Narrow Head’s 12th House Rock is an experiment in huge guitar riffs and blistering volume, all with a smattering of pop hooks. The Houston, Texas band have been touring and releasing music since 2013 and recently signed to Run For Cover Records, their sound unabashedly indebted to ’90s alternative, shoegaze, and hard rock. Yet the music is strong enough that any cliché mention of nostalgia is irrelevant. Narrow Head is a perfect example of why raw, loud guitar rock will always matter.
The band’s music is defined by half-stack amps cranked to eleven, effects pedal saturation and slurred, introspective vocals. The 13 songs from 12th House Rock range from soft acoustic moments to walls of fuzzed-out noise. The album begins with “Yer’ Song,” perfectly encompassing Narrow Head’s sound with its blankets of distorted power chords, and vocalist Jacob Duarte’s effects-laden and emotional delivery. The drumming of Carson Wilcox provides an adrenaline rush reminiscent of Dave Grohl at Nirvana’s peak. “Stuttering Stanley” is like a sonic cocktail of Hum and My Bloody Valentine, showcasing the band’s knack for blending hard rock with the melodic qualities of pop. It’s short and sweet, a tempting track to restart as soon as it ends.
“Hard To Swallow” is the most aggressive song on the album, its guitar showcasing the punishing qualities of doom metal as well as the band’s mastery of the riff. Duarte’s screamed vocals add to the track’s intensity, and the sludgy, distorted bass from Ryan Chavez rounds things out. “Nodding Off” counters the power of “Hard to Swallow,” providing a space rock reprieve. It’s slower in tempo and more atmospheric, yet despite the shoegaze vibe, its chugging riffs and high-power drumming still make up most of the track, sparing none of the intensity.
The relentless, charging energy of “Night Tryst” is infectious, a prime example of what Narrow Head does best. The chorus melody is undeniably catchy, and the thrash metal guitar riff that follows straddles the line between the group’s hard rock sound and their pop inclinations. “Delano Door,” meanwhile, is a sprawling, minimal piece a la early Sonic Youth, bouncing between droning bass and drums and a blown-out, thunderous chorus. The Kim Gordon-style sing-speak vocals during the verse are an interesting touch, and the chorus duet just adds to the magnitude of the composition.
The album ends with “Evangeline Dream,” a fuzzy alt-rock anthem and the longest on the album, clocking in at just over eight minutes. It builds and builds, but the band sounds content to take their time and see where things go rather than rush to climax. Woozy chorus-laden guitars swirl over a repeating drum beat as Duarte sings “Evangeline, she’s a dream.” About halfway through, all instruments drop out except for an overdriven guitar riff that leads into the track’s outro. Layered vocals begin to stack as the music floods in, ending the album triumphantly.
12th House Rock is a fantastic release from a band that’s been working tirelessly for years. Through ambitious songwriting and dedication to their craft, Narrow Head have carved out their own unique niche in modern guitar rock, one that transcends nostalgia.
Label: Run for Cover