ and how he wants to be ‘high as a mother fucker’ to cope with hope that has been lost.
The Algorithm delivers weighty commentary which makes doom feel inevitable. Filter exposes a darker underbelly throughout the album – the abyss of addiction, world on fire and perpetual hopelessness, making a message to come together more vital than ever. Poised within a sound that would be difficult to place under a single genre, The Algorithm is Filter’s intrepid yet exposing call to action; and we’re ready to listen.