5 out of 5
Produced by: Matt Bayles
After their debut’s artier, more stripped-down attempts at not sounding like Botch, I veritably tossed my Narrows disc into that pile of things that I pretend to like but never listen to. Occasionally I’d pick it back up after listening to something Botch-related, convinced I just had heightened expectations for it that were preventing it from connecting – Dave Verellen!, Ryan Frederiksen! – and I’d rock out to a track or two before the album sank, once more, into background noise. Oh well.
Still stirred by that pretending-to-like sensibility, I dutifully picked up Narrows’ followup, Painted, and then had my socks blown the heck off. By embracing the inevitable – that Mr. Verellen growling is inherently going to make a group sound like Botch – and leaning in to all the hardcore and punk heritage of the members instead of trying to, in my mind, design a “new” sound that then just fell flat in the middle of all its influences, Painted becomes all of the things I wanted from these guys, with Dave’s smart but straightforward lyrics yelled at me; Bayles’ crisp production style applied to heavy-duty riffage; and near every single song amped up by immediately crushing smashes of guitars and bass and drums.
The exception to all of this intensity is the 8-minute, slowburn experimentation of Greenland, but this is an earned experiment this time, and well blended between chaotic noise and a conclusive slam-bang churn, leading in to the album’s arguably stronger latter half – Verellen and the group are warmed up, unleashing all due anger – just barely toppling an already excellent set of lead-in tracks.
And yes, the bonus is the Painted has made me appreciate New Distances moreso, although there’s still a definite divide between the discs, with this albums reveling in its ‘supergroup’ status giving it a sense of confidence that, interestingly, then gives the group its own identity.