Narrow House are one of those rare breeds that release an album that defies review. I’ve been actively listening to A Key to Pangrieb for weeks on end and STILL cannot reach a point of satisfaction with describing it adequately for the following reasons:
- It’s virtually flawless in structure, flow, composition, delivery, and production.
- Narrow House create such a gravitational force with their combination of suffocating heaviness, dreary phantom atmosphere, and solemn melodies that it’s damn near impossible to escape it’s pull into the abyss.
- They avoid the glacial meandering drone where the “suffocating” nature goes from simply heavy and intense to a burden of boredom that is generally associated with the extreme doom genres, thus carving out their own path that is “apocalyptic doom metal”.
- The content in terms of both sound and mood is extremely dense and heavy but yet there’s so much movement and space throughout each song that it actually breathes and feels more Lovecraft-ian than an cumbersome drone of sadness.
The album opens with the 14 and-a-half minute horror infused symphonic saga of “The Last Refuge”, whose title is fitting given the sensations one feels while listening to it. During the first few minutes of the intro there’s a supernatural spoken word portion that’s hard to make out, sort of like an EVP during a haunting investigation, where the spirit communicates its will. After the spirit voice dissipates the ominous siren like guitar intro starts in leading us into the labyrinth of insanity that will inevitably take us to the point of no return mentally, spiritually and physically. In fact the album as a whole reminds me of the Lovecraft tale At the Mountains of Madness where “The Last Refuge” represents the venture into the mountain as the cryptic secrets contained within begin to unravel and consume you.
Although intense and seemingly impenetrable in sound the symphonic elements of keyboard and cello the songs also cycle through moments of clarity resulting in implanting an eternal scene of post apocalypse desolation and gloom in ones mind but with a sense of mystery and supernatural forces at work. The vocals at times are almost the main driving force at the forefront of the songs with a very lost and miserable soul growl of emotional turmoil in them that resonates in the gut like chugging a pint of mercury would.
Definitely DO NOT expect the usual funeral/death doom dirge and drawn out neural battering with Narrow House. I’d say that if you like Evoken, Officum Triste, Helllight, Swallow the Sun,etc. then you’ll surely be surprised and rewarded with Narrow House. I cannot recommend this album and Inborn Suffering enough alongside labelmates Amber Tears, Helllight, and the Sullen Route enough. All of these bands write from the soul and as a result they have a hypnotic and otherworldly vibe to them that is scarce and much needed in this genre and in many others.