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A Strong Russian Prospect - 78%

orionmetalhead, December 10th, 2012

When it comes to slow, doomy music very few bands outright sound like Skepticism but Narrow House is one band that is obviously influenced and enamored by that full-on wall of synthesized weight expelled at the speed of flowing mud which still manage to take a somewhat left-field inspiration and tweak it to be still unique. Though slightly more guitar driven than the past several Skepticism releases, A Key To Panngrieb is still a load of mass crawling through the murk towards an unsuspecting child. Ukraine's Narrow House prove that no one is able to escape the influence which Funeral Doom, Drone and other Doom offshoots have had on the metal sound scape in the past decade. More and more bands are opting for this style and, consequently, more and more bands make it harder to stand out and impress.

Opening track "Poslednee Pristanishe" is a looming figure over a helpless animal. Like the other four tracks on Narrow House's debut, it is slow and persistent. There is no way you could jog to any of these tracks - unless you have incredibly long strides - even if the length of them would be perfect for a long period away from civilization. It's in "Poldsednee..." which we are introduced to the patience of the band. The album opens with a long three minute introductory segment and then climbs through an undulating series of melodies. The rhythms remain very singular and simple across the whole album but that doesn't prevent other tracks from not standing out or being tedious. "Psevdoratunok" contains some dynamic volume shifts coupled with prominent drumming and vocals over a slick flowing guitar that still is texturally frictional while in "Steklianniu Bog," the third track, cello is prominent in summoning howling vistas and atmospherics and is accompanied with an excellent final four minutes of sound scape imagery and piano layers.

One of the definitive aspects of the band that really intrigues me is the arrangement of the tracks. In many ways it is very traditional in it's structure in terms of Funeral Doom and in other ways the band have tried some different things. The guitar playing of Oleg Merethir is mixed below Petro Arhe's drums and Atya's Keyboards. They itch often and you never forget they are there under what is really the music's more prominent instruments. Vocals are most prominent, as is expected but the bass is also very audible and where you really encounter the twist is with cellist Alexander. With the addition of another low-register string instrument the arrangement of the other instruments becomes important. A bowed cello would be masked by loudly mixed guitars and is emphasized here because there is room between the instruments to place another component. When you hear the cello play many of the melodic parts of the music such as in "Steklianniy Bog," there is a ghostly hum emanating from beneath the common instruments. It's a different look and they score here because of it. In many places I am listening solely to hear what the cello is doing or will do.

Narrow House do a great job at building up to great moments in the compositions and the thirteen minute long Steklianniy Bog is, once again, a highlight in this regard where nine minutes after the initial dirge chimes, bellowing and windy scenes are coaxed from layers of keyboards and cello to, at least for me, send shivers down the spine. This strong standard of songwriting is also evidenced in second track, "Psevdoriatunok," with it's sense of vacancy in comparison to the rest of the album. It clears a hurdle that most albums never do in this style - remaining interesting past the first track. While the cello certainly helps, the six minute track breaks up an album which has already been running for over fourteen minutes and allows the listener to 'reboot' for the following two tracks.

The final track is a cover of Esoteric's "Beneath This Face," which is well done but at the same time emphasizes the deficiencies of what Narrow House have done on other parts of the album such as the lack of faster parts and more typical riff based moments to create intensity. Even so, they do a great job with this track and without knowing that this was a cover, the song ends the album on a massive high note. It being a cover though is a bit of a let-down though as I would much rather have heard another of their own original songs round out the final parts of the album. To end the album with a cover like this seems like it's a cop out. They picked an awesome track to end the release but it wasn't their own track.

Originally written for Contaminated Tones.