Formed in Kiev in 2008 under the name Funestum, they proclaim to be the Ukraine’s first ever funeral doom band featuring five musicians and a handful of songs about solitude, death and self-destruction. Unfortunately over half the band left after only a year and Funestum was no more. Thankfully founding members Yegor Bewitched Ostapenko and Katya Romanova reformed as Narrow House, bringing two others along with them. Not ones to hang about, they launched straight into their musical career with a full length album.
Narrow House’s first album, A Key To Panngrieb, came out in 2012. Featuring song titles and lyrics entirely in Russian themes of this album seem to follow the those laid down by Funestum. Despair, false idols, loneliness all feature along with a lonesome sounding cello. The sound is sombre, yet not what you may expect from funeral doom. The orchestral style adds atmosphere and the haunting strings add a heart wrenching sadness.
After the relative success of A Key To Panngrieb, Narrow House set out to write their second album. Released a mere two years after the first, Thanathonaut takes the band in alternative direction. Featuring some of the features of the first album (specifically the cello), a whole raft of new instruments and a whole new style was brought in. No longer producing funeral doom, but clearly something derived from it, Thanathonaut (meaning navigator of death) takes an almost jazz approach to doom. The overall theme of the album is nuclear war, and the mood of the album is certainly more lively than the first outing.
One thing that will immediately stand out from the new album is the new instrumentation brought in for it. The most noticeable is the saxophone that provides most the melody, and the double bass and cello that together provide the soul shaking depths the music dives to. Sampled speeches and a choir also bring a whole new atmosphere to the album. If this is doom, it doesn’t sound like it. And yet, somehow, it retains the identity of the first album.
As the album progresses through tracks such as Furious Thoughts of Tranquility, The Midwife of Sorrows and A Sad Scream Of Silver the driving bassline of the string section combines with the saxophone brings to mind a version of Gerry Rafferty residing in the underworld. While many fans of funeral doom will be utterly put off by this mixing of styles, the progressive or avant garde metal lovers will find lots to enjoy.
It sounds like they’re keen on experimentation, so it will be interesting to see if the band goes back to its funeral doom ways or carries on up this path of new and unusual things.