Anatomy of Habit’s Ship of Theseus Sails Through the “Black Openings” (Early Track Debut + Interview)
"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!
Follow Anatomy of Habit on Bandcamp.