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 came with a price. The band lay low for almost four years before finally releasing Title of Record in 1999, to little fanfare.

But now comes The Amalgamut, perhaps Filter's strongest record yet. Though certainly flavored with the hook-laden industrial metal the band has always favored, The Amalgamut goes even farther than Title did 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.

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Kurt Brighton