Richard Patrick of Filter might be a good moderator for a music-conference panel: "The Hit Single: More Harm Than Good?" The band's 1995 release, Short Bus, produced a major hit with the single "Hey Man, Nice Shot," but its overexposure on MTV and commercial radio did not come without a price. The band lay low for almost four years before finally releasing Title of Record in 1999 to little fanfare.
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But now comes The Amalgamut, perhaps Filter's strongest overall record yet. Though certainly flavored with the hook-laden industrial/metal the band has always favored, The Amalgamut goes even further than did Title in cementing the band as significantly more than a one-trick pony. There are, of course, the big drums, the dissonant, fuzzed-out chord patterns and Patrick's unmistakable screech. But layered beneath what one might expect from Filter lie some unfamiliar constructions. "Where Do We Go From Here" is built around a minor-key acoustic-guitar chord pattern that piles bleakness upon despair; "The Missing" revisits Patrick's distaste for Christian dogmatists, although this time around he's almost lamenting the way religion ruined the world instead of raging against God's mindless minions: "You love to be cruel/I'm not a good tool . . ."
Filter's experiments aren't always successful -- if it weren't for the typically Patrick-bleak lyrics, "God Damn Me" might sound like a latter-day acoustic Alanis Morissette song. Filter still seems most at home on vitriol-laden ragers such as "Columind," a rant aimed at the country's most infamous high school gunmen. Overall, The Amalgamut is a sharp-tongued document of Patrick and company's growth as musicians, and maybe as people, too.