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By Martin Simson, Editor
When I first heard that Narnia was reforming and recording a new studio album in 2014, I was downright elated. I’ve been a fan since 1998 and the idea of a new album was absolutely thrilling. The end result was 2016’s much acclaimed self-titled effort.
Fast forward to January 2017. What started as just the beginnings of one song written in a small room in California, has become the masterpiece we now know as From Darkness to Light.
This album takes the growth that began on the previous album and brings it to fruition. The band chose to take some risks, and boy did they ever pay off! From an overall heavier guitar sound, to progressive time changes, to classic double-bass power metal, to atmospheric hard rock — this disc has it ALL.
Let’s dive into a track-by-track breakdown.
The opener, A Crack in the Sky (available now on all digital platforms), hits like a freight train flying down the track. The main riff has a heavier edge than you’d expect from a Narnia song, with an interesting time signature. The chorus is powerful and the solo is blistering, as would be expected from shred-master CJ Grimmark. A great choice for the opener.
You Are the Air that I Breathe is up next. With a riff reminiscent of AC/DC, the band brings things back to a straight-ahead approach. This is my pick for “radio song” for this record. Another catchy chorus that’s sure to get stuck in your head. Easily digestible for the masses.
In the third spot we find Has the River Run Dry?, a mid-tempo rocker with a big chorus and a slow, tasty guitar solo — possibly my favorite on the album. Not every great solo has to be fast, you know :). A solid tune that should stand up well over time.
Track number four, The Armor of God, starts with some creative synth work then blasts into double-kick power metal glory. Fans of the band’s neoclassical roots will be delighted with this tune. With one of the best choruses on the album and TWO blazing solos, this should be a favorite with most fans. Another fantastic track reminiscent of I Still Believe.
If you’re not willing to have your face melted off, skip MNFST. A cool synth intro gives way to one of the most massive metal riffs ever created. Probably the heaviest song on the record, Grimmark’s four rhythm guitar tracks really cut through. Bold lyrics resonate throughout, especially on the chorus. A little over halfway through, the real fun begins. While the first half of the song is a killer 80s style rocker, the second act takes us into prog-metal territory that would make John Petrucci grin. All that, coupled with a searing guitar solo, makes this my favorite song on the album. CRANK this one for maximum enjoyment!
The War that Tore the Land starts out slow with an atmospheric intro (including elements that remind me of U2), similar to Thank You from the previous album — yet distinct, giving way to a modern sounding guitar driven chorus, including, for the first time, female vocals. A definite highlight with it’s airy vocals and emotional solo. Hallelujah, amen.
Now we arrive at Sail On. Starting with one of the best riffs on the record (reminds me a bit of Grimmark’s solo album), this one is definitely worthy of gas-station-cranker status (right after you’ve played MNFST). Shocker alert: another fantastic chorus. This one gets a little proggy as well, with some elements reminding me of Rush (though, probably not intentional). Rounding things out is another incredible guitar solo. I’m told this was the first song written (in that tiny room in California). One of the strongest songs on the album.
Next up, I Will Follow. Keys and guitar open things up like a clap of thunder, leading to a surprisingly mellow verse — very dynamic. A solid chorus, and a solo segment that reminds me a little of YES, are standout elements. Another highlight for sure.
Rounding out the album is the two-part title track, From Darkness to Light. The beginning of this tune reminds me of something off The Great Fall (in a good way). It then progresses into acoustic guitars and piano and then some Pink Floyd-ish goodness. Another great guitar solo followed by a lap-steel solo. This song succeeds where much of TGF fell short. Atmospheric, deep, delightful!
The main thing that stands out about this album is the lyrical boldness. Narnia has always been outspoken about their faith but they made sure there are no doubts with this record. Excluding the classic first three albums, this is their best offering to date.
Highlights include MNFST, The Armor of God, Sail On, You Are the Air That I Breathe, A Crack in the Sky, The War That Tore the Land and I Will Follow. There’s something here for fans of all of Narnia’s various iterations throughout the years. This outing is as diverse as the self-titled album was homogeneous — and it WORKS. Narnia continues to grow and this album proves that’s a good thing.
- Christian Liljegren: Vocals
- CJ Grimmark: Guitar & Backing Vocals
- Andreas “Habo” Johansson: Drums
- Martin Härenstam: Keyboards
- Jonatan Samuelsson: Bass & Backing Vocals
By: Martin Simson, Editor
This is Narnia’s second live album, and let me tell you, it’s a good one.
I won’t be doing a track by track break-down in this review only because it’s a live album with previously released material.
My overall impression is that this record sounds HUGE. Especially if you turn it up until just before it’s painful. Some of the songs sound even better than the original studio recordings, particularly the earlier material. CJ Grimmark has changed his guitar attack on several songs, making them sound even better, if that’s even possible.
Christian’s vocals sound strong and clear, and the overall production is excellent. Each musician is easily heard in the mix. The obligatory drum solo (which Andreas NAILS) and guitar solo do not disappoint. CJ’s solo is saturated with feeling, emotion and just enough speed to satisfy any shred fan.
The stand-out tracks are Shelter Through the Pain, Messengers, No More Shadows from the Past, The Awakening and Living Water.
The mix and production couldn’t be better. This is a live disc that will satisfy even the harshest critics of live albums. This is definitely a must-have for power metal fans of all breeds.
- 01 – Inner Sanctum
- 02 – The Mission
- 03 – Reaching For The Top
- 04 – Shelter Through The Pain
- 05 – No More Shadows From The Past
- 06 – I Still Believe
- 07 – Messengers
- 08 – Drum Solo
- 09 – Guitar Solo
- 10 – The Awakening
- 11 – Long Live The King
- 12 – Into This Game
- 13 – Living Water
- Christian Liljegren – Vocals
- CJ Grimmark – Guitar, vocals
- Andreas Johansson – Drums
- Martin Härenstam – Keyboards
- Jonatan Samuelsson – Bass, vocals
You can pre-order your copy here: http://narniatheband.com/campaign-we-still-believe-made-in-brazil/
I’m going to kick off my album reviews with my pick for melodic hard rock/metal album of 2014 — the debut release from Swedish rockers Empire 21. Yeah, it’s that good.
Once in a while, an album comes along that simply blows my mind. It doesn’t happen very often, but occasionally I find myself pleasantly surprised. Empire 21 is the latest group to melt my earphones.
CJ and the boys have really outdone themselves with this effort. There isn’t a bad song on this album — not one track that will make you want to push ‘skip’ on your CD player. The production is the best I’ve heard in many years. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard a mix this good. We’ve come to expect excellence from CJ Grimmark with his work in Narnia and Rob Rock, but I think he’s taken things to the next level with this disc.
Rounding out the line-up is newcomer Ricard Hulteke on lead vocals, Andreas Alov on bass, John Svensson on keys and Tobias Enbert on drums. This is a MUST HAVE for any serious hard rock/metal fan. You’re going to want to drop the coin for this one, trust me!
Feast your ears on THIS:
You can purchase the album and other merchandise at the band’s website here http://www.empire21.se