Review Summary: Narrows and Dave Verellen continue being impressive under the radar.
With the passing of a band with a cult status like that of Botch, it is easy to presume that the band’s following projects will serve to either add to the cult-like following or erase it completely. In a case of the Daves, ex-Botch guitarist Dave Knudsen has taken path number one, with Minus the Bear going on to achieve relative success opening for bands such as Soundgarden and releasing 4 full lengths since 2002. For Dave Verellen, on the other hand, success has been less noteworthy, remaining relatively quiet until the birth of Narrows in 2008. While Verellen is likely to be the most distinguishable member of the band, rounding out the quintet is Sam Stothers on drums (of Makeout Boys), Tropics guitarist Jodie Cox, These Arms are Snakes guitarist Ryan Frederiksen, and Unbroken bassist Rob Moran. While the word “supergroup” comes to mind, this band is much more reminiscent of the recent film portrayal of Moneyball, thematically describing a winning team from an island of undervalued or misfit toys.
Fortunately for the men in Narrows, their work in Painted
reads less like an attempt to mirror previous works and more like a self-defining album. While Verellen’s vocals are just as scathing and fantastic as his work in Botch, Narrows are more than a Botch clone. From the first track “Under the Guillotine,” there is a foreboding, Jaws-type feeling that never fully resolves itself. Gone are the climactic breakdowns and the defining organic metalcore formula that Botch had helped define. The songs evolve from driving grooves and slowly crescendo in ways that never come to fruition in a predictable manner. The beauty of Narrows is that the success of the previous bands only shows through in the ability to create tension, uneasiness, and anxiety in the listener.
While songs like “Greenland” may immediately recall thematic similarities between “Swimming the Channel Vs. Driving the Chunnel,” it is clear that the overall composition is much more abstract and melancholy. The complete disregard for doing what is expected from the listener is what makes this album so compelling. The music never remains stagnant within the short track lengths and the minor tonality never fully allows the listener to relax.
Between the sludgy qualities of the bass, the grooviness of the rhythm section and the intensity of Verellen’s vocals, the high frequency lead guitar lines still have room to develop a hectic atmosphere. The band takes what is the chaotic nature of the above elements and tames it into an aurally restrained despair that is truly something to behold. The integration of post-metal and sludge type musicianship throughout the album but specifically in “Final Mass” and the aforementioned “Greenland” sound like songs of an apocalypse. The power, energy, and tonal variation is still relevant and showcased, but is used much more experimentally, with songs drifting in and out of angry hardcore build-ups and Satellite-era Hopesfall post-metal drifts into different tonal dimensions.
Simply put, if you are looking for relentless, unbound metalcore like that in Botch’s We Are the Romans
, the only thing that will connect you to this album is Verellen’s vocals. This music harnesses a sense of urgency, deliberation, and contrast that continues to define the metalcore genre. There are no obvious lines, passages, breakdowns, or clichés on this album, just an ongoing and foreboding sense of urgency. Painted
is a brilliantly layered album that demands your attention from start to finish.