Don’t spend too much time pondering the band’s name, «WTF does a Narrow House have to do with metal?» Don’t lump them as some 80’s alternative rock band like the similarly named A House or Crowded House, nor think of that catchy «Our House» ditty by Madness.
Perish the thought.
And just perish in general.
«Narrow House» is a slang term for a coffin and that should give you a much better idea of what their music is about. Nothing cheery. Nothing happy. Nothing particularly hummable. A Key To Panngrieb is like a gathering storm, a slowly coalescing bleakness that continues to build in intensity until it culminates in a horrific sonic onslaught that batters the listener to their very core.
It is a crushing doom platter paired with a side of black and a nice ambient sauce drizzled over the top.
It starts off quietly enough with ambient soundscapes like troubling clouds on the distant horizon, but don’t reach for that volume knob. Don’t be fooled. When it hits, it crashes like a slow motion deluge. It gets much louder surprisingly fast.
The sonic assault also eases the listener in, however. Initially «The Last Refuge» reminded me of the softened harsh beauty of Shape Of Despair, slow moving doom cloaked in synths (and cello). As the album progresses, the fury continues to build. At certain times I was reminded of the psychedelia of Esoteric. Midway through the closing track, «Behind The Mask This», the band drew a comparison to Faal’s latest album closer when it suddenly kicked into a full throttle stormburst…
A Key To Panngrieb is really well crafted, from song arrangements to sound. Narrow House almost effortlessly succeed in conveying the wide ranges of doom, from fragile beauty to crushing loss to abject horror.
So while the band name might sound odd if not familiar with the slang meaning, and the cover is not prototypical doom, I’ve namedropped two titans of doom metal as well as my current favorite release of the year (The Clouds Are Burning) as points of sonic reference. I did not do this lightly. This album was the wildcard in my latest «From Russia With Love Doom» pack from Solitude Productions, and piqued my interest to hop to the front of the review queue.
If you enjoy the more extreme side of doom, it is definitely worth checking out the first and worst from this Ukrainian Insurgent (Doom) Army.
Conveniently the band crafted a video for the opening track, «The Last Refuge», which you can find here.