Standout Track: No. 3, the slow-crawling “Compassion” from Atlas At Last’s new A Composition Of Functions EP. The College Park hardcore three-piece’s music may dwell in aggressive, sludgy places, but “Compassion” is built around a series of gorgeous, stripped-down melodic passages that inject the track with a sense of bleeding-heart urgency. “And do you remember the lavish surgery you performed/We cut the edges off by naming our children,” sings Nathaniel Hartten during one of these quieter sections, his voice quivering underneath a growing wall of feedback. But before you can ponder the meaning of his words, the distortion dams open up and the song explodes again.

Musical Motivation: The band’s approach to crafting “Compassion”—as well as most of its other tracks—centers on the idea of evolution and unpredictability, the belief that a song should get better and more engrossing as it continues. “We’re really interested in linear songwriting,” says bassist Mike Radack, “[where] you start in one place and end somewhere that’s completely different. It’s pushing things in a direction that a song doesn’t necessarily want to go into.”

Bash Brothers: In early 2013, shortly before the release of its debut album, Atlas At Last had a reputation for putting on chaotic, mean-spirited live shows as part of what the bandmembers have now deemed their “wolf spirit” moment. “We would intentionally try to antagonize each other and the crowd at once while playing the songs,” says Radack. “We had to stop because our drummer’s bass drum pedal snapped in half and I melted two bass amps.”

Stream “Compassion” after the jump. Atlas At Last plays the Takoma Park Presbyterian Church on Dec. 22.