Narrows - New Distances (Cover Artwork)


New Distances (2009)


There's something inherently difficult about reviewing releases by bands made up of ex-members, let alone one like Narrows, that is basically a hardcore supergroup. Featuring the singer of Botch as well as past and current members of Unbroken, Some Girls, These Arms Are Snakes and a bunch more, it is nearly impossible to separate these members' past glories from their current effort. Ultimately, the debut full-length from Narrows is an interesting and unique slab of post-hardcore, but for me, as it comes close, it fails to live up to the promise of the names associated with it.

Because of vocalist Dave Verellen, the easiest place to start with describing Narrow's sound is with Botch. Strip that band of its genre-spanning technical metalcore and add more melodic sensibility with a tendency toward slower driving grooves and you get the basic formula for Narrows. With that said, however, the band doesn't just stick to one style. In "Newly Restored" they groove out for nearly five minutes on a riff that is reminiscent of Soundgarden (in all the ways that this is a good thing) before shifting uptempo for the next track, "The Fourragere," with a straightforward rock and roll riff that gives way to some atmospheric chords and ultimately to an odd-time metalcore-ish breakdown. Verellen is pleasingly strong over it, sounding nearly exactly the same as he did in Botch.

The standout aspects of this record are when they leave behind convention and follow their creative muse. There is a good deal of innovative use of chords, such as in the later-era Cave In sound of the instrumental, "A Restoration Effort." I also enjoy the hypnotic ending groove of "Changing Clothes" with its refrain, "are you walking home alone?" It is in these moments where they leave behind the influence of their past bands and stake out a unique sound for Narrows.

While I enjoy much of this album, I have one major complaint: the overuse of that screechy dissonant chord that bands like Norma Jean drove into the ground a few years ago. You know, the one that terrible breakdown-bands throw in between chugs: "chugchug chug eee eee chugchug." For some reason, Narrows uses this chord liberally in near every song, and even starts out the first song "Chambered" with it. What boggles my mind even more is that the rest of the track is solid with catchy and tight riffing under Verellen's powerful voice, but then they always return to that chord. For a band with so much obvious creativity, I don't understand the reliance on something with such a gimmicky feel.

This release will likely please fans of the members' previous bands and is welcome addition to their legacy. Regardless of any reviewer opinion, it is clear that this is an outlet for these guys to make music they enjoy and it certainly sounds that way.