Texas group Narrow Head wears their influences on their sleeves, but that comes as hardly a detriment. Fans of 90’s alt rock will find plenty to love in their 2016 album Satisfaction, so much so that they’ll probably do a double take on the recency of its release date. The sound of bands such as Hum, Deftones, The Smashing Pumpkins and Alice in Chains dominated the guitar music of those days and has sparked a generation to pick up guitars and rally their friends. Years after their heyday, Narrow Head comes in with their own distinctive sound that hovers around that space. Thick heavy riffs, dark shoegaze soundscapes, vocals that glide above the mix and with a soft-loud dynamic across each section is the main staple of their music. In terms of execution, everything is so spot on that it has rekindled my love for that era. I can safely say that this band can stand side by side with their aforementioned contemporaries.
“Necrosis” starts with a Tsunami of guitar riffs, and is one of the best opening songs I’ve heard so far in terms of introducing the listener to the whole album. Already you can hear the Hum influence, but with a darker and more haunting atmosphere that lingers even after the last crashing wave of distorted strings hit. “Ashtray” is a slow burn of glimmering textures sectioned in between rousing hard rock breakdowns. The song starts slow and somber, but develops into a loud and triumphant catharsis. As if a phoenix has just risen from a pile of dirty ashes and cigarette butts.
One of the more odd and upbeat tracks in here is “Cool in Motion”. In it grunge and shoegaze meets a vocal style that reminds me of 90’s pop punk. The sort of slacker drawl that characterized early Spin Doctors and Third Eye Blind. Narrow Head has concocted a quirky mix of 90’s music and I for one am not complaining. Another highlight is the upbeat “Paranoid Hands”, which clearly dives into the alt-metal with its guitar fuzz boxes cranked up to eleven and rhythms that evoke a strong head-banging urge.
By far “It’s Whatever to Me” has the longest runtime in this album at 5 minutes, and it’s for a good reason. Somehow this track has made things click for me on why the band sounds so good despite the perceived ‘same-yness’ to it. They’re one of those rock groups that don’t give off any bravado or pretense and you can hear it in the music. They are not afraid to sound vulnerable or gentle in a genre that prides itself in its heaviness. What you get is pure cerebral bliss delivered with loud blaring noises and great soundscapes. If Satisfaction isn’t on your radar, then go ahead and take the plunge.