|Atmospheric Funeral Doom addicts will enjoy the solid debut by Narrow House although it still lacks personality.|
Whenever I listen to an album for the final time before reviewing it, I jot down some handwritten notes. Usually they take up about one third of a page, but not all of them make it into the final version of the text. In the case of A Key to Panngrieb, the debut album of Narrow House, my notes are considerably shorter, amounting to a couple of lines only. Why is that? Is it an almost flawless album with very few weaknesses to point out? No: there simply doesn’t seem to be all that much to be said about this album. The band is from Ukraine, plays Atmospheric Funeral Doom (their own description is Ambient Funeral Doom, but I cannot detect any Ambient to be honest) and has signed a deal with Solitude Productions. These few pieces of information pretty much sum up the whole deal and will tell every fan of Solitude’s profile to give this band a try, whereas those who are on the lookout for something groundbreaking will look elsewhere.|
Of course, this preliminary summary is a simplification. It is true that Narrow House do not bring anything new to the scene, their Funeral Doom is very much by the book. Steady rhythms, simple power chord progressions without any technically or structurally challenging elements, little change throughout the songs, you get the picture. Like many of their Solitude colleagues, they have a less melancholic and emotional sound than their Finnish forbears (most notably Shape of Despair and Colosseum) while still maintaining a gloomy atmosphere. Their style is somewhat reminiscent of their labelmates Comatose Vigil or Abstract Spirit (especially the first album), only less… abstract. As usual with the Russian label, the production is modern, powerful and crystal clear, and the quality of the printed artwork leaves nothing to be desired either.
By now it has become unavoidable to ask: do the Ukrainians have any identity of their own that transcends these predictable parameters? Well, let us have a look at their consistent use of a cello … There are few lead guitars, leaving it to the cello and the keyboards to provide the melodies for the most part. In theory, using the cello as a replacement for lead guitars could be an interesting idea and a recognisable trademark. Unfortunately, this potential is not exploited – instead, the cello remains very much in the background (sometimes it is even overshadowed by synthesized strings), playing simple supportive lines most of the time. It does add to the atmosphere, but remains more of a gimmick. The final track “Под Маской Этой“ serves best to illustrate these shortcomings: it is in fact a cover of “Beneath This Face” by Esoteric (translated into Russian, which is the language of all the lyrics with the exception of “Псевдорятунок“ which is in Ukrainian), and while the band certainly deserves respect for managing to recreate Greg Chandler’s complex arrangement, their version is very pale compared to the original and totally lacks the density and depth the British masters are renowned for. Again, it could have been an interesting experiment to transform the song into a more orchestral piece with the cello as a prominent instrument, but it just isn’t daring enough.
Despite the above remarks, 'A Key to Panngrieb' is a solid album which shows a lot of promise. The band’s talent in creating a dark, foreboding atmosphere is most apparent in the opening track with its cleverly arranged intro section slowly building up into a bleak Funeral Doom anthem. For a debut, the level of professionalism is quite exceptional, and the musicians do a good job. Apart from the strong growls, I would like to highlight the drumming in particular, which is excellent for genre standards and surprisingly well-produced, too. On the whole this should be a nice adition to the collection of Melodic/Atmospheric Funeral Doom addicts. Let us hope that Narrow House will be able to exploit much more of their potential on future releases and come up with something more relevant und unique. I believe that they can do much better than this. Their work made me think of the way Ea started out: their first album didn’t catch my attention back then, sounding rather generic and immature, but they have since evolved into a force to be reckoned with and their albums are captivating from beginning to end. I can imagine a similar career for the Ukrainian newcomers.
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1. Последнее Пристанище
3. Стеклянный Бог
4. Под Маской Этой
Duration : Approx. 45 minutes
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