ANATOMY OF HABIT – BLACK OPENINGS
March 14, 2023
by Kirk Houghton
Scream Blast Repeat called Anatomy of Habit’s last album ‘a throbbing audio experience shrouded in cloudy electronic frequencies and harsh guitars.’ We also noted that ‘it might be unrelenting, but it deserves your time and patience.’ Led by vocalist Mark Solotroff since their founding in 2008, the Chicago group now has a stable line-up ready to release the sequel to 2021’s Even if It Takes a Lifetime. Like its predecessor, Black Openings comprises three long-form compositions totalling over thirty-five minutes. But this effort is quieter and more reflective and less enamoured with drastic dynamic shifts.
Anatomy of Habit were once a client of Relapse Records, but those of you hoping for the post-metal fury of Neurosis will need to dig deep for satisfaction. The eighteen-minute title track – eighteen minutes! – is a triumph of ambient concoctions and gradual layering, and it proves that the quintet’s greatest asset is their ability to coordinate a shared vision for their art. Let the song guide you and you’ll encounter no hiccups along the way. The simple open-note bass sequence allows a luscious guitar chord to bend in between the sporadic cymbal accents of Skyler Rowe and the intricate percussion chimes of Isidro Reyes. A respectful kick drum ramps up the tension before the first snare hit and vocals enter the mix. “Sleep does nothing/ Enveloped in fantasy/ Spreading outward/ A form of release,” intones Solotroff in his deepest projection off voice. The tempo is slow, but the percussion is frantic. You won’t notice the intrusion of Alex Latus’ distorted guitar noise at the six-minute mark. How clever that this wall of electricity can embed itself into the mix without spoiling the introspective mood. The attention to detail and gradual layering of additional instruments is most impressive.
It’s clear the band wanted to structure the title track into three parts with an ambient middle section and a crushing climax of discordant doom metal. They succeed in communicating this demarcation to the listener, but four minutes of non-repeating pedal loop ambience and irregular tom drum accents at 09:30 will test your patience. But you’ll have less reason to fidget if you stream this section on a countryside walk. Then you can appreciate the loud dynamic climax for the last three minutes, where all instruments let loose like untethered bulls in an open field. Imagine M. Gira of Swans fronting a doom metal band in the mindset of a noise rock artist. Exhilaration replaces the exhaustion you anticipated before pressing play on this track.
The easiest comparison for this music is Joy Division, but that’s because Solotroff has an identical voice to Ian Curtis. Let’s be clear: the music does not sound like the Manchester greats. ‘Formal Consequences’ shows a poignant ear for conventional melody among the rubble of post-rock musing and anxious sorrow. No post-punk band from the early 1980s thought it possible to create the alternate chugging riffs that emerge here at 03:30. Now, we’re in post-metal territory, including the peaks and troughs that come with the paranoia of the genre. There’s a psychotic element to this music in the way the guitar overdrive and bass distortion creep up on you at your most vulnerable.
Closing track, ‘Breathing Through Bones’, is the one song that lets you follow the lyrics without distraction. “In silence I remain here/ Breathing through bones/ Rejoining the body/ That we once occupied.” No multi-layered convergences demand your attention. You can let the ambient guitar effects wash over you as Solotroff injects a new anguish into his voice. It doesn’t feel like doom metal when the guitars come to life. That’s because they seldom fret the power chords. Skyler Rowe’s dramatic snare gallop for the last two minutes adds to the angst. The unrelenting release of anger at the end feels like a triumph for artist and listener alike after a period of shared stasis.
Anatomy of Habit expect you to follow them into the tumult of life. The most challenging exigencies often feel insurmountable, and the Chicago quintet are not here to sugar-coat things. They’re happy to take you into the unconscious darkness in your mind. You’ll find it hard to say no.
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March 9, 2023
by Antonio Poscic
Formed in 2008, Anatomy of Habit are one of those bands whose existence seems to outweigh a purely musical purpose. Alex Latus (guitar), Isidro Reyes (percussion), Skyler Rowe (drums), Mark Solotroff (vocals), and Sam Wagster (bass) have been connected by a network of friendships and collaborations going back to their teenage years. Anatomy of Habit has thus become a vessel that enabled these relationships and life stories to manifest in art.
Their third LP, Black Openings, is another of their narratives set to music. It’s a sprawling and gorgeous triptych that mixes post-metal idioms with motorik rock, sludge, doom metal, and psychedelia. Here, Solotroff’s vocals become a beacon of sorts. His mad reverend-like delivery guides the surge and abatement of instrumental attacks, gliding between abstract drone crescendos, crunchy Giant Squid-like plateaus of progressive doom, and moments of seductive goth atmospheres. As a whole, the sound of Black Openings lives in a solitary niche, with BIG|BRAVE as their closest and possibly only neighbors.
Full Length Review: Anatomy Of Habit "Black Openings"
March 5, 2023
by Dave Wolff
In "Black Openings", Anatomy Of Habit continues a journey toward self-discovery left off in their previous album "Even If It Takes A Lifetime". Their musicianship feels like this journey has taken many lifetimes, suggesting a natural rapport that has remained consistent despite constant changes in the lineup. When musicians with similar mindsets work together toward the same goal, the chemistry sounds undeniably willing and volitional.
The band utilizes their own resources to redefine progressive rock and improvisational songwriting, experimenting with many darkened shades without being overly technical or cramming too many notes into their songs. With their epoch-making approach to doom metal, goth, post-punk and other genres, they arrive close to the imaginative fervor that Rush and Peter Gabriel-fronted Genesis had in the seventies, also calling to mind more obscure acts like Dario Argento’s Goblin.
Anatomy Of Habit emphasizes subtle differences in sound with "Black Openings" over "Even If It Takes a Lifetime" which had early inklings of those differences while being generally more straightforward. There is no distinction between the divergent subgenres of doom metal, industrial, shoegaze, post-punk, deathrock, and psychedelia influencing this recording. Overall, the effect is both unsettling and soothing at the same time. This duality is experienced by all of us at varying degrees.
Anatomy Of Habit takes their time to explain this. As a first impression of "Black Openings," the title track features looping bass lines, distant guitars, thunderous percussion, vibrating vocals, and a profusion of atmosphere and noise. Mark Solotroff describes becoming one with the darkness surrounding him to get through long days, weeks, and months with careful, calculated diction leaning toward a post-punk/goth style.
Slowly shifting paradigms are represented by tranquil guitars and ambient noise that sound trippy and nightmare-like before returning to its previous mood with a fresh riff pattern and anguished vocals. With a runtime of over eighteen minutes, it makes me think of the experimental horror movie Skinamarink by Kyle Edward Ball, which builds on the impression of a nightmare you don't quite remember when you wake up. It seems Anatomy Of Habit is the sonic equivalent to these images.
A mixture of doom and shoegaze, "Formal Consequences" features higher noise levels and a stronger sense of isolation with quieter passages and somber vocals. Slowly, Solotroff moves beyond mundane love and loss, the diffusion of the old self, and complex hindrances to natural creativity as the darkness of the previous song is being transcended. The listening experience may take more time than the public's attention span allows, but it is well worth the effort.
As for the final track, "Breathing Through Bones" keeps the shoegaze vibe with a cleaner repetitive bass line and haunting vocal drones. Despite its solemnity and graveness, it doesn't so much sink into a pit of despair as to reestablish contact with the self and the human psyche that pushes us forward. "Even If It Takes a Lifetime" ends with a hint of the journey's continuation, but little by little we'll get to that place where, as the band states, “Now we finally know ourselves.”
Anatomy of Habit : Black Openings
February 28, 2023
by Langdon Hickman
Some records and bands get themselves by on songs, discrete melodies and melodic concepts, the formalism of the pop tune or etude or the like. That’s perfectly well and good; we here enjoy more than our fair share of song-driven works and artists. But there is always a kind of ineffable magic to artists who indulge in something closer to sonic worlds, creating tapestries and maps and sculptures out of sound rather than typical songforms. There is back matter to this new Anatomy of Habit record about a newer lineup, this being the second record of the new configuration, but those elements seem largely to be a matter of the creative end, the process the band needed to pass through to get back to productivity. Their penchant for expansive sonic worldmaking, the same type of vast and swarming prog as groups like Magma, Univers Zero and maudlin of the Well, is maintained as sure here as ever in their discography.
Their approach to prog is a curious one to people who may see the word and naively think of pure Moog-driven tributes to groups like Yes or Genesis. The palette they draw from is equally as post-psychedelic, but the psychedelic-as-in-psychosis genres they pull from align more with post-punk, industrial and doom metal than pop. The penchant for jazz and classical approaches to those sonic palettes remains, explaining the tendency toward colossal track lengths; but, just like any great player of jazz-inflected or orchestral-inflected music, the sensitivities of the group are honed to moment-to-moment exercises, such that it feels less like one interminable 20-minute piece of music and more like 20 exhilarating moments of continuous razor sharp improvisation. Lyrics and vocal lines rumble out as organically as organ and percussion batter the ear, matching the almost purely instinctive playing that groups like Yes or King Crimson mustered at their most powerful.
The record storms and broods, leering apocalyptically through the speakers, leeching like a miasma of black choking smog. It’s the same intense, suffocating feeling one gets from Godflesh at their peak, the way sound transcends itself into a pure sensorial experience. The grim intonation of the title of the record hovers like a ghost over all three of these tracks, that bellow of “black openings,” like staring into a pit, a grave, the mouth of death. That sentiment is the linking element between these three tracks, creating a sense that these pieces are something closer to movements of a greater single musical idea rather than wholly disparate pieces, another point of separation from the typical approach of song-driven work.
There is a massive sense of respect on this record for the listener, marrying epic song lengths to an utterly digestible 40-minute runtime, a keen ear keeping the moment-to-moment action riveting and the overall listen a rewarding experience like finishing a short, harrowing novel in one sitting. The sensation is closer to golden-era Godspeed You! Black Emperor records than latter-day Swans, that same marriage of chamber music aesthetics and post-prog gargantuanism and macroscale composition as their predecessors in Univers Zero and the like. Another point of comparison would be Tool, albeit an alternate world where they allow themselves to be fully subsumed into the kinds of apocalypsis and soundscape-driven textural work they are often credited with but only rarely actually pursue.
As for appraisal, the band has the uncanny knack of producing records that are of more or less equal value, of which this is no exception. Despite this superb consistency, the group has never seemed to break through, always being trapped in the if-you-know-you-know category that limited similarly genius groups like Cardiacs or the various groups of Mike Vennart for years. This is the kind of music that, as it plays, the walls melt away, the sense of headphones or speakers gradually dissolves, and I feel fully transported into a new world, one that superimposes itself in palimpsest over the real, replacing it utterly. This is a magical thing, the exact sensation you are told to stop expecting as you get older, as the volume of art you’ve consumed hits such a frightening crescendo that any hope of capturing that youthful realm of pure imagination and potentiality should be discarded. Anatomy of Habit continue their decade-long streak of exhilarating experimental and progressive hybrid of rock, metal, punk, prog, jazz and chamber music on Black Openings. Let’s hope this is the one to finally blow the doors off the joint.
Anatomy of Habit “Black Openings”
February 26, 2023
by Creaig Dunton
Written and recorded immediately following 2021's Even if it Takes a Lifetime, Chicago's Anatomy of Habit's newest album is sonically similar, however it does not sound like the second half of a double album. Instead, Black Openings is a stand-alone work that features the same sense of consistency but overall sees the band further refining and expanding their sound, and in this case returning to the bleakness that pervaded their earlier works so brilliantly.
Listening to Black Openings, I realized that the closest band similar to Anatomy of Habit was the short-lived God, helmed by Kevin Martin. Both are "supergroups" (in the sense that they featured members from various bands from different, yet complimentary genres) and both balanced intensity and complexity perfectly. The most significant distinction here is that while both bands draw heavily from various shades of rock, avant garde, electronic, and noise music, AoH forego the jazz component and delve more into electronic music. The driving force behind AoH's sound is defacto band leader and vocalist Mark Solotroff (Bloodyminded, Intrinsic Action, and a multitude of other projects): his commanding voice is always identifiable and makes for a commanding presence in all three of the album's songs.
No time is wasted in the epic 18-minute-long opener "Black Openings," where Anatomy of Habit—a band that's no stranger to epic length material—locks into the album's distinctive sound. Alex Latus's layered guitar and heavy bass from multi-instrumentalist Sam Wagster form the foundation as Skyler Rowe's drums and Isidro Reyes's percussion creeps in. Once all the elements are established, it is AoH at their most post-punk sounding, with clear influences of Killing Joke and Joy Division to their sound. Latus' guitars get heavier as Solotroff's distinctive vocals arrive. Over the lengthy duration the band eventually disperses into a more spacious electronic soundscape before coming back together even more intensely, with especially aggressive vocals, leading to an appropriately dramatic climax.
The two shorter (relatively speaking) songs that make up the second half of the album are more polarized in mood, with "Formal Consequences" representing the band's lighter sound, and "Breathing Through Bones" the heavier. Even though "Formal Consequences" opens with martial dirge elements, Rowe's vibraphone hints in a different direction, with the layers of synth and acoustic guitar solidifying this shift. Even Solotroff's vocals are more traditionally sung, and while things eventually transition to a heavy metal chug combined with junk percussion, the bleakness is held a bit more at bay here. Not so much on "Breathing Through Bones," where dour guitar and clanking metal are met with slow, commanding vocals. The piece builds dramatically throughout, with layered synths and the band at their heaviest before ending with a pummeling conclusion.
While I thought Even if it Takes a Lifetime hinted at lighter, less oppressive moods by the end of the record, that would not seem to be the case on Black Openings. Instead, the band is back to their relentless intensity, but one with enough beauty and nuance within the darkness to give it an excellent sense of depth. It is one of those records that is viscerally intense, but with a dazzling array of detail within its intensely dark shadows.
Album Review: Anatomy of Habit — “Black Openings”
February 24, 2023
by Dan Morris
When I moved to Orlando about seven years ago, one of the things that surprised me was the food options. The variety of transplants who call this place home gave rise to a vibrant food culture. There are all kinds of Vietnamese, Latin American, and of course, southern cooking to be found here. A lot of celebrity chefs have restaurants here. You will not eat poorly if you come here. It also pays to be a restaurant with a gimmick. There have been at least three anime and video game themed restaurants since I moved here. Maybe the strangest restaurant I’ve ever seen here was the Chinese/Latin American Buffett housed in what must be the remains of a chrome trimmed 50s diner. Two types of cuisine that probably should not be together. On the surface, hearing that Anatomy of Habit bill themselves as “post-punk doom” conjures a similar reaction to the idea of a Chinese/Latin American buffet. How on earth do these two genres work together on Black Openings? Post punk thrives on anxious energy. Doom metal meanwhile lumbers. These should be opposing energies.
However, Anatomy of Habit understand the similarities in both genres. They realized here are two genres that thrive on gloomy atmosphere, white noise, and tight rhythm sections. They also are excellent at expressing existential dread. Here, Anatomy of Habit use that knowledge to a create a thrilling album of moody atmospherics.
Sam Wagster’s dirge like bass notes open the album before Skyler Rowe’s shimmering cymbals join in and then break out into Stephen Morris like drumming. Meanwhile while Alex Latus’ guitar simmers around those beats, Mark Solotroff bellows in his best Ian Curtis impression “SLEEP DOES NOTHING”. In a post punk band, hearing an Ian Curtis impersonation could be a groan inducing affectation but hearing that hollow, drone of a delivery in a doom band? It’s downright harrowing. Anatomy of Habit know how to create atmosphere.
And Anatomy of Habit put atmosphere at the center of the three songs that comprise Black Openings. Alex Latus’ guitar moves from Cocteau Twins’ noise swirl to doom riffs seamlessly. Vibraphones and metal percussion haunt the background of each track. This is not atmosphere unmoored from anything though. While Latus’ guitar may drone and Solotroff’s voice howls lyrics of alienation, it’s Rowe’s drumming and Wagster’s bass that keep us from getting lost. They’re the flashlight in this haunted house of pain.
The merging of post punk and doom metal on Anatomy of Habit’s Black Openings is a perfect swirl of gloomy and dreadful noise. This is unquestionably not the sonic equivalent of a Chinese/Latin American buffet. Anatomy of Habit are a band taking creative chances confidently staking a claim in unique territory.
Anatomy of Habit Premiere Their Heavy, Experimental New Record ‘Black Openings’
February 23, 2023
by Aaron Willschick
It’s that time in their musical career for Anatomy of Habit to change it up. If you’ve gotten to your fourth album and there’s little difference from your debut, you’re probably not doing something right. With a recently fleshed-out lineup comes a variation in sound as found through the band’s brand-new studio album, Black Openings. You can hear it today and, fortunately, it’s a quick follow-up to last year’s Even If It Takes A Lifetime, their first release in seven years.
Led by the distinguished Mark Solotroff, this album has a wholly different set of influences than any of its predecessors, thanks to these new members. Recorded again with longtime producer Sanford Parker, the addition of bassist and steel guitarist Sam Wagster (who replaced Kenny Rasmussen) was invaluable, thanks to his very different musical background. The riffs are heavier, particularly with the bass, thanks to the addition of Wagster, which really forced the band to adjust. Solotroff appreciated the new input, for it allowed him to push the guys into heavier territory, and he also relished the challenge of remoulding their approach.
With his thoughts on the new record, Solotroff shares:
“Releasing Black Openings in a timely manner, as a follow up to our previous album Even If It Takes A Lifetime, was an important milestone for us, as it demonstrates the momentum that we’re building as a band. It was critical to not just release a single album, after the long gap that trailed Ciphers + Axioms. Furthermore, knowing that we’re about 50 percent finished with our next album, we feel confident that we can maintain the forward push that we’ve been working hard to develop.
“It’s not just about releasing albums, although that feels really good. It has to do with the fact that this lineup has experienced consistency and fluidity in our ability to collaborate and to create new songs. We may still labour over them, to make sure they’re ready to perform and to record, but there are always one or two new ideas in development.
“As for Black Openings, I think it encapsulates exactly what Anatomy of Habit is all about. It contains the important balances that we strive for, between darker and brighter, heavier and lighter, slower and faster. Well, look, we’re not becoming a speed-metal band, but we can shift into a higher gear, from time to time. It’s always an exciting moment when we finally share our latest music with a broader audience. The opportunity to make new connections and to learn how people interpret our work, in their own way, is always rewarding.”
He concludes by saying:
“We hope that this album resonates with people who already listen to us, and we look forward to hearing from new listeners who discover us through Black Openings. As this album makes its way into the world, we’ll be working hard to wrap up the next one. What’s our next milestone? It’ll be an album with four songs. You heard about it here, first.”
As could be expected from Solotroff and the band at this point, Black Openings features some more elaborate themes, such as love and loss, the abstracted and vanishing self, and the various complexities within the creative process. It also considers the concept of obliteration, and the concept of the inner drive and what it does to keep pushing you forward. The lineup may have changed, but the power remains fully intact. Get ready to enjoy the experience, because this is music best enjoyed on a higher level.
Anatomy of Habit : Black Openings
February 20, 2023
by Josiah Aden
Anatomy of Habit understand the tension and noise of a subway commute. On their fourth album, Black Openings, they control that chaos and create a fantastic experience of discomfort.
An underground rail system is noisy, dirty, and chilly. Trains roar by feet away, announcements shrill words you can never quite understand, and trucks rattle by overhead. The atmosphere is tense and slightly manic. The perfect soundtrack for this is the grimy clatter of Anatomy of Habit’s new release Black Openings.
The post-punk/doom outfit creates a brilliant atmosphere of controlled chaos and relief in equal measures throughout their new LP. ‘Black Openings’ opens the group’s fourth album in interesting fashion. In this twenty-minute track there are three distinct sections: a slow, calmer opening; an instrumental passage; and an escalating mass of pure heaviness. Alex Latus’ repeated riffing supports Mark Solotroff’s Ian Curtis-esque droning vocals during the first minutes. Once the vocals drop away, the instruments take over the post-punk desperation and swell into chaos before they also disappear into doomy, industrial noises. Sanford Parker’s production is pristine; each instrument voices its own version of doom and gloom.
Movement two is best described as quiet cacophony. In the twenty-first century Metro system, headphones or earplugs are commuters’ prized possessions. In the second movement of ‘Black Openings’, two bass notes ring out through the muffled noise to remind the listener of music’s grounding power. This section also widens Anatomy of Habit’s vision to post-rock, akin to outfits like Sigur Rós or Swans. As ‘Black Openings’ comes to a close, Solotroff joins the tortured instruments with desperation and isolation behind their voice. The song grinds toward its end as Solotroff chants the song title in manner that would make Peter Murphy proud.
The drums and guitar combine their strength to open a door in the wall of noise to let both breathing space and a new texture (courtesy of a vibraphone) into the mix of ‘Formal Consequences’. Some tension lifts, though the city still roars overhead. Then the Metro bursts into the sunlight for a few stations. The music becomes more melodic and spacey. Passengers breathe easier and shift their feet a little. Toward the track’s close, though, the doomy vocals return to tell the listener that there is one more underground stint before freedom. The train plunges into the black opening, and once again alien sounds return. Solotroff, in solidarity with their fellow passengers, sounds alone and resigned.
Instruments crash back into final subsuming track ‘Breathing Through Bones’. Urgency and restlessness are on the minds of everyone here from Solotroff to the listener to the commuters in the dark. Swelling up from the ground, instruments and vocals collapse together one last time. Solotroff signs off with the words “I taste your bitter tears.” Bitter tears, indeed: this album is not designed for a casual listen. Post-punk and doom rarely sound this intense and desperate. These veterans of atmosphere, Anatomy of Habit, have created an album worthy of your next underground commute. Lose yourself, if just for a moment, in the brilliant discomfort of Black Openings.
Anatomy of Habit - Black Openings (2023)
February 16, 2023
by Dark Emperor
Immediately doing a double take to figure out if Garm from Ulver was singing on this one, Anatomy of Habit unleashes their latest release “Black Openings”. Creating a very unique and intricate atmosphere, this release delivers over 38 minutes of an experimental amalgamation of Doom, Post-Punk, Drone, and a few other genres. If you like hypnotic music with singular vocals and crafty instrumentation, you can’t miss out on this one.
Opening with the engaging “Black Openings”, the band quickly sets a very mellow mood that slowly progresses as it hooks the listener with its mystery. As Mark Solotroff vocals come on, the listener will immediately think of Ulver as he sounds just like Garm. However, this is not the only stand-out element from the music as it brilliantly layers tons of elements like a vibraphone, lap steel, and analog synths to create a nice and warm loungey vibe.
The experimental cinematic journey continues with “Formal Consequences” and its shoegazey guitars alongside moody percussion. We particularly enjoy that there are some heavier passages with The Ocean-esque Post-Metal bursts of energy. The band’s sound is constantly evolving and each track nicely journeys from different sides of the spectrum, while delivering a rewarding listening experience, as “Breathing Through Bones” cements.
As a whole, “Black Openings” is a very well crafted and intriguing release. The band’s sound is quite expansive and yet centered on a few core ideas. The extended instrumentation is top notch and never overbearing or gimmicky, and perfectly blends in with the heavier more ‘Metal‘ passages and the hypnotic vocals. Perfectly making accessible to listeners their experimental nature, Anatomy of Habit is a very unique and engaging band.
Anatomy Of Habit “Black Openings” Review
February 13, 2023
by Kieron Yates
Chicago’s Anatomy Of Habit return with Black Openings, the follow-up to 2021’s Even If It Takes A Lifetime.
I always get a kick out of bands that truly are impossible to pigeon-hole into but one musical category. This is something that an ocean of musicians claim, yet but a select few actually achieve. Despite being able to say that a certain passage is influenced by another artist, Anatomy Of Habit are proving themselves to be one of the more illusive artists.
Just when you think you’ve got them pinpointed, they throw a wrench into the gears and everything evolves into another sonic direction. Musical eclecstasy. A hybrid of doom metal, post-punk, death rock, early-industrial, psychedelic, and shoegaze; there’s no telling what to expect next. Thematically, the album continues to elaborate on Mark Solotroff’s expressions of love and loss, the abstracted and vanishing self, and complexities within the creative process. It further explores the concept of obliteration, and it propels the idea to a dreadful new terminus point.
Listening to Anatomy Of Habit gives off a really cumbersome, tragic and morose atmosphere, sort of like a darker, more twisted incarnation of the great Joy Division. Not so much through the actual music but the vocals of Solotroff seem heavily influenced by the works of Ian Curtis or by Brendan Perry of Dead Can Dance. Solemn and almost done in elongated speech – like words stretched thin, but by doing so, giving them an interesting node of desperation or despair. Struggle and strife.
Musically, there is a lot going on. The three tracks that form Black Openings total just under forty minutes worth of run time – with the shortest track being north of nine minutes in length. That creates room for Anatomy Of Habit to explore multiple musical styles in each number. Each track is virtually a separate entity. On the title track, Black Openings, the mood changes at least three times through its eighteen minute lifetime. From the morose, into almost dark ambient territory and finally into a more aggressive and haunted segment that ends with Solotroff almost chanting the song name. Three distinct movements that range from a calmer opening section, to an extended atmospheric instrumental passage, to an escalating mass of pure heaviness.
On Formal Consequences, we again see various parts sewn together to form a complete act. That illusiveness I mentioned before is in full effect here. Solotoff isn’t the most talented of singers, but the way he delivers his vocals shines. Simple and to the point, almost monotone and with a drone-like quality, it fits perfectly over the music that Anatomy Of Habit are crafting. It’s almost hypnotic which, again, fits the overall aesthetic of the group.
Finally, on Breathing Through Bones, we see Anatomy Of Habit treading Sólstafir-esque grounds, with a wonderfully bleak introductory riff that takes its sweet time to warm into a Joy Division like passage. Fans of the aforementioned would understand if I spoke of how much darker their second album was – and that is the vibe that is explored here. Perhaps an unlikely duo of sounds to bring together, but it works so well. Imagine the first person to think up a poutine way back in day; an eclectic Quebecer that thought throwing curd cheese and gravy on his fries would be a great idea. Which, it fucking is, and is now a staple of Quebecois culture.
What I’m trying to say is that innovation often comes from pairing elements or aspects of known commodities together in ways nobody has yet thought of dared to do. Musical eclecstasy. What Anatomy Of Habit are able to do on but three tracks is both remarkable and commendable. Their ability to forge soundscapes, using the sort of elements that you might expect to hear on a field-recording into the fray, like the droning chime of a bell or metal object used for percussion – is fantastic.
Copies of Black Openings, the new opus from Anatomy Of Habit, can be purchased off of the groups bandcamp page. There are vinyl, compact disc, cassette and digital versions for your perusal. Pick wisely.
For Fans Of: King Woman, Joy Division, Mammifer
Anatomy of Habit’s Ship of Theseus Sails Through the “Black Openings” (Early Track Debut + Interview)
by Jon Rosenthal
February 10, 2023
"There was a little bit of a lull period," Anatomy of Habit frontman Mark Solotroff says over a glass of wine in the dim light of Chicago's Revel Room. Anatomy of Habit has been around for a long time now. To my memory since at least 2007, a live act who took their time getting around to record, but it was after their sole Relapse Records release, 2014's Ciphers & Axioms, where the band entered a sort of hibernation. Lineup instability (all on good terms) left Solotroff as the only original member.
"By the end of 2017, we had figured out how to move forward," Solotroff explains. "The gap in the lineup shift was much shorter, from 2015 into 2016. I was already figuring things out, and I give Skyler [Rowe, drums] a ton of credit for putting the puzzle together the way it is now. This counts as the longest running and most prolific lineup of the band."
With a new lineup comes changes in sound, but Anatomy of Habit's core post-punk-meets-doom-meets-no-wave approach remained steadfast in last year's Even If It Takes A Lifetime, the band's first release in seven years. Bassist and lap steel guitarist Sam Wagster was one of the many musicians who entered the fold, replacing original member Kenny Rasmussen, and with a different set of influences than his predecessor, had to adjust accordingly, but it was easier than one might expect.
"[Figuring out the sound] was pretty fluid for me," he says, "because I think the only old song we ever played was 'After the Water.' That bass line is something that totally resonates with me–the more post-punk, melodic approach to bass as opposed to some of the heavier bass on the older records. I latched onto it and saw it as something I could do and would push myself into heavier terrain as needed. We definitely do stuff that's heavier than anything I've done bass-wise in other bands, but it translates, and the lap steel stuff felt totally natural. It was a cool challenge to figure out a bass sound that would work and felt distinctive to me but also covered some of the heavier terrain we get into."
"I think there was a statement pretty early on that we needed to learn the old songs just to play together as a band," Solotroff continues, "but one of the few smart decisions I made was to not play old material because it would not make the band gel as a group of five people working together if they're straddled with remnants of the previous lineup. I know the hallmarks of the sound of Anatomy of Habit will never be lost, but we don't need to play those songs."
"I, personally, listen to more post-punk and post-hardcore than doom metal, but it's all fair game," Wagster says, and it shows on new album Black Openings, whose truly gothic, doomed sound ebbs and flows between its many parts, be it the post-punk's rhythmic drive, doom metal's plod, or free improvisation's uncertainty and atmosphere.
"Very early on each of us put together a baker's dozen favorites and I was the only one who had early Paradise Lost and Cathedral, but also Fields of Nephilim and Siouxsie," says Solotroff,
"and Greg [Ratajczak, former guitarist] had more progressive stuff. Dylan's [Posa, former guitarist] taste was all over the place. We all come from such different backgrounds and all kinds of taste."
This variety of taste is evident in Anatomy of Habit as a whole, and even with their Ship of Theseus existence, the band exists as a singular idea which expounds upon itself, becoming heavier, more atmospheric, and more driving over time. Though Mark Solotroff remains the sole original member, Anatomy of Habit's sound remains all its own, a unique reminder that sound can be passed down through tradition and artistic generations.
In their new album opener and title track "Black Openings," which is streaming below–ahead of Black Openings' February 24th release–Anatomy of Habit navigates their variety of influences and lineup changes with grace and, most importantly, power. It's power that truly defines the Anatomy of Habit sound across time and personnel changes, and "Black Openings'" own muscular sound, appended by junk percussionist Isidro Reyes' rhythmic counterpoint with Rowe's heavy pulsing and guitarist Alex Latus' slack-tuned atmospheres, truly shines as one of Chicago's finest active live acts.
Anatomy of Habit will be playing a release show tomorrow at the Cobra Lounge. I hope to see some of you there!
Chicago band Anatomy of Habit explore dark moods on Black Openings
by Monica Kendrick
February 7, 2023
Chicago band Anatomy of Habit have been around in various forms since 2008, sporadically releasing music that hammers together metal, industrial, postrock, avant-garde composition, and more. Originally a sort of floating supergroup with no fixed lineup, in the past few years they’ve solidified into a steady quintet around founder and front man Mark Solotroff. The band’s new fourth full-length, Black Openings (due February 24), recorded with Sanford Parker, features the same lineup as its predecessor, 2021’s Even If It Takes a Lifetime: guitarist Alex Latus, drummer Skyler Rowe, percussionist Isidro Reyes, and bassist and lap-steel player Sam Wagster.
The moody 18-minute title track starts the record with a slinky, rolling pulse. Rowe’s drums and Reyes’s percussion drive a buildup that sets the stage for the first appearance of Solotroff’s vocals. From there, it’s a long, lovely journey that you can settle into, trusting that you’ll be alternately unsettled, soothed, creeped out, pummeled, and exalted, but never bored. In its harrowing climax, Solotroff screams, ”Remaining faceless / Slipping into a persona,” against militant percussion that sounds as if it’s beating his voice into a pulp.
The second and third tracks are both more than nine minutes long, allowing the band space to explore the full potential of each composition. “Formal Consequences” provides a bit of respite with its dreamy, gothic feel and slightly askew atmosphere of ominous melancholy. Sheets of shimmering guitars appear like torrential rains, giving way to a quiet interlude and a sinister sense of ritual catharsis. The bitter, biting “Breathing Through Bones,” the first song released from the album, evokes the loss and grief of a doomed romance, ending with a heavy slam of sound that’s drawn out to a clanging quiet. This show is a release party for Black Openings, and it features opening sets from dreamy local darkwave outfit Kill Scenes and Indiana goth project Twice Dark.
New evidence of the richness of experimental doom
by Thierry Francois
February 5, 2023
(Translated from French)
Just over a year ago, I wrote you all the good things I thought about the Even If It Takes A Lifetime album by the Chicago band ANATOMY OF HABIT ((Read again here). There is no doubt that Black Openings is a very high-flying sequel to the 2021 album.
Listening to the new opus, it immediately comes to mind that the title of Black Openings is perfectly on the subject. Darkness is pervasive, from the first to the last note of the album. However, the deep vibrations of the music of ANATOMY OF HABIT resonate with colors and emotions that go far beyond simple funereal or morbid impressions.
The title Black Openings inaugurates the album. It is introduced in a very bare, very minimalist way by a bass synchronized with a muffled bass drum, then metallic percussions insinuate themselves, create sound sparks and the sound becomes even denser by an enrichment of the percussions, then thanks to a guitar which integrates itself in an unspeakable way and will gradually take on more and more body. The voice resonates, powerful, low and cold. This piece takes the time to evolve over its eighteen minutes. The heart of the title is transformed into an atmospheric and psychedelic flow during which the percussions are only done by small touches, a sheet of sound engulfs you, fog of vibrating echoes, in which the previous rhythmic has dissolved. At two-thirds of the duration, the drums, the bass and the guitar come to restructure the title and the singing resumes, more warlike, more bitter before sinking into chaos from which a metallic death knell will emerge. The performance is petrifying.
The second track, Formal Consequences, starts like a very dark version of the beginning of Time by PINK FLOYD. Funny comparison, especially since the track stands out from it as soon as the song resonates like a strange mantra on a melody that is both present and contained. Multiple elements saturate the sound space before a powerful guitar rhythm tears it apart after the third minute. The title evolves again, returns to an avalanche of saturation then gives way to a softer, almost joyful melody at the seventh minute... ANATOMY OF HABIT does not trigger violent revolutions, its tracks are constantly metamorphosing in a fluid way. As a listener, I let myself get carried away and regularly become aware of the path traveled by no longer recognizing the landscape in which I found myself a few minutes earlier.
The third and final title, Breathing Through Bones, begins in a much more familiar register. It is quite reassuring to find oneself in a known universe. The title evolves between the cold climate of post-punk, and the heaviness of doom metal. I like the screaming guitar, the lamenting voice, the leaden rhythm and the metallic percussion, all converging towards an imposing and glorious finale.
The compositions are powerful, dark and in perpetual renewal. The atmospheres are shamanic and hypnotic. The singer gives chills. The quality of the mix makes a perfect tribute to the music. In summary, Black Openings is a must for post-punk/experimental doom lovers.
Anatomy of Habit
"Breathing Through Bones"
from Black Openings (Post-Punk/Doom – Independent)
January 28, 2023
Chicago legends Anatomy of Habit were laying low for a good stretch there during the latter part of the 2010s. Which was fine, I guess. we all have lives and priorities, and as long as we had their classic debut and Mark Solotroff on-and-off participation in Wrekmeister Harmonies, then I was OK. But I'm even more OK with their sudden, violent, and wonderful return to life. First with their incredible and criminally underrated Even if it Takes a Lifetime, and now with yet another album, due to come out next month. Listen to "Breathing Through Bones" and realize immediately what's the difference between writing horribly boring, slow paced music and the kind of slow-burners that AoH just churn out at seeming will, that make you feel like you're flying. Flying, I tell you. FFO: FLYING.
Anatomy of Habit
"Breathing Through Bones"
by Rennie Resmini
January 26, 2023
New Anatomy of Habit in the belfry. The dread masters of minimalism and atmosphere have returned. Crushing highs, crushing lows. Open spaces that envelop a listener in rising dread and tightening tension. Sound craft and design on par with Caspar Brotzmann, Swans and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. This sounds and feels enormous in its spaciousness and is rich with exacting detail. “Breathing Through Bones” weaves a creeping disquiet riding a malevolent undercurrent threading with the narrative and assuredly moving toward disintegration.