Review: Creatures of Habit – ‘In Reflections’

Sheffield-based duo Creatures of Habit released their debut album ‘Drawn In Embers’ in the summer of 2020, and given that it arrived just as the first lockdown was lifting, it was a light and hopeful album perfect for the times surrounding it. Obviously, that hope didn’t last long after the summer of 2020 as everyone played the lockdown hokey-cokey for a few more months before yet another national lockdown arrived with Christmas 2020. Given how troubled 2021 began, and gradually worsened, would the sophomore album be as light and hopeful, and as summery? Well, yes, and no.

The first notable difference arrives with the opening track ‘An August Gathering’; a six-minute-plus extravaganza packed with plenty of examples of the duo of Joel Simpson and Alex Harrison stretching their wings musically. It’s experimental with lots of riffage and a driving drum sound that propels the track along at a fair old pace, in fact, it’s close to 90 seconds of jamming before the vocals come in. This is a heavier side to Creatures of Habit in comparison to the airy material on offer on the debut, but 12 months of “what the hell is going on?” will do that to anyone. Featuring a killer, lengthy guitar solo, it’s rawer, angrier, and feels like it was recorded right-there-right-then. A genuine surprise after the floating sensation that ‘Drawn In Embers’ brought with it. And this continues on the Killers-do-punk intro of ‘Orange Hill’, which just as the listener thinks that they have the track sussed out, it takes a left turn with a gnarly Royal Blood-like instrumental breakdown that includes some monstrous drum-work. The full-throttle ‘Underneath It’ completes an opening salvo that certainly ticks many different boxes from the debut album.

There’s more of an Alternative sound on album number two, with ‘Smiling Like Animals’ being just one such example – think David Bowie 1972/73 glam-doo wop of ‘Drive-In Saturday’ with a touch of Arctic Monkeys added to the mix, and you are close. Great guitar sound on this one, and the end result is one of the standout moments on the album. ‘Silent and Still’ combines the lighter touch found on the debut, with a powerful driving drum sound and some fantastic, effective vocal harmonies. A track called ‘Bones To Splinters’ was always going to be quite dark, and it’s an eerie, foreboding few minutes with a simple guitar tone that packs a sinister punch. As the track progresses it picks up the pace with some subtle background arrangements and heartfelt vocals. The best thing about it? It doesn’t overstay its welcome by overcooking itself. It cuts off just as you are expecting it to launch into a guitar solo, and provides quite the surprise by simply fading out. In need of some light to break up the darkness? Strap on ‘All The Way’ for good measure and try to keep your toes from tapping as Creatures of Habit break out the acoustic guitars and head down more of a folk route – something that continues with the rather enjoyable ‘Waiting For Signs’.

‘In Reflections’ not only highlights the growth within the band, but also the fact that Creatures of Habit are not relying on what came before this album and constantly thinking outside the box. Taking risks doesn’t always work, but in this case, it certainly pays off. Need an example of this? Wrap your ears around the nine-minute long closing track ‘The Sky On Fire’, it unravels in many different segments like a classical music suite (in much the same way that early Queen would often do), and features the band at their most progressive, and from 5:15 minutes in, perhaps at their heaviest. The mid-section is mostly instrumental, and the guitar work that explodes to life on seven minutes is staggering, so much so, the only thing left to do once the track ends – is press repeat.

Available now on Spotify, and iTunes.

Connect with the band, here.

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