By Samuel Cravey
Artist: Exit Group
Album: Adverse Habitat
Release Date: October 12, 2018
Adverse Habitat is the debut post-punk album of Berlin, Germany based band Exit Group. Made up of band members from acts like Useless Eaters and Dry Erase, Exit Group is a fringe European post-punk band dissimilar to its kin. Brimming with sulfurous bass rhythms jarring enough to rumble the smallest of headphone speakers and guitar shrieks so spooky they conjure a feeling of claustrophobia in even the most open of spaces, Adverse Habitat sounds like the audible manifestation of paranoia.
At 13 songs long, Adverse Habitat is a bit lengthier than a typical punk album. This is in part to the artistic inclusion of three “Collage” tracks that serve as tone-setting interludes. “Cruel Fog” is the first song on the album following “Collage 1.” After the snap of a snare drum, a dense cloud of bass rhythms pour out of the speakers immediately stoking the feeling of the anxiety set up in the previous “Collage” track. Distant lyrics echo out a series of uncomfortable adjectives that share the same theme, “Remote, deadly, paranoid, negative, isolate, destroy….” As these words call out over the running bass and drum rhythm, frantic guitar notes scurry about. The dreadful sense of being followed solidifies as robotic sound bites dance at the fringes of the track.
“Plastic Coffin” is the body-bag drug out by the last few notes of “Cruel Fog.” The song slides in with a groovy bass lick immediately plunging into a fray of weird guitar tonality exactly as the snare and bass drum kick up. The same spectral voice calls out with more unsettling lyrics, “Plastic Coffin, disintegrate, typical, sick institution… passionate dogs that walk so quick.” The high hat gets abused, as the eerie lyrics trail off and the guitar shreds alien notes ending when the lyrics wisp back in, “… cold hammer, coming down, innocent, flushed out.” The bass rhythm becomes staccato and infrequent as the track rounds the last minute. The cadence of the repeated lyrics envelope the listener creating a surreal sense of eminent danger.
“The Butcher” is the first glimpse of the threat that follows the listener through the album. Opening up with four blasts on the snare, the bass rhythm flings itself into action making a rapid repeating riff working alongside the sprinting drum and snare beat. “The Butcher” is akin to opening the door of the abandoned shack at the edge of the woods and being greeted by Jason from Friday the Thirteenth brandishing a blade dripping wet with blood. Echoed lyrics sprinkle the track, “trapped in, burning fever, … The Butcher, The Reaper.” The wily guitar riffs control the swells as the bass varies occasionally from its original fast-paced beat until the increasingly alarmed guitar shrieks amass into the songs sudden escape to safety.
Unfortunately, Adverse Habitat has some glaring shortcomings. The only songs on the album that are really worth revisiting are the three mentioned in the above paragraphs. The rest of the tracks sound like rehashes of “Cruel Fog, Plastic Coffin, and The Butcher.” While it is important for a band to have a distinct sound, especially in the crowded punk scene, the overall sound of the album is much too similar. As the album plays out, it becomes a chore to listen to the same vocal style ten songs in a row, the sameness of the drums and drowned bass rhythms wear down on the eerie novelty of the album. Sure, there’s some variation on the rhythms and notes played by the instruments, but like a lot of punk albums out there, the album falls flat in terms of the creation of truly new and interesting songs. Adverse Habitat has a handful of songs that are worth listening to for punk fans; however, the same can’t be said for the whole album.