So…it’s been HOW long since the last Narnia studio album with Christian Liljegren on lead vocals? Ten years, you say? Has it really been that long? It has been a long time but this album, dare I say, is worth the wait. I’m not even really sure where to start with this review, but, here goes.
The Narnia faithful will not be disappointed with this record. With this self-titled effort, Narnia returns to it’s neoclassical power metal roots. There is something on this album for fans of all of Narnia’s various sound/style iterations (sans Course of a Generation). There’s a little Long Live the King here, and a little Enter the Gate there. But although the band stays true to it’s sonic roots, there’s plenty of musical evolution to keep this effort sounding fresh. CJ Grimmark would probably disagree, but I find the album to be about half classic Narnia and half a progression towards a newer sound. Let’s break it down track by track:
The opener, Reaching for the Top, is a high energy track in the tradition of Inner Sanctum from the Desert Land album. I think it’s pretty much the perfect opening track for a comeback album. The catchy riff coupled with a tasty guitar solo is sure to please.
Next, we’re hit with I Still Believe, the new People of the Blood Red Cross, if you will. This tune should have you doing a jig with it’s Irish-sounding intro. It then kicks into an up-tempo rhythm leading to a catchy chorus and then into possibly the fastest guitar solo ever recorded by Grimmark. I find the solo break to be particularly satisfying in it’s entirety. CJ’s use of an entirely different rhythm behind the guitar solo is brilliant. I haven’t noticed that with most other artists. This is one of the best tracks on the album.
In spot number three, we find On the Highest Mountain (possibly my favorite song, well, because…you’ll just have to read the liner notes). This song sounds like it would fit nicely in the LLTK era, yet still feels fresh with it’s time changes and booming chorus. Clearly, the last half of the song is my favorite (liner notes…). CJ solos through the last third of the song, a la Star Over Bethlehem from the Japanese version of LLTK. In a word, it’s down right SHREDTASTIC!
Things really slow down with Thank You. The first time I heard it, it seemed out of place. Let’s just say it’s not your typical Narnia tune. After several listens, I really started to like it. It’s actually quite refreshing. A quiet beginning builds to some fine soloing by mister Grimmark. All in all, a somewhat experimental track that actually works.
Up next, One Way to the Promised Land kicks things back up to full-rocking mode. This one is a fave for sure, with it’s driving rhythm and fascinating keyboard/guitar solo. Probably among my top three favorite songs on the album.
We now arrive at Messengers. The second of two singles released just a few days ago (Reaching for the Top being the first), this is my pick for the best radio song on the record. The animated video for this tune is pretty darn cool. Be sure to check it out at the link below. Solid track in the best Narnia tradition.
Who do You Follow? is another rockin’ gem with some interesting time changes. “Priesthood of Sweden your castles are burning…” is the stand-out lyric. There’s another rippin’ guitar solo, as expected. overall a great tune.
In the eighth spot we find Moving On, another high-tempo scorcher to crank up until just before it’s painful. I really dig the chord progression on the verse — it’s fresh and tasty. Yet another impressive guitar solo from my favorite shred-master is here to enjoy. Another great track.
Last, and certainly not least, is Set the World on Fire. This is my favorite song, without a doubt. Artists often bury the weakest tracks deep on the B side, but that’s not the case here. In my opinion, this is one of the most killer tunes on the album, especially riff-wise. The snare and bass drums kick it off like a gun at a sprint event. Grimmark is doing so much with the rhythm guitar that you have to pay very close attention to catch it all. The guitar solo and solo break are the best on the album, especially the harmony solo portion. This track ends the album with an even bigger bang than RFTT opens it with.
The bottom line: This is arguably the BEST Narnia album to date. It’s a monumental task to attempt to topple the likes of LLTK and DL, but the boys from Sweden just may have done it. From top-notch mixing and mastering to CJ Grimmark’s masterful production skills, this may in fact be the perfect Narnia record.
The album is available worldwide on September 16th.
Check out the band here: http://www.narniatheband.com