Album review: Filth Is Eternal – Find Out
Seattle punks Filth Is Eternal get grungy but refuse to fuck around on smashing third album Find Out.
On the face of things, it’d be easy to mistake Filth Is Eternal for one of those bands with zero chill.
Their favourite genres? Powerviolence. Fastcore. Stenchy death metal. Grind. Humble origins? The notoriously gritty, grubby basement punk scene a layer below the grey skies of the United States’ Pacific Northwest. Initially, they had no serious intention of leaving behind more than a couple of gleefully dirty 7” singles and a slew of legendarily intense live shows. All of which would explain their headline-grabbingly provocative original moniker: Fucked And Bound.
“Our music is a document of our experiences,” offers guitarist Brian McClelland, alluding to the years he and vocalist Lis Di Angelo have spent fundraising for anti-racism, safe abortion, LGBTQ rights and countless other righteous political causes in the DIY scene of their native Seattle. “The only way out is through for a lot of these experiences. Sometimes you’ve got to fight. That could be about overcoming personal challenges. Or it could be about trying to find a way to get to that next stage of your life. And these songs can be that way of getting through. Our music is ultimately all this sort of commentary on the existence that we all share together as human beings.”
A wry smile. “Sometimes you’re bound to your situations. And, you know, it is what it is.”
We join Brian and Lis today at a hotel room in central California, between shows at San Francisco’s Rickshaw Stop and Los Angeles’ The Echo to discuss their imminent, awesome third LP Find Out. Broadly, they tell us, its message is one of growth and self-empowerment: facing up to the aforementioned challenges to find out what exactly we’re capable of. As always, there’s a reluctance between the pair to delve into any specific experiences which have coloured the album’s rapid-fire 14 songs, but with ideas having been reflected from the political chaos of America’s recent past, the dark days of lockdown, all the way back to the band’s genesis in 2018, it feels safe to say there’s been no lack of idiocy, adversity and small-mindedness to overcome.
But there’s a defiant wit about these songs, too. A side that’s more ‘Fuck around and find out…’
“There’s a dash of that sentiment in there, yeah,” grins Lis. “It’s important to have balance in all things. There are a lot of serious notes on this album, so it’s vital to keep that shot of humour. People relate to the experiences that we write about, but they also need a little reprieve.”
In November, Filth Is Eternal will hit the UK with Californian emo icons Finch. So is being part of a bill as wildly varied as that part of that same sense of balance: the need to sear then salve?
“I love mixed bills: being on one or watching one,” Lis laughs. “I love the different flavours!”
“We listen to a lot of music, just as a group of people,” Brian continues. “We play everything from electronic and synth-based stuff to jazz and experimental in the van. A lot of people think of punk as a very simple genre, but there can be a lot of nuance in there, and a lot of technicality. We like to experiment with our version of punk and bring in parts of all the other genres we love.”
That willingness to experiment with a sound that initially seemed to revel in its savage simplicity is writ large on Find Out. Although the band aren’t sure whether they’ve really gotten grungier or that’s just something people inevitably say about punk acts from Seattle, there is more melody, accessibility and defined alt. edge at play now. Escaping the basement has created a bigger picture.
“We joke about the sounds of songs while we’re writing them,” nods Brian. “‘Man, this song sounds like Nirvana-meets-Magrudergrind!’ or, ‘This sounds like Trap Them meets Gin Blossoms!’ They just come out as they come out. And, coming from Seattle, a little grunge always bleeds in.”
“The songs we were bringing to the table this time just seemed to be different,” Lis expands. “They seemed to be presenting a bigger canvas for me to work on. Plus, I wanted that bit more polish. Sure, Brian might’ve kept it raw and hella punk, but I really wanted to try some different things.”
Arguably the most active step in that expansion was stepping away from the collection of excellent collaborators in their storied hometown to grab the opportunity to work with Slipknot, AFI and Alice In Chains collaborator Paul Fig. Having connected through management, they sat down with Paul at Donut Friend in Los Angeles to confirm they were all thinking of the same reference points, on the same page. His offer to record at Dave Grohl’s Studio 606 and Dave’s Room made them perhaps the first band to actually sound grungier by hopping in a van down the west coast.
“It was just the perfect place to make this record,” Lis grins, seeming genuinely buzzed. “There’s so much grungy goodness peppered into these songs. It just felt right to be recording them in that room. With the influence some of those bands had on us when we were younger, it got quite emotional.”
“We were just channelling the vibe,” adds Brian with a similarly youthful enthusiasm. “There’s so much history and cool memorabilia in that place that you just can’t ignore!”
Indeed, it’s all there on show. From the full-on attack of 100mph opener Half Wrong to the almost doomy heaviosity of closer Loveless (an affectionate reference to the 1991 masterpiece from Anglo-Irish noise rock masters My Bloody Valentine), Find Out pulsates with an incredible fluidity and confidence, full of detail and lyrical echoes to be unpicked when it’s finally released to fans.
The singles give a solid overview. All d-beat rattle and bottled up anxiety, the 93 seconds of Crawl Space deal in that dread that can accompany ostensibly successful periods in your life. Pressure Me is a thumping hardcore ode to nonlinear personal progress. Cherish explores exploration of the push-pull struggle of trying to have a dream without allowing it to own you – accompanied by a striking black-and-white video that pays tribute to ex-theatre student Lis’ love of Lynchian cinema and Black Box theatre, filmed in DIY Seattle venue The Black Lodge, which they help run.
“The melody and broader sonic palette really allows more expression,” Lis emphasises. “This was a first chapter. I need to keep pushing in that direction, really thinking about what I want to say.”
It’s in the deeper cuts where the real surprises lie, though. The Gate, for instance, swings with well-oiled alt. swagger – confirming the ‘d-beat Distillers’ tag on so much of the album’s promo material. Signal Decay builds that vibe up and out. The fuzzed-up, combative crunch of Body Void is one of Lis’ favourites. The clean sung chaos of All Mother, they tell us, is a work of “pure passion”.
If it feels almost inevitable that some closed-minded older fans will struggle with the record’s cleaner production and more openly hooky songwriting, Filth Is Eternal have few concerns.
“We’re still just getting going as a band,” Lis shrugs. “With what we’re doing on this record, it will be the first time a lot of people hear us. That’s exciting. We get to build with them in real time.”
Brian, meanwhile, stresses that the live show remains the heart and soul of Filth Is Eternal. “We rip just as hard, if not harder. People should always come see our shows. We’re there to shred!”
Between those UK support slots with Finch, FIE will also be playing a smattering of close-quarters headline dates, and they’re at pains to stress fans should make it out to them all, grabbing the limited-run merch they self-make and sell only while on the road, saying hi at intimate venues, then seeing speakers blown at bigger ones, witnessing every way in which their music can explode.
“Be it a big room or a small one, we bring a lot of energy and intensity,” Lis grins. “I don’t care if there are only five people there; I’m still probably going to jump off the stage and start freaking out on the floor. And every night tends to be a different experience. No two shows are the same!”
Pressed for what it would take to make this album successful, Lis and Brian echo that the live experience – even more so, being out, spreading their word on the road – is objective number one. It’s about building friendships and connections, fostering invaluable communities in our scene.
“We make this music that’s aggressive and loud and chaotic and that’s just how it sounds in my head,” Brian explains. “It’s all just an exercise in catharsis for us. It’s how we deal with the world. We put it out there so people can come hang out with us and have a cool, cathartic experience, too. Be a part of the community. Find new friends. Come up with things to do with each other.”
“This world is insane, and existence is futile, but at the end of the day we’re all just reaching for a little joy amidst of the chaos,” Lis expands emphatically. “It’s about real, honest self-assessment within a community. Being honest about yourself. Understanding that only by doing that can we get past what we’re trying to get past. Doing it with our best friends. A lot of the time, it feels like we’re just walking around putting shit out there. I want to live in the real world, and we think that other people want to, too. If there’s a gospel of Filth Is Eternal, that’s it right there.”
Boiling it down, Brian nods, grins and rolls out their old mantra as we wave farewell.
“Power chords across the world!”
We’re here for that.
Find Out is out on September 29 via MNRK Heavy. Catch Filth Is Eternal live in the UK this November.
Seattle punks Filth Is Eternal get grungy but refuse to fuck around on smashing third album Find Out.
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