Compiling their vinyl debut and follow-up EP, this compilation captures the Chicago rock supergroup (made up of some of the city’s best known noise artists) honing and perfecting their surprisingly restrained and tuneful, but appropriately grandiose work.
Consisting of Mark Solotroff (Bloodyminded, Intrinsic Action) on vocals, Greg Ratajczak (Plague Bringer) on guitar, drummer Dylan Posa (Cheer-Accident, Flying Luttenbachers), bassist Kenny Rasmussen and percussionist Blake Edwards (Vertonen), there are a lot of recognizable people here to those versed in the harsh noise world, so my interest was piqued when I heard Anatomy of Habit was more of a post-punk death rock band.
Within the first few minutes of opener "After the Water" (the shortest track at about seven and a half minutes), I immediately felt some kinship with the short-lived Freek Records label, who also captured some more noise-oriented bands doing more guitar-based music, such as Bodychoke and Ramleh. Maybe not in a direct manner, since those artists leaned more into a distorted, occasionally psychedelic squall while AoH has a much cleaner, almost ascetically sparse approach to their epic length compositions.
For example "Overcome" sticks to a sparse echoing bass and quiet feedbacking guitar structure rather rigidly, with Solotroff's vocals and slight variations to keep things moving. Slowly but surely noisier guitar drifts in, building to an aggressive climax of slow, but monolithic guitar riffs, stabbing drums and raw, aggressive vocals. It is not a song to just casually listen to; it demands full attention, which is rewarded at the end.
Repetition is a key piece of these songs, most of which clock in at around a full length side of vinyl in duration. "Overcome" and "The Decade Plan" open with elongated passages displaying simple, but effective variations, with Solotroff's vocals occasionally drifting more into mantra like repetitions. Never is it dull and tedious though, because the songs consistently build to dramatic crescendos that make them captivating.
While there is a variety of sounds and approaches, it is a dark record. "The Decade Plan" opens as closed to upbeat as it gets, which is quickly contradicted by a dark, doom-laden closing. Even the more Joy Division tinged "Torch", with its majestic rhythmic dissonance is reformed into an early '80s metal riff-fest later on, bearing a passing resemblance to Metallica’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls” in the best possible way.
With the debut LP ("Overcome" and "Torch") coming out in 2011 and last year’s EP ("After the Water," "The Decade Plan") both being relatively recent, there is a noticeable difference that can be heard between the two, with the more recent work showing a bit more variation and nuance in comparison to the more bluntly aggressive earlier work. The material works together as a consistent whole though, and feels more like a full debut album rather than a collection of previously released material, managing to be both powerful, but also memorable and catchy.