Houston-based rockers Narrow Head serve up a bowl of metallic shoegaze with emo revival flair on their new album Moments of Clarity. It’s an epiphany with every bite.

Release date: February 10, 2023 | Run For Cover Records | Bandcamp | Instagram

The year is 2023. From smoke-stained file cabinets to 8-terabyte hard drives, our history is becoming exponentially precise in its archival. What does it mean to exist in the present where basically a century’s worth of culture is spiraling around and folding over on it itself? This disconcerting kaleidoscopic beauty is at the heart of Narrow Head‘s third album Moments of Clarity.

Opening track, “The Real” builds suspense with lush guitar chords then plunges headfirst into alternative rock bliss. Its bombastic drums, syrupy guitar, and soft sweet vocal melodies are reminiscent of The Smashing PumpkinsSiamese Dream. Brimming with good vibes, the chorus asks, ‘How good does it feel/To be you/To be real?‘ with a life-affirming charm. This song sets the bar really high for what’s to come.

The band doesn’t disappoint with the title track “Moments of Clarity”. It takes the optimism of the previous song in a slightly more aggressive direction. Think somewhere between the Deftones classic “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)” and “Seamless” by their contemporaries from across the pond, Higher Power. The tight grooves and impactful choruses make for quite a mesmerizing listen.

This is followed by the buoyant “Sunday”. It’s another uptempo, upbeat song that keeps the ball rolling. The bridge section sees a few dark clouds starting to form, but get ushered away with a cheerful-sounding guitar solo. Not for too long though, ‘cuz the next track, “Trepanation”, harnesses something evil to deliver one of the nastiest riffs and vibes on the album. Gut-wrenching lyrics like ‘Grind it down/Sinking now/Into desperation‘ and ‘Drill it in/Pull it out‘ go straight to the head.

The middle four songs on the album, despite their best intentions, are sort of a lull. “Breakup Song” has a slowcore thing going for it, kinda like Failure‘s “Stuck On You” but not quite as melodically captivating. “Fine Day” makes up for that with some dissonant chords and spaces in the arrangement for the band’s three guitar players to layer up and peel back. Kudos to the bass & drums section around the three-minute mark, and for the slow down-slash-surprise cadence at the end. Granting all of this, the song still runs a little bit too long for what it’s doing.

Then there’s “Caroline” which sees the band more wholy embracing their poppier side. It’s a solid song with obviously tight songwriting, but it’s not as spellbinding as other pop-tinged tracks like “The Real” or “Sunday” from earlier in the album. It transitions smoothly into “The World”, which stands out with its pitch-bending synth lead. It’s another good concise track that for some reason or another doesn’t quite reach greatness. Perhaps if any one of these four songs had been left out for a future EP, the mid section of the album would’ve been more robust.

That hankering for robustness gets fulfilled to the max with “Gearhead”, though. The riff is mental, and they play the soft-loud thing for all its worth, even implementing a tempo change to push the contrasting parts that much further. There’s also more variation in the vocals with the inclusion of screamed lines like, ‘Face the guilt now/Bury it/Dig it up’. The early 2000’s vibe of this track shares a likeness with 36 Crazyfists‘ “Slit Wrist Theory“. That whole album (Bitterness the Star) is worth checking out if this song leaves a hard itch to scratch.

“Flesh & Solitude” is grand slam of a track as well. The riff is menacing and the groove is godly. It’s another cut that warrants a comparison to Deftones, perhaps “Battle-Axe” would go nicely back-to-back with this on a playlist. The pair possess a kind of lurching serene hostility that’s both brutal and beautiful. Screamed backup vocals make the chorus an exhilarating affair, and the drum solo at the end is unadulterated ear candy.

The album draws to a close with kind of a choose-your-own-ending vibe. There’s the twangy epic “The Comedown” whose Texas-smoked acoustic guitars, thunderous drums, and soaring choruses make it feel like a natural choice for closing the show. Then, there’s the electro-curious “Soft to Touch” whose alluring melodies, sequenced drums, and Boris-like wall-of-sound guitars give it a CD-era hidden track feel. All that said, both songs are very well executed and add to the album’s already lengthy list of highlights.

Moments of Clarity is an impressive record and feels like a big step forward for the band. Part of that is on account of their pre-production time with producer Sonny DiPerri (NIN, Protomartyr, My Bloody Valentine) who helped tighten up the songwriting and encouraged the band to venture into unfamiliar territory. However, the larger part of it is that Narrow Head are a band that understands the importance of dynamics, groove, and a sense of purpose.

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