Fucking hell. It’s good to hear that voice again. Whilst I wouldn’t want to underplay the importance of the other musicians who make up Narrows, it has to be said that hearing Dave Verellen’s growl is a delicious treat, sure to shred your eardrums just like those good old days. Those other bandmates? Well, we’ve only gone and got esteemed members of These Arms Are Snakes, Tropics and Some Girls. Hardcore, I present to you your new supergroup.
Comparisons with Botch are inevitable and in some respects understandable, as the band line themselves up with a familiar sound. New Distances opens with ‘Chambered’, a track that easily could have been left on the cutting room floor of We Are The Romans, Verellen’s voice remaining unchanged despite the many years that have passed between him and the last time he let out that indecipherable roar.
Despite its rather short length New Distances seems a rather mixed effort. Obviously struggling to carve out their own sound, the band swing from uninteresting experimentalism to playing music that sounds a lot like Botch, but not quite. Unfortunately it’s the latter that is more attention grabbing, but only in the way that a fresh faced vegetarian might crave a steak after eating another soya based imitation. ‘Newly Restored’ and it’s introductory screech has me salivating for some ‘Transitions from Persona to Object’ whilst the moody guitars of ‘A Restoration Effort’ has me longing for something more.
Where the album shines most is on ‘The Fourragere’, a track that for once takes its time in building something up, before having Verellen tear it down like a crack starved Godzilla. It’s a slower entity, and much more malevolent than the tracks that precede it, making it stand out amongst the crowd of fast paced, eager to please hardcore ruffians. It’s a shame then that the band thought the ambient bits of Frances the Mute would be a great way to end the album, leaving a bit of a foul taste in the mouth (keep your imaginations in check kids).
When I heard about the formation of Narrows, like many other Botch fans I got very excited at the prospect of hearing something that could be that blistering again. But it was wrong of us to think like that, hoping they’d turn out to be a Botch 2.0. The trouble is, in some respects they’ve done exactly that, and the end result is a rather mediocre listen that just makes you long for that first time you heard ‘To Our Friends In the Great White North’. Like longing for the first time you told someone you loved them, only to have the unavoidable law of diminishing returns make those three special words turn into nothing more than syllables, Narrows are a hollow shell of the thing we used to love so dearly.