A couple of years ago I came across this Ukrainian lot via their debut, A Key To Panngrieb and was suitably impressed by its promise. Funeral doom, orchestrated sound but a heavy Skepticism debt. So when this dropped in I was intrigued as to how they might have progressed and what they have done.
Well opener ‘Crossroads’ is a suitably sombre funeral sound, a musical intro, but it seems the band stood at those very crossroads and pondered their direction. From ‘The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life’ it is plain that they have taken a decisive, different direction. This song retains some of the funeral aspect, but, in keyboard driven melodic hands it steps gracefully into a broader realm of doom/death. Beautifully arranged vocals, a harder riff higher in the mix, saxophone, and an elegance that kind of brings My Dying Bride together with Dead Can Dance or Elend in a waltz. However it is ‘Furious Thoughts Of Tranquility’ where this album really pulls through the character. Narrow House are a truly class act; deliberate, imperious, thoughtful and this is sort instrumental of verve and vibrant keyboards that leads us to ‘The Midwife Of Sorrows’. It retains that veneer of doom but with a faster, harder riff and the combination of keyboards and saxophone it moves further into a stranger realm. With electronic tinged lead vocals, operatic backing voices and a grim tone it is kind of reminiscent of The Kovenant yet far superior. It splices a semi-industrial feel to a Gothic melodic doom death sound with outbursts of martial rhythms punctuating the album’s overall theme of war.
They really have mastered the combination here of a bright and modern sounding guitar, hard edged and dense, with the melody of piano and saxophone and strings to create a classical metal sound heavy with emotion and atmosphere. A Forest Of Stars modern descendants maybe. Nor do they over-labour things; an album of a perfectly formed forty odd minutes and songs between three and five mean this is a clean, lean art deco train gliding and pushing forward with power to spare and flowing from station to station with rare ease. And I hate to bang on about it, but the use of the saxophone with the guitar is just about the best I’ve heard since the dim and distant days of Van Der Graaf Generator.
Everything here is an exercise in quality and sumptuous class, wrapping us in a timeless landscape of the neo-classical meets Blade Runner, the waltz of a world of satin forever drenched in war. Narrow House have, by not taking the obvious turn at their crossroads, produced a dark, intriguing work and the sound of an empire going down in flames. Dark and undeniably beautiful, this neo-classical doom for those with a taste for the finer things in life. Love it.