You also don’t want to confused this band with another Narrow House from the USA, if you do you will get a very weak thrash-metal band. The band has given themselves many tags including, “apocalyptic doom,” “funeral doom,” and “ambient doom” so you may be a little confused over where they fit into the doom scene and after listening to this I too am a bit confused on where to place this band. This is death doom, funeral, traditional, ambient but funeral doom is the best tag for this band.
The recurring element though is a bleak atmosphere and crushing ambiance and while there is nothing unique about the band really, they thankfully don’t sound too much like anyone else which gives ‘A Key To Panngrieb’ some staying power.
The main gear the band get stuck in is funeralized doom metal and a very dark and gloomy one at that. Make no mistake about it, there are no light hearted moments on this album, this is a heavily atmospheric album that WILL bring you down emotionally if you let it. As I already mentioned the band is on the Solitude Productions label and that should be your first clue. This fits in with most of what else the label has on its books so it comes as no surprise when you hear this is generic slab of funeral doom but as predictable as it is, it is still a excellent dose of funeral doom that is actually memorable which for the funeral doom sub-genre is quite the achievement.
Sounding a bit like label-mates Abstract Spirit, the band take the listener through four (mostly) very long funeral doom dirges, the longest being almost 15 minutes and it is certainly not the most straight to the point doom album going around. Song titles are in their native language so I won’t try to remember them here and have no idea what these pieces are all about but the growl is very much in the mold of bands like Shape of Despair – so much so that I did think I was listening to that band at one stage during my first spin of this album.
It is not exactly ground-breaking stuff nor does it need to be, if it is good enough and thankfully Narrow House have more going for them than the average funeral doom band. Oddly enough, the band are not real big on riffs. Songs are built around simple chords and a rumbling, guttural resonance coming from the vocals. Songs for the most part are lifeless, depressive excursions and I say that in a good way.
The album starts off surprisingly peaceful but soon explodes into loud, crushing waves of apocalyptic doom so you have been warned, be careful with the volume as this beast gets incredibly loud once it gets going. The album starts with ‘The Last Refuge’ if you want the English-translated version and it is a kind of apocalyptic slice of moody doom that never seems to get to where it wants to go. It is a slow building dirge that blends the horrific and ugly with the beautiful and the melancholic but just as you think the band is going to lighten up the depressive load, it drags you under once again with suffocating bleakness.
Depressing doom albums are a dime-a-dozen these days but this surely stands out as one of the most depressive albums released in some-time.
As the album progresses, there are no big surprises, this is funeral doom, generic but interesting and never so slow and uneventful you get the urge to turn it off after one song (the problem with a lot of other funeral doom acts). The album is big, open and spacious like the musicians are not even playing in the same country, let alone the same studio.
There are huge gaps in every guitar strike, cymbal and drum hit which makes this seem much slower than what is actually is. They bleed out their music so listening to this is like being strangled to death very very slowly which is a killer hook and perfect for a funeral doom exercise.
The first three tracks on the album all follow a similar path and don’t offer a hell of a lot of variance so you can be forgiven in thinking this is just one long funeral doom epic. Narrow House blend in keys and cello but they are used very sparingly and you may not even notice this instrumentation at first.
The album closer is a cover of Esoteric’s “Beneath This Face” which is translated into Russian for the album (the other tracks are all in Ukrainian) but it still works in the bands favor. This version is very good but if you are like me, you might wonder why they bothered as the bands originals are just as good. When it is all said and done ‘A Key To Panngrieb’ is a very solid but unoriginal funeral doom album, nothing remarkable but very listenable.
The playing, production, and songwriting is great despite the feeling you have heard it all before and after all, how can any band be totally original in such a limited genre anyway. If you are seeking out something totally original in this bleakest of sub-genres, you are probably looking in the wrong place with this album. As it is Narrow House have produced a “surprise release” that is far more captivating than anyone could have possibly expected.
This is for fans of Shape of Despair, Ea, Abstract Spirit and Colosseum. You guys and girls have another foreboding chunk of funeral doom to soak up………perfect with the winter months approaching, check it out…..