Personnel: Richard Patrick (vocals, guitar, programming); Oumi Kapila (guitar, programming); Chris Reeves (drums); Rotten Bobby (electronics).
Audio Mixer: Brian Virtue .
Photographers: Myriam Santos; Jim Louvau.
Two decades after Short Bus and Richard Patrick is nostalgic. On Crazy Eyes, Patrick reintroduces the ominous energy from the early industrial-leaning releases and sprinkles in references to former associates Nine Inch Nails (former NIN member Danny Lohner even makes an appearance). Backed by new bandmates, he fully embraces Filter's sonic legacy -- whether by direct homage ("Kid Blue from the Short Bus, Drunk Bunk") or familiar aural recall, like with the low rumbles of "Hey Man, Nice Shot" on "Under the Tongue" -- without getting stale. Over 12 tracks, Patrick assesses what he calls the "insanity of the human condition." That sentiment is first explored on "Mother E," a heavy bruiser about a mindless killer that ramps up the foreboding anxiety before exploding with a roar. It takes a minute for Patrick to shake the rust off his vocal cords, but once he does, it's business as usual. After that slow-builder, the NIN-fluence trickles in on "Nothing in My Hands," which rides a menacing bassline through the digital haze, with stabbing guitar riffs that would be at home on Broken. Patrick wrote the song about the Michael Brown shooting and subsequent Ferguson riots that engulfed the Missouri city in 2014 and 2015, and it's not the only time he gets political. On "The City of Blinding Riots" he revisits Ferguson and commands protesters to "burn that f*cker down" atop a throbbing dance beat akin to a NIN or Gravity Kills remix, while on "Pride Flag" he waves the rainbow banner against religious bigotry. As far as Filter goes, it's quite uplifting. Things get personal on "Take Me to Heaven," a radio-friendly blast of straightforward rock & roll about Patrick's late father. The cathartic track is catchy, but wanders too-familiar ground. Like "Mother E," the most interesting forays tend to be atmospheric and spacious, when both Patrick's rage and yearning can tussle together in the same song. "Welcome to the Suck (Destiny Not Luck)" channels the mecha-drama of Downward Spiral's "Reptile," infusing huge Inception-style stabs to jack up the intensity. A pair of blazing assaults in the second half of the album ("Tremors" and "Your Bullets") pummel, but are elevated by a midsong orchestral break and a pretty falsetto, respectively. The action effectively ends after "Your Bullets," as Crazy Eyes closes with the aforementioned space jam "Under the Tongue" -- the only collective writing effort by the new lineup -- and "(Can't She See) Head of Fire, Pt. 2," a haunting acoustic sequel to "Head of Fire" and one of three songs written with early producer Ben Grosse, former member Jonathan Radtke, and Michael Tuller, who worked on NIN's The Slip. Less politically on the nose than the poppy Anthems for the Damned, more mature than the easy retread of The Trouble with Angels, and more visceral than The Sun Comes Out Tonight, Crazy Eyes manages to tread new ground for Filter while respectfully acknowledging the sound that propelled the band in the first place. ~ Neil Z. Yeung