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.