‘FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT’ Available Now

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ALBUM REVIEW: NARNIA — From Darkness to Light

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

Score: 10/10

Lineup

  • Christian Liljegren: Vocals
  • CJ Grimmark: Guitar & Backing Vocals
  • Andreas “Habo” Johansson: Drums
  • Martin Härenstam: Keyboards
  • Jonatan Samuelsson: Bass & Backing Vocals

Videos:

 

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: ROB ROCK Talks About the New Impellitteri Album, His Solo Career, and His Faith

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We caught up with Rob Rock recently and he had a lot to say about the new Impellitteri album, his solo career and his faith.

The Pure Metal Fan: What made you want to become a musician?

Rob Rock: I think growing up in a musical family played a big part in what direction I went in. Loving rock and roll on the radio and having my brother’s band rehearsing in the basement really cemented my love for music. Plus the fact that I was always encouraged to chase my dreams was fuel for the fire.

TPMF: Who are your major influences?

RR: Foreigner, Styx, Bad Co., Uriah Heep, and Grand Funk Railroad were my earliest influences. I started as a drummer who also sang leads and backing vocals. As a singer, Lou Gramm and Dio were my favorite vocalists, and Queen, Judas Priest, and Boston were also some of my favorite groups.

TPMF: How did you meet Chris and when did you start working with him?

RR: I met Chris at a gig. My band was opening up for the Gregg Allman Band and Chris was there. After the show he introduced himself and told me that we needed to play together. He came down to the club the next day and we jammed and he was right. Soon after he joined my band and we started writing songs and performing originals and cover songs together.

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TPMF: Who writes the songs for Impellitteri?

RR: Chris is the driving force for the songs but the whole band is involved, especially writing our own parts. Chris is the catalyst for the songs, demo-ing up song ideas and passing them around to the band. Everyone adds their parts to the song and we put it all together. Chris and I work together offering suggestions on the title and melody framework and I take it from there as far as the lyrics go.

TPMF: Could you briefly describe the music-making process?

RR: First we demo-up the songs and decide which ones are keepers and which songs work well together to create an album. Then the band will go in the studio and record the songs live, concentrating on the drums. From there we each do our parts and once we have all the tracks complete it goes to mixing and mastering.

“LOL…that was kind of scary actually…I had my reservations about messing with such a classic.”

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TPMF: Who came up with the ‘beasts and monsters’ theme for The Nature of the Beast?

RR: Chris had the original thoughts on the title and from there is just kind of evolved into a theme. It was not intentional from the start but naturally occurred during the writing process. Even though there is no song with that title, I reference the theme in several songs which became a thread that kind of runs through the album.

TPMF: What was it like doing a metal version of The Phantom of the Opera?

RR: LOL…that was kind of scary actually…I had my reservations about messing with such a classic. When I heard the demo, I was floored by Chris’s take on it. Wow, how is this going to go over? Then I had to step up to the plate and deliver vocally. Chris and I discussed that we would demo it and see what the result was, and make sure we were happy with it. I think it is a unique take on the song for sure, and hopefully we will surprise a lot of people.

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TPMF: Is it just me, or does Masquerade sound a lot like Randy Rhoads era Ozzy? Was this intentional?

RR: Yea, I could hear that! It was a riff Chris was playing around with when we were practicing for the tour after the Venom album was released. It sounded great on the demo so we went with it. Of course the #metoo movement was beginning to get a lot of exposure and attention so I just had to comment on it.

TPMF: Does the verse, “Come to me, and I’ll set your spirit free” on Kill the Beast refer to Jesus Christ? And what is the overall theme on the song?

RR: There are some lyrical double meanings throughout the album and the answer to your question is yes. The theme is about dark influences and spiritual warfare in the world. The song “Man of War” is a tribute to the Armed Forces but also has an underlying spiritual theme to it.

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TPMF: Which songs do you like the most off the new album?

RR: That depends on which day you ask me…I go through phases where I like certain songs more, and then I’ll find myself gravitating towards other songs as well, so it’s really hard to say. I like all of them actually… this album has a lot of depth once you sink into it.

“I find it really hard to exist in a box or a label that has been created by others.”

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TPMF: What has been Impellitteri’s biggest challenge as a band?

RR: I think finding the right touring situation has been a challenge. We, to this day, are still seeking a great way to reach the fans that makes sense to everyone involved. We do some huge shows in Asia and Europe and want to do that here in the States as well, but we need to get the promoters on board to open the doors for good touring options.

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TPMF: It’s a well known fact that Impellitteri isn’t a Christian band, but do you consider yourself a Christian musician?

RR: I find it really hard to exist in a box or a label that has been created by others. I’m not sure that one label means the exact same thing to everyone. I know I’m a Christian, and I know that I’m a musician.

TPMF: How big of a role has your faith played in your songwriting, and your life in general?

RR: When I write lyrics, I write from my personal point of view, or from the point of view from the subject of the song, or sometimes from the viewpoint of others. I don’t lock myself in any box. I just try to do what’s best for each song and not compromise my beliefs in the process.

My faith is reflected in my songwriting and I also vary my approach to lyrics with the situation I am writing in. It is not always blatant. Sometimes my lyrics are commentary observations of the world around us. My faith plays a huge roll in my life and is always present in creating music and lyrics.

TPMF: It’s been over 11 years since your last solo album, when can we expect a new one?

RR: I’ve been continually asked about the next RR album. I am currently writing songs with several friends and hope to get on a roll to put together some demos in the near future. I’m not sure when it will all come together, but I am hoping that 2019 will be a good year to start recording.

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TPMF: Any parting words?

RR: Well, I hope everyone will support the Impellitteri band and buy a CD or download. Hopefully the chance to see us live and get a T-shirt will come together soon, too.

The band seems to have a lot of momentum with the release of “The Nature of the Beast”.

We are working on getting the band out there and hope to tour soon and do some concerts and some more festival shows all over the world.

I would like to thank the fans and friends and supporters who have stayed with us and supported us all along this ride. It’s amazing that our metal family is still so strong!

Thank you, and God bless you all.

You can purchase your copy of The Nature of the Beast from Amazon, Google Play, iTunes and other fine retailers.

 

Album Review: Narnia — We Still Believe (Made in Brazil)

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.

Score: 4.5/5

Track listing:

  • 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

Line up:

  • 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/

Chris Impellitteri Excited about Feedback from “The Nature of the Beast”

Chris Impellitteri is pleased by industry feedback about Impellitteri’s forthcoming album The Nature of the Beast.

Read on:

Album Review: Empire 21 — Empire 21

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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!

–Martin

Score: 10/10

Feast your ears on THIS: 

You can purchase the album and other merchandise at the band’s website here http://www.empire21.se Empire21_band Continue reading

Why this blog?

At the prompting of family and friends, I’m starting this blog. It’s an opportunity to share my experiences and knowledge of hard rock and heavy metal music — particularly the Christian varieties.

My metal journey began sometime in 1980. My brother and his friend were playing some very distorted “music” on a tape recorder (if anyone remembers what that is). I remember thinking, “what is that noise?”. That noise turned out to be ‘Back in the Saddle’ by Aerosmith and it wasn’t long before I was beginning to like it. Within a few months, Aerosmith became my favorite band. I started buying all of their albums (on vinyl) and began discovering other hard rock acts along the way. Before long, I was delving into heavy metal bands like Dio, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Queensryche.

More later…

I plan to expand on my story later along with experiences, album reviews and maybe a little theology.

For now, Happy New Year!