Anatomy of Habit - Even if it Takes a Lifetime
December 17, 2021
(Translated from French)
The impressionist post punk, what an admirable creation!
For the general public, the term post punk is a vague notion, especially in France where the expression cold wave has always been used much more to label groups such as JOY DIVISION or DEAD CAN DANCE. Also, to explain the approach of ANATOMY OF HABIT, I prefer to focus on the name itself, which suggests this desire to dissect human behavior. AoH would therefore be a group with a humanist or existentialist aim - a counter-current to punk which proclaims the absurdity of life with No Future!
Attention, although the word "anatomy" refers us to a labeling of reality, the words are not at all figurative but used as so many small generators of sensations. Like Alexandra LERMAN's cyanotype on the album cover, the concrete words of the lyrics lose their meaning in favor of emotions.
Musically, ANATOMY OF HABIT is very unique. Even If It Takes A Lifetime is the third LP from these Chicago artists. The first two have the characteristic of having only two pieces each, one per side. Here there are three of 7, 14 and 19 minutes. If in our society time is perceived quantitatively, it seems to me that AoH apprehends it qualitatively, both during the seven years that separate their last two opuses, and even within the unfolding of each composition. This undoubtedly explains the considerable care taken in the production which offers us an ample, powerful and crystalline sound close to perfection. This also explains why the frame of each title is shaped, sometimes smoothly like the paste of a glassblower, and sometimes with a hammer like a red steel ingot in the forges of Vulcan.
Note that the album's very title - Even if it were to take a lifetime - expresses the demand for a different relationship to time.
If you don't know the previous two albums, you are probably wondering what sauce you are going to eat. Well there you go, you will be enveloped by atmospheres and atmospheres to cut with a knife on generally slow rhythms, by a heavy guitar capable of tackling lead chords, by a magical, warm and serious voice, by a bass that pulses with roundness. and a very heavy drums enhanced by the house specialty, metallic percussions.
No abuse will be done to your ears and yet there is an experimental aspect. No rhythm will be devoid of emotion and yet there is an industrial aspect to it. No demonstration of virtuosity and yet there is a heavy prog aspect. No domination of the riff and yet there is a pronounced doom metal aspect. ANATOMY OF HABIT obsolete the boundaries between many genres and thus creates a style that is its own.
If the impressionists paint the light that vibrates between you and the subject, ANATOMY OF HABIT paints the sounds that vibrate between you and the observed society. That’s why I call this incredible album impressionist post punk.
Anatomy of Habit, "Even if it Takes a Lifetime"
December 12, 2021
It certainly does not seem as if it has been seven years since Ciphers + Axioms, but it has, and Even if it Takes a Lifetime is the first music Anatomy of Habit have released since then. The heaviness that pervaded their previous two albums and debut EP is here for sure, but there is also a greater sense of melodicism, spearheaded by band leader Mark Solotroff’s (Bloodyminded, The Fortieth Day) vocal approach. The album still sounds like the same band, but one that has solidified into a pummeling, yet nuanced machine that is as complex as it is heavy, resulting in their best work to date.
The album opens with "A Marginal World" and, at less than seven minutes, is the shortest song the band has created so far. With the limited duration the band wastes no time launching in to a heavy chug by rhythm section Skyler Rowe and Sam Wagster, nicely complemented by Solotroff's bandmate in Bloodyminded Isidro Reyes' metal clattering accents. Solotroff's booming voice comes right in quickly, his stentorious delivery as severe as ever. Rapid fire snare and cymbals soon come in, upping the tempo and giving a slightly less doom laden feel compared to their other work. There are a lot of transitions given its short length, but it leads to a complex, yet immediate sound from the start.
"Your Pure Breath" blends right in from "A Marginal World," leading from a droning tone into sparse guitar. Bass and dramatic vocals eventually come in, and then the heavy, pounding drums and squalling guitar. It is certainly heavy, but not overly oppressive, and the slow depressive flow highlights the squalling guitar and subtle metallic percussion. The structure towards the end is especially notable, hinting at some of the band’s less overt post-punk influences via Alex Latus' guitar work.
Album closer "Now We Finally Know Ourselves" clocks in at 19 minutes and thus feels most in line with previous works from the band. It beautifully shifts from subtle echoing guitar, pulsating electronics, and understated metal work before locking into that insistent throb the band does so well. There are multiple phases of heavy pound versus open reflective passages, keeping the dynamic fresh and varied. There is even a bit of lush organ thrown into the mix. For all its dour heaviness, there seems to be an almost positive, uplifting end with Solotroff singing the title of the song, sounding almost like a new beginning. Compared to previous works (and his other projects), Solotroff's lyrics seem more personal this time around, with an emphasis on love, loss, and relationships with others.
Solotroff's commanding, declarative voice is certainly present, but he has obviously has added a bit more melodicism that complements the music perfectly. It is still undeniably him (and Anatomy of Habit), but it is an added depth that makes Even if it Takes a Lifetime unique, congealing into something more song-like and musical compared to the relentless heaviness that defined their previous works. There is a second album pending that was recorded at the same time, and I am certainly curious how it compares, but even just more of this would be fine by me.
Rainbows in the Dark: Anatomy of Habit — “Even if It Takes a Lifetime”
December 12, 2021
Whoa! It’s been a while since we’ve had one of these. Blame it on whatever you like, but life has been pretty busy around here. Still, I knew I wanted to get one more of these in before the close of the year, and as soon as I saw the blurb for Even if It Takes a Lifetime, I knew this would be the one. Not only are Anatomy of Habit hometown heroes, they also do the thing that I love writing about most in this column: effectively straddle the line of genre and blur the region of space between metal and non-metal.
Chicago’s own Anatomy of Habit never had the intention of letting seven years go by between albums, but that’s precisely what ended up being the case. According to bandleader and singer Mark Solotroff, “When you release a new album, you never really think to yourself, It’s going to be seven years until the next one comes out, but that’s what happened. After Ciphers + Axioms was released in late 2014, life happened, along with all of the things that involves, both good and bad. Add a global pandemic to the mix, to complicate things even further. So, we decided to take things into our own hands and get this album out into the world before another year or two suddenly passed us by.” The group, rounded out by guitarist Alex Latus, percussionist Isidro Reyes, drummer Skyler Rowe and bassist Sam Wagster, have all known each other through the various scenes that run between Chicago and Rowe and Latus’ hometown of Indianapolis. While there have been numerous changes in Anatomy of Habit’s lineup since they formed in 2008, this lineup is the most stable and prolific, expounding on the band’s unique blend of post-punk, doom metal and smatterings of electronic and industrial influences. If all of that seems like it shouldn’t work together, rest assured that the band have nailed down the recipe from these ingredients. While post-punk is heavily associated with driving, quick grooves and doom metal is, well, the opposite of that, the gloomy atmospheres and brooding moods blend together seamlessly and the band still manages to work in pulsing grooves over slow, pounding drums that exemplifies the best of both worlds.
Even if It Takes a Lifetime represents what I feel is one of the only sets of proportions between doom metal and post-punk that could make sense and end up working out successfully. There are an awful lot of textural elements that blend together to make the band’s signature sound, between the synthesizers, metal percussion, groovy basslines, thunderous riffs and Solotroff’s signature drone, but everything comes together in a way that is cohesive and highly expressive. Honestly, the metal percussion is the most surprising aspect of their sound. It’s easy to write it off as being cheesy, but the various scrapes, clangs and thunks actually add a lot of depth to the songs. Reyes and Rowe end up complimenting each other perfectly, and it works especially well in tandem with the almost sludgy riffs and nimble basslines that make up the meat of the three tracks on Even if It Takes a Lifetime. Opener “A Marginal World” represents the shortest song in the band’s discography, even though it’s still almost seven minutes in length. What they manage to pack in that time is a whole lot of aggression and heaviness. It’s probably the doomiest song on the album, and it packs a solid punch before the next two fifteen- and twenty-minute epic (respectively) soar off in atmospheric and psychedelic directions. The important thing is that no matter where these songs go, there is always something to keep them grounded, and they end up being pretty catchy and memorable despite their length and depth.
Perhaps to make up for the extended period of inactivity, Even if It Takes a Lifetime represents the first of two new albums the band already has recorded and ready to go. Expect Black Openings sometime next year, and in the meantime, get acquainted with Even if It Takes a Lifetime. It is definitely a unique experience, and one that I think should leave fans of both post-punk and doom satisfied.
Full Length Review: Anatomy of Habit "Even If It Takes A Lifetime" (Independent)
December 11, 2021
I must speak on this a lot but sometimes ‘patience’ can be the most powerful virtue in music when done correctly and I think I’ve found one of the strongest in metal of the year!
Anatomy of Habit -Even If It Takes A Lifetime
I must say, amongst these three tracks this album title is quite relevant to the aesthetic they build for themselves because with ‘PATIENCE’ they had a lifetime of time to create the perfect sonic utopia. What we have here is a three track ‘experience’ similar to how various streams can all lead to the same river.
Every song has this elegant beauty to it that only comes with the gift of composure, diligence and endurance. As far as the sound and production of this album this to me feels like what would happen if the band Anathema tried to create an album similar to what Swans would do. All the tracks are long and drawn out but have that uncanny tranquil and relaxing quality to them that Anathema is perfect for capturing.
They aren’t worried about ‘bangers’ or ‘Hit songs’ more they are about keeping the EP consist and flowing properly into each other. The final track on this album ‘Now We Finally Know Ourselves’ is a 19:14 minute extravaganza that ends things in the most ‘Progressive Metal’ way possible with extensive guitar work, harmonious vocal performances and an overall feeling of euphoria. I’ll be honest, this album probably isn’t for everyone. It’s a very ‘soft’ album so to speak, it’s not the kind of album you’d play if you were trying to get pumped up or when you need energy but if you’re looking for an ‘experience’ and have enough time on your hands to really isolate yourself and immerse in this sonic world created then I feel there’s lot to enjoy and plenty to dissect and discover upon many re-listens.
Go support this band today and share this!
Anatomy of Habit – Even If It Takes a Lifetime (2021)
December 10, 2021
After seven years of relative radio silence following 2014’s brilliant Ciphers + Axioms, today sees the emergence of the first of two anticipated new albums by Chicagoans Anatomy of Habit…
It’s a bit of a challenge to express exactly what it is about this band and their songs that is so intriguing and appealing — I remember struggling similarly the last time around. On paper it probably seems pretty bizarre: an Ian Curtis-esque quasi-melodic talk-singing, repeating poetic utterances over gothy and doomy riffs and minimal post-apocalyptic soundscapes, conceptually similar to an album-length version of The Doors‘ “The End.” But goddamn, it just works.
Brand new album Even If It Takes a Lifetime features three tracks. The first of these, the uptempo, heavy post-industrial-tinged “A Marginal World” ends up the briefest recording Anatomy have produced to date (weighing in at “only” 6:40). “Your Pure Breath” and “Now We Finally Know Ourselves” (around fourteen and nineteen minutes, respectively) continue with moments of ultra-minimalism, gothic atmosphere (“Breath” starts out with what reminds me of the opening few seconds of The Mission‘s “Wasteland” — the part just before the synths and drumbeat kick in, with all the tension and anticipation of what’s to come — but stretched out into like five whole minutes); heavy, droney chords and super-slow doomy drums; occasionally working up to moderately slow grooves; Neurosis-inspired post-metal explorations; (in the closing track) some driving, marching tempoes; and every once in a while tying everything together, a faraway ringing bell almost like the tolling at a distant train crossing.
Again, it’s difficult to really articulate in words, but when all this comes together on the record, like I said: goddamn, it just works.
Even If It Takes A Lifetime by Anatomy of Habit
December 10, 2021
(Translated from German)
It is also worth pointing out that ANATOMY OF HABIT have a new album out today.
When the band from Chicago, who at the time worked with Tortoise / The Sea and Cake drummer John McEntire, Will Lindsay (Ex-Indian, -Middian, - Wolves In The Throne Room etc.) and then also noise artist Blake Edwards ( alias Vertonen) was able to show certain underground celebrities in terms of personnel, released the album "Ciphers + Axioms" on Relapse Records in 2014, one would have thought that it would somehow find its fans.
Because this mix of styles, which is made up of corners like Doom / Post-Metal, Gothrock, Noiserock and a touch of industrial in the sense of metal percussion and the like. served - I'm now spontaneously throwing an attempt to explain this like “Bauhaus meets new buildings in the epic, massive Neurosis / Swans framework” - actually lies in the, now even more contemporary Bermuda triangle of what alternative music nerds like me appreciate.
But maybe this factor of the little priority side project, paired with a concept that seemed a bit too diffuse, ensured that the whole thing didn't really get a lot of approval and that the follow-up album "Even If It Takes A Lifetime" is now seven years later as well no longer comes through Relapse.
McEntire, Lindsay and Edwards are no longer there, while Mainman Mark Solotroff (vocals, synths) continues the whole thing with a completely different line-up, musically but still as if nothing had really changed.
And somehow, to be honest between us, I dare to doubt that the world has somehow been waiting for this border crossing between Roadburn and WGT.
I like driven artists who simply have to do their peculiar thing against all odds and keep going, but basically sympathetic!
Interested vinyl junkies will have to wait until next year, "Even If It Takes A Lifetime" is already available on CD, tape and as a download.
Another album recorded during the same session will follow!
ANATOMY OF HABIT: Even If It Takes A Lifetime
December 7, 2021
(Translated from Spanish)
When we hear about post-punk, the iconic Joy Division or, more mainstream, the Russians from Molchat Doma immediately spring to mind. Of course, at a general level, these are just some of the best-known examples, but they are obviously not the only exponents or the best. However, what happens to those groups that remain floating in the vast space that this subgenre encompasses?
Although Anatomy of Habit is nothing new, already having two studio albums under its belt, it certainly stands out in this field, offering a sound proposal that does not remain static, but rather adds elements of doom metal, death rock and even ( although very diluted) an injection of shoegaze to its formula.
After seven years of releasing their "Ciphers + Axioms", the group is back to their old ways with "Even If It Takes a Lifetime", the first of two new albums they have been preparing over the course of all this time.
Thematically speaking, the album pours out some thoughts from the vocalist, Mark Solotroff, such as love and loss, the creative process and, more bitterly, total oblivion.
On this occasion, the band breaks with its "tradition" of recording two songs per album, now having three tracks, beginning with what is, so far, their shortest song: A Marginal World. Introducing us with a very post-punk-style voice, along with a distorted guitar and drums setting the rhythm in a noisy way, leading to an atmosphere very typical of the previously mentioned cut and with a bass line that opens up slowly but decidedly.
Right away we find “Your Pure Breath”, which takes up the long duration that they usually use for their songs. This oscillates between moments of calm and heaviness, having more latent that inspiration in doom metal, resulting in a theme that resembles a kind of ecclesiastical chant, loaded with melancholy and that, involuntarily, makes us forget its other incorporated musical influences. Finally, there is “Now We Finally Know Ourselves”, which is undoubtedly the longest and most atmospheric track of the entire album, and where you can find that very well incorporated, almost undetectable, shoegaze tinge, which also brings with it certain psychedelic aura in a certain passage. It is worth mentioning that, there is a prolonged silence within the subject that made me think for a moment, that the following was a kind of "hidden track" or even a fourth song, but it is not the case. Nothing more to update you.
To be frank, this is a short production, which deserves a review of equal dimensions. I could add the fact that the themes unfold so slowly that there would be no point in stopping to analyze each fragment carefully. Although it lasts for more than half an hour, its execution is long and the spikes are widely spaced.
This is a work that is not conceived with the purpose of standing out for its aggressiveness, speed or virtuosity and is far enough away from the fundamental base of post-punk as to find it attractive to the necessary extent, preventing it from falling into the stylistic cliché that it is usually present in many of the subgenre projects. Rather, it is a somewhat solemn work, whose personality and maturity come to the fore when given due attention, allowing you to truly appreciate its musical narrative.
"Even If It Takes a Lifetime" is then, not novel, nor excessively ornate, nor will it be another album of the kind that the vast majority of followers of this kind of music usually consume, but there is something in its relative seriousness that exhorts you to take a seat, keep some composure, and why not? Until you allow yourself a moment for introspection and reflection. What extent? It will depend on each one. This quality being something that, at least lately, I have not noticed on many albums.
As an anticipated gift and, in keeping with the Santa Claus spirit that has prevailed on the page lately, it is known that the second album Anatomy of Habit has been working on will be called “Black Openings”, and will be released once “ Even If It Takes a Lifetime ”complete your cycle. It only remains to hope that they do not have to spend another seven years to know what they bring next.
Anatomy of Habit – Even If It Takes a Lifetime (Review)
December 7, 2021
Anatomy of Habit are from the US and this is their third album. They play experimental doom/post-metal.
2014’s Ciphers + Axioms seems like it came out a very long time ago, which I suppose it actually did. Now we have a follow up, however; Even If It Takes a Lifetime offers the listener a journey into sound that’s rich and textured.
The commanding voice of the band’s singer demands your attention, but the music doesn’t hide behind his palpable presence. The rest of the musicians have more than enough skilled importance of their own so as not to be sidelined, and everything in each of the songs knows its place and works together for the betterment of the whole.
A range of influences can be heard across the album, including doom, post-metal, post-punk, industrial, ambient, and drone, psychedelia. This is all delivered via an experimental framework that finds the band utilising a range of different instruments and sounds, to good effect. The music is intelligently crafted and builds atmosphere and emotive tapestries with ease. Each of the three songs has its own feel, structure, and personality, yet they all tie together and flow into a holistic mass very well.
Anatomy of Habit have produced a satisfying work. Even If It Takes a Lifetime is a solid return for Anatomy of Habit. The band sound bigger, more confident, and more accomplished than ever.
Track Premiere: Anatomy of Habit – “Your Pure Breath”
November 30, 2021
Ordinarily when we do a track premiere, we’ll roll out what amounts to a teaser—you’ll get a four- or five-minute song which is maybe a tenth of the whole album. But when we bring you some fresh noise from Chicago’s doomy, atmospheric post-punk collective Anatomy of a Habit, you get a full-on 14-minute epic. “Your Pure Breath” is an immersive, meditative, slow-building storm, one of three tracks on the band’s upcoming independently released Even If It Takes a Lifetime, recorded with Sanford Parker. The band has been together in various incarnations since 2008 and the current lineup features guitarist Alex Latus, metal percussionist Isidro Reyes, drummer Skyler Rowe, vocalist Mark Solotroff, and bassist/lap steel guitarist Sam Wagster.
Even If It Takes A Lifetime is the Anatomy of a Habit’s third album, following the Relapse-released Ciphers + Axioms, and will be released December 10 on CD, cassette and digitally. A vinyl edition will follow at a later date.
Here’s what vocalist Solotroff had to say about “Your Pure Breath.”
“When the current lineup of Anatomy of Habit was gelling in late 2017 and early 2018, ‘Your Pure Breath’ was one of the first songs that we wrote together. I believe that we only played it live a couple of times, and as we were writing more and more songs, and because it proved to be a fairly problematic one for me to perform at the time, we let it sit until we were preparing to go into the studio. While we were recording it, the song unexpectedly took on a life of its own, and it grew in both length and strength. When I consider the lyrics it seems like one of the most straightforward songs that I’ve written for Anatomy of Habit, although I don’t know if someone encountering it for the first time would necessarily agree with me. While the general mood of the song is firmly planted in sullen ground, the plea for help at the end could be interpreted in a more uplifting manner. In my mind, at least, there’s a direct tie to the potentially optimistic heart of the album title. The atmosphere as the song finishes never fails to give me chills and I hope that some listeners experience the same thing.”
Stepping Away From Life: Anatomy of Habit Embraces “A Marginal World” (Track Debut)
November 10, 2021
Chicago experimental post-punk/doom metal band Anatomy of Habit is, to me, a reminder of a time and place. In the early 2010s, I was a relatively new blogger, covering new bands and finding my own passion in underground music, and Anatomy of Habit was right there with me. I'd heard of them playing shows since the late 2000s but, due to my age, I never got to see them until 2011, opening for Iceage. Without any recordings to their name, I went into seeing Anatomy of Habit, other than my knowledge of frontman Mark Solotroff's long-standing career in noise music fronting power electronics legends Bloodyminded, completely blind. I was blown away. Then-current guitarist Greg Ratajczak's mastery of the loop pedal and harmonically-complex minimalism, along with being incredibly heavy when needed, when paired with Kenny Rasmussen's adventurous bass playing and fellow experimental music legend Blake Edwards' junk percussion (I forget who was drumming for them at the time -- you will see why in a second), it all came together in this doomed, gothic sort of way which never really fit into one genre or another perfectly. Anatomy of Habit was Anatomy of Habit, and for four glorious years I would see them regularly, absolutely losing my mind to the six lengthy songs in their repertoire, all of which were released in two monochromatic EPs and a full-length on Relapse Records.
Their lineup was unfortunately unstable, seeing Ratajczak replaced by stalwart guitarist Will Lindsay for Ciphers and Axioms (though he left later on), and eventually Edwards departed, Solotroff's fellow Bloodyminded bandmate Isidro Reyes taking his place. Now? Anatomy of Habit is a completely different band (which features the entirety of Mute Duo, oddly enough), sans band leader Solotroff, who still handles vocals, and yet? On the band's new album Even If It Takes A Lifetime, their first in seven years, it's like nothing changed. Still apocalyptically heavy and thoughtfully complex, Anatomy of Habit's lost time simply vanished. It's 2013 again and I'm watching Anatomy of Habit at the Cobra Lounge, completely leveling the place, my friends and I all damaging our necks and brains and minds to the swirling mass of volume.
Local shapeshifting post-everything collective Anatomy of Habit debuts a new roster
August 3, 2018
By Luca Cimarusti
Chicago experimental-rock collective Anatomy of Habit have been conjuring up crushing gloom and doom throughout their ten years of existence, and they’ve recently moved into their next phase. Fronted by sole constant member Mark Solotroff, Anatomy of Habit’s shapeshifting lineup has seen a who’s who of heavy and weird music pass through its ranks, including John McEntire of Tortoise, Will Lindsay of Indian, Noah Leger of Facs, Greg Ratajczak of Plague Bringer, and Dylan Posa of Cheer-Accident. Tonight’s show is the first performance of a totally reconstructed lineup, which features relative newcomer Alex Latus on guitar, dexterous Mute Duo and Rash drummer Skyler Rowe, heady pedal-steel master Sam Wagster on bass, and Solotroff’s Bloodyminded bandmate Isidro Reyes on the signature Anatomy of Habit scrap-metal percussion rig. Solotroff is eager to show the world the band’s new members, and is especially excited for the new musical steps the group is making. He notes that there will be a few directional shifts, including writing “short” songs that fit into the eight- to ten-minute range (brief compared to the two 20-minute tracks that make up the band’s flawless 2014 effort, Ciphers + Axioms). Anatomy of Habit has always been an explosive, uncompromising band to watch perform no matter who Solotroff has backing him onstage, so it goes without saying that the debut of their current incarnation won’t be one to miss.
Grayson Haver Currin
December 11, 2014
Noise mastermind and Bloodyminded head Mark Solotroff's Chicago supergroup Anatomy of Habit features members of Indian, Tortoise, and Joan of Arc. On their intriguing second album, they negotiate their way through domains of post-rock and doom, math rock and post punk.
For the noise musician Mark Solotroff, Ciphers + Axioms ends in very familiar territory. For eight minutes, amplifiers and instruments scream the sort of feedback, static, and clipped tones that are endemic both to his caterwauling power-electronics band Bloodyminded and his long-running extreme experimental imprint, Bloodlust! The sounds grow evermore dense, ultimately forming a thicket of prevailing hiss. But beneath and around the din, a repetitive guitar riff—just a few notes, really, folding into each other via delay and reverb—illuminate the abrasion, flickering like the light of a warm cabin spotted through a snowstorm. It’s not an accessibility concession that the wonderfully barbaric Bloodyminded would dare make.
Ciphers + Axioms is, instead, the intriguing second album from Solotroff’s Chicago supergroup Anatomy of Habit. The album's dual tracks each clock in around 20 minutes, as did the paired cuts from their self-titled 2011 debut; a subsequent EP split those times into a still not-quite-concise half. Despite the lengths, though, Anatomy of Habit is Solotroff’s relative pop band. He speaks and sings instead of screams, and he moves in lockstep time to guitars, drums and bass, all sharing intentions beyond aural obliteration. Each of these songs has at least one hook you’ll be able to hum, as Solotroff’s strange and droll monotone echoes in your head. During Within the Walls, Bloodyminded’s most recent LP, Solotroff yelled lines like, "mounds of bodies lying unburied" and "air so fouled by the pungent stench of millions of dead children." If you encounter temporary cognitive dissonance while singing along to songs about science and seasons with his Mark Mothersbaugh-meets-They Might Be Giants intonation, just trust that you’re not the only one.
Solotroff has long been a very busy and involved collaborator, but in recent years, his partnership has added unexpected elements to pre-existing projects. He supplied, for instance, essential blasts of abrasion to From All Purity, the latest and best record from Chicago metal act Indian. And there’s Wrekmeister Harmonies, the slow-moving and cinematic collective that works between poles of orchestral splendor and doom furor. Aside from founder J.R. Robinson, Solotroff is one of the project’s sole stable and necessary elements. Such integration is key to Ciphers + Axioms. Only Solotroff and Kenny Rasmussen return from Anatomy of Habit’s earlier iteration, but the new members are copacetic by any standard: Will Lindsay, whose brawny riffs lead the aforementioned Indian, commandeers guitar, while indispensable Tortoise and session drummer John McEntire takes the kit. Joan of Arc’s Theo Katsaounis accents the beats with auxiliary percussion. Chicago metal stalwart Sanford Parker engineered the sessions in McEntire’s Soma Electronic Music Studios. This is an enviable cast of contributors.
Following up their debut LP and EP, Chicago’s post-everything supergroup Anatomy of Habit (featuring members of Bloodyminded, Tortoise, and Indian, amongst many other projects) continue their penchant for dramatic, expansive rock-tinged music. For their Relapse debut, they provide two lengthy, side-long pieces that distill everything that was great about their early releases into a cohesive, rich album that stays faithful to their previous work, while adding an extra layer of polish.
From the opening moments of "Radiate then Recede", AoH's influences are not hard to place. The pounding drums, subterranean bass and caustic, drilling guitar bear a clear early Swans influence, but with a bit more restraint and less overt violence. The production adds a lot to this differentiation, with the use of reverb and processing bringing a hint of The Cure and Joy Division to their sound. Influences, yes, but they do so without directly aping any of those projects directly, retaining their own distinct style.
At over 20 minutes "Radiate And Recede" works more like a suite than a single song, with the band working through various configurations of the aforementioned sounds. Sometimes sludgy and shambling, other times leaning into chugging metal riffs, it never stops moving nor becomes stagnant. Vocalist Mark Solotroff, the de facto leader of this ensemble, delivers vocals that are the polar opposite of what he is known for from Intrinsic Action or Bloodyminded. Rather than manic screams or shouts, he is detached, calm and clinical. Amongst the dirge and darkness constructed from distorted bass and guitar melodies, he clearly reads off scientific terms with an uncomfortable detachment.
On the other half of the record, "Then Window," the group retains the mood but changes the template a bit. Early on, guitar noise dissolves into militant drumming and wobbling bass rattles. The piece transitions from a looser opening into a more tautly structured passage of almost 1970s classic heavy metal, juxtaposing the differing styles. It is depressive and muddy, with an almost shuffling drum groove driving it.
By the middle it becomes a massive ambient expansive, with Solotroff hypnotically repeating the title of the album like some sinister documentary narrator, with the band throwing out expansive, fuzzy noise paired with the guitar melody present since the beginning of the piece. Compared to “Radiate then Recede” it is clearly a more static, frozen piece, but one that captivates all the same.
There are not gigantic strides made stylistically between the first two AoH releases and Ciphers + Axioms, but instead there is a greater cementing of their identity, as well as a more fully realized sound. Unlike most supergroups where each artist is pushing their "thing" harder than the rest, everyone here fits perfectly with one another. They might sound nothing like each other, but parallels are there between AoH and Kevin Martin's God in that respect. A gathering of musicians who mesh seamlessly together, each acting like a force multiplier to the other to result in a dense, heavy, yet thoroughly enthralling album.
Avant-doomsters perform multi-dimensional soul-surgery
A bastion of experimentalism for some of the metal avant- garde’s heaviest hitters, Anatomy Of Habit’s Relapse debut throws out the rulebook and stretches ambitious fingers towards the threshold of perception.
An alchemical mix of doom, noise and goth-tinged post-punk, renowned vocalist Mark Solotroff intones mantras that may make little sense within the bewilderingly powerful moment, but when delivered with his solemnly intoned baritone nevertheless feel revelatory in magnitude, as the music flourishes to collapse around them. Tumultuous crescendos of Neurosis-like riffing melt into dreamlike ethereality, the two 20-minutes-plus tracks avoiding the pitfalls of waning attention span by constantly evolving. Much akin to the experience – and that really is the word for music like this – of listening to Swans for the first time, it can be overwhelming in its cinematic scope. Not like listening to music in the traditional sense, it is about surrendering yourself to a sonic mystery, a dimension of enigmatic potential, never knowing what is around the corner and emerging 40 minutes later feeling altered on a subconscious level.
This album is a masterpiece of huge noise. Anatomy of Habit has produced a musical titan composed of two halves: the rolling ‘Radiate and Recede’ & the intense ‘Then Window’. Anatomy of Habit simply roll with unrestrained mass in their sound, using what sounds like a stadium to push wave after wave of fuzz and bass over the listener. The songs aren't short jaunts through ideas either, but winding 20+ minute paths that wind through poetic ideas. The band is basically a super group, using members from other notable acts: Mark Solotroff (Bloodyminded), John McEntire (Tortoise, The Sea and Cake, Gastr Del Sol), Will Lindsay (Indians, Wolves in the Throne Room), Theo Katsaounis (Joan of Arc), and Kenny Rasmussen (ex Radar Eyes). These talented individuals have brought you an album that is closer to art, than just simply heavy music. I have minced words too long, let’s dive in!
The first epic, ‘Radiate and Recede’, is pretty spot on. The entire song is basically following a tidal pattern of having the guitars and, I think, string accompaniment roll in at measured times, to flow over everything. It's like God slowly rolling up the volume of universal life to just drown out petty humanity. It's somewhat akin to white noise, the repeating chords and notes just seem to blank out whatever is inside your head, while Solotroff simply gives an odd beauty with his nearly chant-like vocals. It’s a weird combination, but one that sticks in the listeners head pretty nicely. He doesn't alter his cadence, using a monotone baritone to deliver his simple lines, but it winds well with the building wall of noise and doom rolling around you. The vocals do change in a couple of spots, where he gets some scream time in, but nothing as terrible as screamo or other style so terrible. It arrives in time with a huge change in tempo and attitude with the band, and peaks to break into the lulls it so commands. The song, when at its simplest, uses percussion and minimal guitar to just leave a resounding space for Solotroff's voice to echo into infinity, which has to just knock angels out of their clouds. The ending of ‘Radiate and Recede’ is really heady, as it becomes more plodding doom, with a subtle transition from the earlier parts. It gets all kinds of heavy.
‘Then Window’ is quite different from ‘Radiate and Recede’, it starts with some heavy feedback, which then just morphs into differing textures and patterns. After about a minute of that, they go right into a heavy marching pattern, with the stringed half playing quite percussively with the drums. It has a purpose, and it's not stopping for anything. The vocals are in the same vein as ‘Radiate and Recede’, following a specific pattern and still that odd chant singing. This is by far my favorite song, as it has a bit more energy than the first song, and also because of the change in the last 7+ minutes of the song. The first 13 are more traditional doom and rock styled, as you have intense grooves with extremely hard delivery. It almost sounds like they had to get this last one out of their strings, so they went for broke on some sections. It goes immediately from groove city to light sections with minimal playing and more vocals. The lighter sections aren't to leave you hanging, as they slowly ramp up from behind to deliver right back into heaviness. The change happens at the 9 minute mark, where the song just starts fading out from the vocals, like they were all just sneaking out to leave Solotroff alone with himself, but then he stops on the repeated line of "Ciphers, and Axioms", and the song takes a rolling, ambient feel. It's like watching the baby float through 2001: A Space Odyssey, it’s just epic. It’s rolling noise with an underlying riff right below it, probably best on certain chemicals.
Overall, ‘Ciphers + Axioms’ by Anatomy of Habit is one of the best albums from last year, perfect for the heavy aficionado who likes to mix it up with their collection.
Before you sit down to read this review, you’d better get yourself something to eat and maybe an iced cold beverage. I’ll give you a few minutes. Alright, are you ready now? Comfortable? Good. Because Ciphers + Axioms is unlike anything that you’ve probably ever heard before. First of all it is a very thick album, completely filled to the brim with heavy moments of doom and drone and elements of avant-garde that make the experience something of a sort of ritualistic event, perhaps more along the lines of a science experiment. Out of the five band members, there is only who has actually been in other metal acts and that is Will Lindsay (Abigail Williams, Indian, ex-Nachtmystium) who as you can see has a fairly strong repertoire behind him. But Lindsay isn’t lighting up the sky or being forced to call upon the ancient spirits of the Norwegian frost; rather he’s serving as a mere thump for what really seems to collaborate into its own atmosphere. Perhaps there are little tinkerings here and there throughout the two full-bodied tracks, but it’s arguably much different than anything we’ve heard from him before before. Adding to that, Mark Solotroff’s vocal approach also stands out quite heavily on the record, making me think of a cross between Dead Can Dance’s Brendan Perry and possibly your college science professor. And just in the fashion of Dead Can Dance, there’s a great deal of dark atmosphere on the album that takes place whilst Solotroff rattles on about a slew of subjects with an oddly monotone, yet hypnotic tone. I’ve listened to the record about four times already and can’t really tell you what it is exactly that Mr. Solotroff happens to be singing about, but I can assure you that it most certainly has everything to do with “cyphers… and axioms” as he repeats this phrase several thousand times during the disc’s latter cut “Then Window.” Both of the tracks weigh in at about twenty minutes, but that seems to suffice in lieu of the massive onslaught of warm and silent atmospheres that appear in each. Unlike other albums, Cyphers + Axioms isn’t really about the words that emanate from it; rather it’s the feeling that you get from listening to the piece as a whole. It’s about John McEntire’s drumming and Theo Katsaounis’s percussion elements, it’s about Kenny Rasmussen’s bass licks and it’s definitely most about Will Lindsay’s guitar soundscapes and Mark Solotroff’s vocal instruments. Yes, Anatomy Of Habit would have been just as effective as an instrumental act, but Solotroff really brings a unique way of thinking to the band and I think that’s what’s going to stand out on your first listen. There are a lot of bands that mix doom and drone together, but never like this. It sounds like science, to be honest – which never really had a sound until now I suppose; so one could even dub it “science metal” if they wanted to even though the scientific community would probably frown upon it. It’s warm and rustic, with a sound all its own, that I just don’t think could be easily replicated to the same effect. Every once in a while a band comes around that you can’t really classify and Anatomy Of Habit are just that kind of act. When I first heard the record, I said in the most unprofessional of manners, “this sounds pretty cool” and have been trying to figure out how to formulate that opinion in the most professional way possible. Which obviously isn’t this. But all joking aside, Ciphers + Axioms is the kind of metal album that you get for the metalhead who has everything. It’s not something they’ll expect and I think that fans of drone, post, doom and avant-garde among other non-metal related genres will also find something to like here. So yeah, it does sound pretty cool.
November 7, 2014
When I hear ‘super group,’ I expect half-assed songwriting and a generic compromise between each member’s other bands. It’s because of this connotation that the phrase doesn’t fit Chicago’s Anatomy of Habit. Each member is an underground legend, but Anatomy’s Relapse debut, Ciphers + Axioms, is a brilliantly composed journey through the industry-plagued psyche. The drums, guitar, bass, vocals and percussion all work together to form a whole, but they also push against each other, creating an overarching negative tension.
Ciphers + Axioms consists of two twenty-minute songs, each of which could work as an album in itself. The first track, “Radiate and Recede,” begins with sparse drumming and discordant guitar and piano notes. Percussionist Theo Katsaounis of Joan of Arc places dry cymbal hits that sound like someone smashing sheet-metal with a hammer in the sonic gaps, creating a sense of mechanical churning that continues throughout the rest of the song.
Mark Solotroff’s imposing vocals loom over this chanting instrumentation. He exhibits a range of approaches on the album, but he mostly relies on a pseudo-spoken word style that evokes Filth-era Swans. Imagine an animatronic Nick Cave who, instead of intricately crafted stories, works almost entirely through abstract concepts and statements, and you might have something close to Solotroff’s unique style.
Good industrial often attains nastiness through repetition, but Anatomy of Habit also jumps from bleak monotony into chaotic, Unsane-style sections. They devolve from this Am-Rep punishment into depressive sludge, which is fitting considering that Will Lindsay of Indian plays guitar in the band. “Radiate and Recede” eventually returns to the quiet-but-still-abrasive beginning section, though in a way that feels completely natural.
The second track, “Then Window,” begins as a kind of death march, pushed forward by drummer Jon McEntire’s robotic shuffle. Just when everything starts to pick up energy — mathy guitar and bass surrounded by Katsaounis’s bath salts percussion — Anatomy pulls the rug from under your feet, leaving you with haunting ether and Solotroff’s professor-from-a-pulpit vocals. The song eventually gains momentum again, but only to dissolve into scratching noise.
In a lot of ways, Anatomy of Habit is a progressive industrial band. They know exactly how to fuck with you through repetition, wearing the influence of Godflesh, Swans, and Throbbing Gristle on their sleeve, but they also know that they can intensify this effect through contrast and movement.