28 February 2011
by Tomas Doyle
Whilst there has been much written about the Mayan prediction of the destruction of the world this year, there has be relatively little discussion about what the soundtrack to that impending apocalypse will be. Well, I humbly submit that with their second full-length, Painted, Narrows have produced a record that would amply accompany any armageddon that our central-American predecessors may have called on. That’s not because it is the heaviest album you will this year, nor is it the nastiest or even the most gruellingly dissonant (though it does score highly in all these categories) – but rather because of its remorseless, unrelenting, soul emptying bleakness which refuses to abate throughout the eight tracks on offer here.
This probably shouldn’t come as a great surprise when you consider the personnel Narrows have to call on, to say these boys have got previous is an understatement – this is a band which features former members of Some Girls, hardcore heroes Unbroken, These Arms Are Snakes, and of course, seminal math merchants, Botch. Indeed, Dave Verellen, Botch’s one time vocalist, turns in a performance characterised by a feral rage that fans of his former exploits will readily recognise. Musically this is an LP put together with deft precision and it is apparent that a great deal of thought has been put into the arrangements, structures and codas which contribute to the towering waves of noise which continually threaten to overwhelm the listener. The gnawing guitar part that permeates the album’s opener, ‘Under The Guillotine’, is a perfect example of how this considered approach can leave you with something decidedly unsettling whilst eschewing more overtly ‘brutal’ techniques.
Gone are the meanderings which (at least in part) defined Narrows debut, New Distances, in favour of a more focussed, riff heavy take on the angular hardcore they have always purveyed. Streamlined and stripped, the vitriol is allowed to come through, which it does to sublime effect – at only 27 minutes long it feels essential, concentrated, a distillation of the bands ethos written to a backdrop of difficult, swirling, bewildering, wonderful music. Not one note is wasted.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this record is how cohesive it feels inspite of being recorded across two continents and many rooms, none of which ever contained the bands entire number. Yet Painted is never anything less than razor sharp and hangs together like a proper album – a body of work best enjoyed in its entirety and in one sitting, which for a band as dense and unremitting as this is a true compliment. And while delicious low down rumble of closer ‘SST’ makes it a real highlight, (if this song was a painting, it would be pitch fucking black, not one shard of light breaking its dark shell) in truth it is difficult to find fault with anything on offer here. If you like your music bleak and crushing then this is definitely worth a listen – and you better believe that if the four horsemen do arrive, this is what they will be jamming to.
Sounds Like: It is greater than the sum of its parts.
Standout Tracks: SST, Facepaint, Absolute Betrayer.