"Can't we learn from history...Why's it such a mystery?"
Richard Patrick has had enough.
"Soldiers of Misfortune"
The mastermind behind FILTER's fourth album, Anthems for the Damned, its first in five years since The Amalgamut, is what Patrick calls his "howl in the night," a harsh indictment of civilization that doesn’t exclude himself from its vision of a world falling apart.
Featuring such collaborators as guitarist/songwriter John 5 (Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie), guitarist Wes Borland (Limp Bizkit) and drummer Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails, Guns N' Roses, the Vandals), Anthems for the Damned was produced by Pulse Recording's Josh Abraham (Slayer, 30 Seconds to Mars, Velvet Revolver, Staind, Courtney Love).
The album traces Patrick's own anger and shame with the state of things, from the intense alternative industrial blast of "The Take," "What's Next" and "Hatred is Contagious," through the stunned acceptance and ironic sarcasm of the first single, "Soldiers of Misfortune," the ultimate resignation of "Kill the Day" and "Lie After Lie" to the tentative hope expressed by "Only You" and the ambient soundscape of the closing "Can Stop This."
"It's about the embarrassment of being a human in the face of the awesome power of nature," he explains. "To see what we're doing to the planet and each other. I'm ashamed about the shape of the world we're leaving to our children. And I'm not excusing myself either. I'm just asking, 'Why can't we get it right?'"
Patrick calls the soaring anthem "Soldiers of Misfortune," with its U2/Bowie flavor and stacked backdrop of buzzing electric guitars, a "sardonic anti-war/pro-troops song." The first-person narrative was inspired by a letter from a FILTER fan who had enlisted in the Army reserves to get his college tuition paid; in his final year of college, he was shipped off to Iraq where he died from a rocket attack and small arms fire after just a few days of duty. And while the story might be downbeat, the music is as accessible as such Patrick radio hits as "Hey Man, Nice Shot" (from its 1995 debut Short Bus) or the Top 15 pop smash, "Take a Picture" (from 1999's Title of Record).
"I set out to capture the senselessness of his situation," says Patrick. "The bleakness of the lyrics plays off against the optimism of the chord progression."
That combination of classic-rock melodies and industrial heavy metal has been part of Patrick's music from the very start, when the Ohio native first shared his musical theories with one-time Nine Inch Nails bandmate Trent Reznor.
"In Dreams," featuring Wes Borland on guitar, plainly states, "The American dream is an illusion and we must wake up," while "Cold (Anthems for the Damned)" is a song about "running away from the world to either kill yourself or to realize the only place for you is in the arms of society," he says, explaining how his experiences as a recovering alcoholic helped him come to terms with that contradiction. "It's like what they call the 'white room,' where you must face yourself...There is nobody or nothing else to deal with."
Beginning with strummed acoustic guitars, "Only You," which Patrick says is rooted in Brian Eno's theory of the "happy accident," contemplates how mankind has the potential to simply be erased by our own hand.
The decision to revive the FILTER brand after five years came after Patrick’s experience as singer/lyricist with the supergroup Army of Anyone -- with Stone Temple Pilots’ Dean and Robert DeLeo and David Lee Roth drummer Ray Luzier -- releasing a self-titled album on The Firm Music label last year. A single from the album, "Goodbye," went to Top 3 on the Active Rock charts.
"I've always loved collaborating with other people, but the stuff I do on my own is the most fulfilling," he says. "It was an amazing experience to be in a group with such talents as Robert, Dean and Ray, but I felt I had some unfinished business with FILTER. And I think they understood that. FILTER will always be my legacy."
Since deciding to part ways with Nine Inch Nails to record FILTER's multi-platinum debut, Short Bus, for Reprise Records, Patrick has seen his own career take off. That first album produced the Top 10 alternative mainstay, "Hey Man, Nice Shot," as well as such standards as "Dose," "Stuck in Here" and "Under."
Title of Record followed in 1999, featuring "Take a Picture," which was a FILTER crossover pop hit, landing at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album's "Welcome to the Fold" and "Cancer" garnered a strong amount of Active and Alternative rock airplay as well.
At this time, Patrick began writing for films, with his songs appearing on soundtracks like The Crow, Spawn, The X-Files, The Cable Guy, The Girl Next Door and Little Nicky.
The Amalgamut, his final album for Warner Bros., was released in 2002, featuring the single, "Where Do We Go From Here." Another song on the album, "The Only Way is the Wrong Way," served as the music for a national Hummer 2 automobile TV campaign.
With Anthems for the Damned, Patrick returns to his indie roots, a move that has creatively revitalized him.
"I'd rather not subject myself to the insanity of the major label system at this point in time," he says.
Anthems for the Damned is his cry in the wilderness, a protest against the status quo, a litany of society's ills and, hopefully, a first step on the road to recovery.
"I worked really hard on this album," he says. "If it's the last record I ever do, I wanted to make it as big a musical statement as I can. It comes from the only place good music can come from, an honest heart. That's what really matters. We, as human beings, are the only ones lucky enough to grasp just how vast and remarkable our universe really is, and at the same time, understand our own vulnerability. So, why are we so reckless?"
"Am I always angry? No. Am I always full of hope? No. But even if my lyrics are dark as shit, there's always something uplifting about the music. I try to rise above my issues."