Narrow House - _Thanathonaut_
(BadMoodMan Music, 2014)
by: Chaim Drishner (8.5 out of 10)
Argentinian one-man band TrĂ¼be's remarkable _Zone of Alienation_ has been reviewed for CoC some time ago; besides the fact the music was brilliant, it carried out a message of an atrocious aftermath following a nuclear disaster. That album embodied through its bleak soundscapes the dread and despair of such a horrendous tool being abused by man.

This very same sentiment, and its effect on the listener, is carried out by the incredibly talented Narrow House, a Ukrainian band that have recorded one of 2014's highlights. From the brooding cover art to the last of its sounds, _Thanathonaut_ conjures nothing but despair, killing the listener softly with its semi-symphonic arrangements and progressive inventiveness that, again, revolve around the concept of the A-bomb.

Forget everything you have heard or known about Narrow House being a funeral doom band and all that. Despite the fact the band's debut, _A Key to Panngrieb_, was critically acclaimed for the most part, it failed to impress many doom enthusiasts -- the writer of this review included. It all has dramatically and drastically changed with the band's sophomore album.

Man, have these guys improved! It's like a totally different band that seem to go to lengths in order to distance themselves from everything the metal scene has ever known; a quantum leap from mediocrity to timelessness. In fact, the metal factor in _Thanathonaut_ is kept to a minimum, and if you'd ask this reviewer, the music contained within this wonderful album is virtually impossible to be pigeonholed.

_Thanathonaut_ (which loosely translates to "the wanderer of hell") is a dazzling musical creation with so much depth and beauty, no simple words could ever describe it. Narrow House have created a world within the world; dark, godforsaken and hopeless loophole in time and space, yet sweetly nauseating and full of wonders, through unorthodox arrangements, advanced songwriting techniques and an orchestration that would leave every jaw dropped in wonder and awe.

Using the usual rock ensemble, Narrow House also incorporate some blatantly untraditional instruments, such as a saxophone (or two), a contrabass, a cello and some unusual choir lines -- and while that in itself is not a novelty, what the band do with all that musical 'firepower' is phenomenal and exquisite beyond words.

First, they allow the saxophone to lead many sections of the tracks, throwing the listener off, where he would have expected a guitar lead to appear. This method ripples throughout the recording and creates both confusion and fascination. Think of Polish doom oddity Nightly Gale, for instance, then multiply the wonder ten-fold. When they don't use the saxophone, they exploit the contrabass as the main rhythm generating apparatus. Odd? You better believe it.

Second, the structuring of the songs is so out there, it has an instant grip on the listener; like a bloody accident so horrific you don't want to glance but cannot turn your head away, such is the music on _Thanathonaut_. It's peculiar and strange and harrowing all at the same time, but also so very beautiful, the listener feels like his very soul is being squeezed out of his/her body while he is being fed by invisible hands with the sweetest, most sublime candy.

Daring, bold and larger-than-life at all times, _Thanathonaut_ will feed you with bittersweet baroque grandeur and neoclassical mind-altering insidiousness. It will summon some evil ghosts of (nuclear) war -- and beyond; it's almost like wandering off across an uncharted territory, completely desolate and barren, all the while this descent into total and utter despair is being accompanied by a soundtrack so divine and magical, you don't want this exhilarating sensation of pleasure versus pain to ever go away.

The peculiar sensation generated by the compositions is enhanced by the character of the tracks themselves: each track seems to be standing alone, a singular and separate unit of sounds that has no relation to the other tracks. There is no logical continuation from track to track, each song starts and finishes abruptly and bears a rather unique signature aesthetics-wise, as if every track was composed by a different band, with little to none of the natural dialogue a 'normal' album exercises through its various tracks. One track can be jazzy, the next one symphonic, while the third folk-oriented and the one after that industrial and cold by nature (think Laibach). The common factor between the tracks is only the devouring melancholic beauty they all seem to revolve around, but other than that it's total estrangement.

_Thanathonaut_ is not the heaviest nor the most challenging listening experience you'd endure; in fact, it is pretty mellow and ear-friendly despite its high experimental factor. However, the innate depravity and utter desperation, or dismay if you will, the music creates, coupled with an urban decay and visions of total annihilation so beautifully and thoughtfully portrayed, makes this album a one-time experience so powerful it is almost life-changing; it will resonate within the walls of your existence long after the final sounds have died out.


(article published 13/11/2014)

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