Some things just mix well -- milk and chocolate syrup, casseroles and of 10 different kinds of vegetables, chicken and cream of anything, to name a few. For those non-English majors, these are all amalgams, or combinations of diverse parts.
Filter's latest album, The Amalgamut, attempts such a mixture -- but fails to cook up anything appetizing. Frontman Richard Patrick wants to bring new elements into the band's mix by introducing a broader range of songs.
The band diverges from its 1999 release, Title of Record, adding more pop than rock and more slow tunes than hard-hitting melodies. The move away from straight electronica and toward acoustic rock on The Amalgamut is a welcome change from the bombarding beats and brash screams of the group's past style.
Don't worry, Filter fans, there are still songs that are reminiscent of the old days. Half of the tracks could still cause a few riots. But the numbers that shy away from Nine Inch Nail-like fury make the album work.
Truly unique sounds are few and far between on the album. A dull, monotonous guitar strumming dominates the verses of most songs. If variety was the band's goal, this would be a step backward. But remarkably, some of the softer music still manages to catch the ear.
Filter has a tendency to produce hits that don't accurately portray the band's sound -- the single "Hey Man Nice Shot" didn't really reflect the rest of the group's debut, Short Bus. History repeats itself here, as The Amalgamut's best songs are not representative of the entire album.
"Where Do We Go From Here" has already followed the tradition. The tune is an emotional power ballad with just enough of an electronic lead into the chorus not to lose Filter's identity. Patrick pours his soul into his melodic vocals, although the lyrics are run-of-the-mill.
Other highlights on the album include "The Missing," which adds an orchestral backdrop to the tried-and-true combination of guitar, bass and drums. "God Damn Me" is introduced by an acoustic guitar that, when coupled with Patrick's up-an-octave voice, sends shivers down your spine.
Tracks such as "American Cliche" and "So I Quit" are ones to skip. They might show a harder side of Filter, but their overplayed and stale industrial aspects don't fit in with an otherwise well-written album. The lyrics and drumbeats grow old after the first 10 times they're repeated.
The only exception is "My Long Walk to Jail," which features a harsh, wandering guitar riff that grabs your attention.
The structured confusion that results is a welcome change from the rest of the pounding, mind-numbing songs. Maybe Filter didn't quite understand the meaning of "amalgam" when it used the word in its title.
Instead of blending together well, the overdone hard songs and the more powerful soft songs remain as separate as oil and water.
Some of the individual tracks work well apart from each other, but altogether, on the album they just don't mix.
The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at email@example.com.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.