Filter Theory arrived on the scene under mysterious circumstances, announcing their first single out of the blue in September of last year. Without mention of a preceding recording process or the names of any band members, the band launched “The Darkness Where The Future Was” — a brooding instrumental rock track which served as a dark omen of what was to come. What followed was the digital release of one of the most horrifying sounds the genre of post-rock has seen in the pas few years, perfectly showcasing the ability of this Australian post-rock ensemble to conjure up a convincing dystopian vision.
In dire times like these, when social or political turmoil are the order of the day, it comes as no surprise that artists start to explore dystopian themes of oppression and suffering in their work. The birth of the dystopian genre, in novel format, can be traced back to the aftermath of World War I, while more and more dystopian novels were being published during the rise of Nazism. After World War II it was the Cold War that saw the next increase in dystopian novels being written, while more recently it was 9/11 that inspired a new generation of authors painting pictures of totalitarian injustice and suffering.
Ever since, dystopian themes have been on the rise in the arts and literature. Many authors and musicians address their concerns about contemporary society in allegorical visions of societies subject to great injustice or suffering, oftentimes with elements of science fiction or in a future setting. What Filter Theory do exceptionally well is frame these concerns not in the future but in our present time, as well as providing an apt musical statement that makes the matter at hand all the more pressing.
Requiem is not merely a digital release of four sound files to be consumed on a casual weekday evening. Each of the four tracks is accompanied by a monochrome photograph with band name and song title superimposed in striking yellow. These images create a world of looming tragedy that is further explored on the Filter Theory website on a subsection called ‘Ephemera’. This page comprises a series of small blog posts referring to news articles covering absurd developments in science, technology and politics. Many of these instances would merely be deemed outrageous if viewed on TV or social media on an ordinary day, but ultimately they’d get lost in the stream of news and media that washes over us on a daily basis. However, when listed together, they make a terrifying portrait of the darker side of the world that we live in. A darker side that somehow exists in broad daylight.
Requiem – for the uninitiated – is the title of the Roman Catholic mass for the dead, which seems like a fitting name for a dark post-rock record that sports moody track titles like “This Is Not A Safe Place”, “Murmurations” and “That Which Remains”. However, the irony lies in the word’s literal meaning in Latin, which is “rest” or “peace”, which makes the album title all the more poignant, almost cruel.
From the first sounds of “The Darkness Where The Future Was”, which greets the listener with air sirens wailing over a haunting piano melody, Filter Theory draws the listener into an experience that leaves them alone with their darkest fears and insecurities. By the time they arrive at “This Is Not A Safe Place” it has become apparent that there is literally no rest to be found on Requiem.
“Filter Theory’s fascination with science, politics and technology does not leave the listener untouched and the music has a compelling atmosphere that keeps the listener engaged.”
On this second track Filter Theory seem to play with the idea of consuming music that is emotionally or sonically unnerving for the sake of its philosophy, or simply for the thrill of the experience. This tendency is something that draws many people to listening to inaccessible genres like metal, noise and avant garde music, and for many people these sounds help them to cope with the harsh realities of everyday life. However, with its agonising wails and a six and a half-minute runtime this track manages to take music beyond suffering for art’s sake, towards something that is plainly unbearable. Something to be enjoyed or abhorred depending on the listener, but ultimately an experience that needs to be lauded as a piece of successfully disruptive art.
After the emotionally thrilling high point of “This Is Not A Safe Place” Requiem seems to lose its pace. Where “Murmurations” is a nice industrial/ambient track that carries the general mood of the EP just fine, the closing track “That Which Remains” definitely falls short of the atmosphere built by the other three tracks. The oriental guitar melodies feel out of character for Filter Theory, while the bass groove doesn’t really “groove”, at least, not enough to make the track come into its own. As such, Requiem feels like it could have benefitted from more editing, creating a more concise and consistent experience. Nevertheless the quality of the first two tracks, along with the accompanying art and research, is enough to leave a lasting impact. Filter Theory’s fascination with science, politics and technology does not leave the listener untouched and the music has a compelling atmosphere that keeps the listener engaged. As such, this EP a definitely a recommended listen for fans of haunting soundtracks a dark rock opuses, making Filter Theory an act to be watched for the years to come.
This album is… **interesting.
Requiem was released independently on September 16, 2020. The album is available in digital formats via the Filter Theory Bandcamp page.
- Shiau, Yvonne (2017). The Rise of Dystopian Fiction: From Soviet Dissidents to 70’s Paranoia to Murakami. Retrieved 21 March 2021.