Narnia - NarniaIt’s not every day that you see C.S. Lewis’ name in a metal review. But a Lewis cameo is inevitable when reviewing a band called Narnia. If you’ve never heard the band before, I bet you’re picturing seven full-album concepts based on Lewis’ Narnia saga [How Proustian!Steel Druhm]. Well, put those thoughts away because they’re wrong. This Swedish power-metal outfit does indeed have seven records, but not a single one of them is a front-to-back concept. There are the occasional Narnia-influence songs but, for the most part, the band uses Lewis’ folklore as an instrument to spread the word of God; and not in a subtle way. Narnia is a hymn writer for metalheads. I understand many of you might be turned off right now, but that’s why you should stick around and get some churching.

Hell, even a heathen like myself are able to find some good in Narnia. But, for serious Narnia fans, 2016’s self-titled release is the comeback album they have been waiting seven long years to hear. The biggest news for longtime fans is the return of original vocalist Christian Liljegren. It may not seem like a big deal, but listen to the band’s first few albums next to 2009’s Course of a Generation. Yup, exactly. The band isn’t the same with Liljegren. Narnia (the album) isn’t a return to the neoclassical, Yngwie J. Malmsteen days of Awakening and Long Live the King, but you can tell these dudes are having fun once again.

And opener “Reaching for the Top” proves this better than if Jesus Christ had written it himself. It’s not mind-blowing or novel, but it’s a rocker that would feel at home on an album like Dream Evil‘s Dragonslayer. The opener has fist-pumping riffs, a blanket of silly keys, a catchy chorus, and some nifty guitar work from founding axeman, Carl-Johan Grimmark. Now take the driving atmosphere from the opener and inject it with some melody and you have “Moving On.” The opener may be fun, but “Moving On” is an album highlight. That goddamn (oops) riff nearly had me down on my knees screaming the chorus to the heavens. “Moving On” is simple, but it hits in all the right places—showing life still exists in this old band.

“Still Believe” and “Messengers” also rise to the surface. This time, the beefy riffs take a backseat in favor of emotion and melody. The former is a huge God-worshipping cheese fest with beautiful, opening leads and a memorable chorus. “Messengers” has similar God-praising verses, but its tighter composition makes for greater memorability. It contains a strong atmosphere, sappy lyrics, and a chorus sure to  convert your atheistic grandma. But the sappiness doesn’t end there. Perhaps the sappiest track of them all is “Thank You.” For the majority of its length, its soothing piano and gentle vocals feel like a Narnian version of Dream Theater‘s “Disappear.” Once the build maxes out, Grimmark unleashes a chunk of guitar sorcery to put this one to rest. A finale that many o’ fan ought to love. “Thank You” is sappy as all hell, but it’s an effective ballad.

Narnia 2016

In the end, Narnia is no album of the month, nor is it the power-metal record of the year. It is, instead, a fun, simple, stripped-down example of the genre. Sure, religion is the main staple, and numbers like “Set the World on Fire” and “One Way to the Promised Land” have as much staying power as tumbleweeds in a haboob, but Narnia is a promising return for the band. Not to mention that their comeback arrives via independent means (losing that coveted Nuclear Blast contract years ago).

But, perhaps it was their independent distribution that causes the greatest annoyance of this release. After listening to this set of songs in three different orders (thanks a lot, Amazon, Metal Archives, and the promo distributor), I finally got confirmation of the correct track order. And kudos to the band for delivering the track-list that actually works. Of all the ways I had this album shuffled, the correct organization is the best one. The tracks sync together, the guitars have lots of energy, and Liljegren sounds as good as ever. Narnia is a respectable comeback for the band and a huge step up from their previous outing. For those rare occasions when I’m in the mood for God metal, Theocracy is my go-to. But, if you like this sort of thing, Narnia ain’t bad [Ha ha, you said “haboob.”Steel].


Rating: Good
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Websites: narniatheband.com | facebook.com/narniatheband
Releases Worldwide: September 16th, 2016

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  • hallowed

    Problem with Narnia is that there are actual unicorns living there.

    • The Unicorn (Blueberry Balls)

      and…how is that a problem???

      • Dr. A.N. Grier

        You glorious bastard.

  • Jozo90

    Interesting, i’m going to give it a listen.

    By the way, Mr. Grier, have you listened to Dynazty’s album yet, and if so, what did you think?

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Dr. Grier, goddammit! And yes, I have. Not gonna lie, I kinda love it.

      • Jozo90

        Oh, i’m so sorry Doctor, it won’t happen again.

        Great to hear, they are a great example of what modern power metal can sound like. Not everything have to be about elves and dragons.

        Glad to give some tips to the metal gurus of AMG for a change and not the other way around as usual!

        • Don’t let it go to your head!

          • Jozo90

            But i have already put the diploma on my wall…

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          Yeah, it’s fun stuff. Thanks for the recommendation.

      • Chris Timbó

        Dynazty!!! What a great band! Titanic Mass is going to be on my Top 10 this year… as was Renatus in 2014.

        Even their previous albuns, which presented a more hard rockish approach, are pure fun! Sultans of Sin is also a great album.

  • Not too shabby, but I’ll likely stick with Theocracy.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Yeah, Theocracy is hard to beat.

      • The Nerd.

        I would gladly give up all the kvlt Trve black metal in the world, for one more Theocracy album.

        • October 26th. Wish granted.

          I know, I know, I’m good.

          • The Nerd.

            You are a hero.

    • Martin Knap

      Check out the Germans Seventh Avenue for really good Christian metal.

    • Brother Ben

      Agreed, Theocracy is the best Christian band, though Impellitteri is up there as well.

      • Extol politely disagree with this statement (whilst saying “God bless you” to their audiences) :P

    • Oscar Albretsen

      Hadn’t ever heard Theocracy, so listened to “I Am.” Very cool song, although the lyrics were a little preachy. Still, 11 minute power metal epic, preachy or not, seems pretty awesome.

      • That’s a really solid album. I reviewed it way back when it came out and was very impressed by it.

        • Oscar Albretsen

          I also went back and saw you put “I Am” as the #4 best song of the year in 2011. Pretty high praise! Good power/prog metal bands and few and far between, and it’s not like power metal has deep, meaningful lyrics anyway, so I’ll have to pick this one up. If I ever want to kill myself, I can play this and then Behemoth’s “The Satanist” and make my head explode.

  • Reese Burns

    “Hymns for metalheads.” I’m gone.

  • ricin_beans

    I don’t know if Grier is christian or not but if he isn’t then I am proud of him for approaching christian metal with an open mind. A lot of reviewers reflexively sneer at anything christian.

    That said I’m a christian and this doesn’t really do anything for me.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      I am not, but thank you for the kind words.

      Their earlier albums might catch your attention but, like Steel said, Theocracy is a must. Regardless if you believe in God or not.

    • Grymm

      I’m an atheist, but I do love Extol, Zao, and Lo-Ruhamah.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    When I’m in the mood for some God-themed Metal I listen to Deicide or Immolation.

    • Reese Burns

      Behemoth too.

    • [not a Dr]

      Powerwolf?

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Oh yes, Powerwolf! The perverted altar boys of Power Metal!

    • Extol is the best Christian metal band out there. They’re also better than Deicide, so your God-themed Metal is covered too. ;)

      • Frost15

        Excellent pick. Extol will be forever one of my favourite bands.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        I’ll have to check Extol out. As I see it “Better than Deicide” is a pretty audacious claim to make. I know Deicide are the favorite whiping boys of “intellectual” Metal critics but not only are Deicide one of the key innovators of Death Metal, they also had a really hard to match run with their first four albums. Their later day output has been patchy, but their albums with Ralph Santolla are pretty good. Average Deicide and even below average Deicide is better than many, many other bands.

        • Nathan McCain

          I checked out Legion based on your recommendation, and I am extremely glad I did so. When that first riff hits, good lord! One of the best sounding basses I’ve heard, the drums are spot on… it sounds to me like a shreddier Demilich. Perfect length as well. Thanks!

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Glad you liked it!

        • I wouldn’t say that I’m a Deicide hater, but I only really love “Once Upon the Cross” so my opinion is probably skewed somewhat.

          On the other hand, Extol have never released a bad album even though their style has changed quite dramatically over time. I recommend trying Undeceived and the S/T album.

      • Oscar Albretsen

        Gotta go with Theocracy, myself.

    • GardensTale

      Don’t forget The Project Hate MCMXCIX. “Godslaughtering Murder Machine” has “God” right in the track title!

    • basenjibrian

      My Silent Wake is pretty good. Their faith is definitely in the lyrics, but not in an obnoxious way. Plus, they are a Doom band, so their genre better fits the awful Christian message. (Almost everyone is doomed doomed doomed!)

      • sbe

        Ian Arkley’s first band, Seventh Angel, are awesome as well. One of the few doom/thrash bands out there.

    • Grymm

      Dude, Zao (well, they since denounced)! Lo-Ruhamah!

  • Adjudant

    An excellent album, and thanks for reviewing Christian metal on its musical merit rather than theology (I had no doubt that you would of course, but thanks anyway)

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      I appreciate the kind words.

      I can’t say I agree with this stuff, but… it’s enjoyable and I find the band fun; regardless of the lyrics. And this is a great album even if Christian metal ain’t your thing.

      • Adjudant

        I find much of it fake and pretend as much of the so called Satanic music going around, manufactured to attract a certain market. But for some reason I reckon these guys are sincere, and it shows in their performance, allowing even hardened non-Christians to enjoy it. That’s my scattered impressions anyway

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          I think they are quite serious. This album is loaded with passionate Christ love. That may be a turn off, but you can feel the passion spill out into the music as well.

          • Adjudant

            Exactly, I can only repeat, thank you for reviewing on it’s merits.

            (It’s not a turn off for me, I’m a Christian, just not one that will throw it all down your throat)

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            No problem. Glad you enjoyed it! Guess I should review more Christian metal…

        • basenjibrian

          This is a good point. Manufactured product. :)

  • Blackie makes god-themed music now so swedish guys don’t have to. You hear that Sweden? You’re free!

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      lol!

  • Señor Jefe El Rosa

    Excellent review!

  • Brother Ben

    I would love if more Christian bands had the guts to actually attempt to teach theology in their lyrics instead of soothing, easy-Jesus silliness. Theocracy does it, and while I don’t agree with all their lyrics from a theological standpoint, I find their lyrics more engaging because of their boldness.

    • basenjibrian

      Too much consists of some Ned Flanders wannabe strumming a guitar about his man love for Jeebus (in a 110% hetero, Godly way, of course). Or parody acts like Stryper, of course.
      “teach” is the wrong word, though, because it implies there is something factual being promulgated. :)

      • Brother Ben

        It is certainly possible to “teach” something that is not true. That being said, I agree with the first part of your comment while vehemently disagreeing with the final portion. While there is not empirical evidence for the existence of God, there is also no evidence to the contrary. Additionally, it is a crude over-generalization to lump all Christians into the same category.

        • basenjibrian

          I’m not sure I really did that, but….
          Christians have what, 30,000 denominations. They can’t even agree on what belongs in the Word of God or the Nicene Creed. Amazing given how important the gospel is supposed to be how poorly your god communicated the basics. But then, the history in the Old Testament shows this communication failure has been a characteristic since the beginning.

          • Brother Ben

            Disagreement is part of the human condition. Do scientists agree on everything? No. Does that disprove science? Certainly not. Dissension adds to the diversity of ideologies (and, i add, a very “metal” concept). It is important to look at each ideology and judge it on its merits insead of lumping all into one pot. I hope you know I respect you no matter what though, and I hope we can find agreement in our love for metal

          • basenjibrian

            I can’t disagree with anything you are saying because you are discussing the human condition. (“Ideologies” are human creations)
            The problem is Christianity (at least the orthodox, mainline, and certainly more…fervid…strains dominant in the United States) claims to be an absolute Truth that must be followed at the price of ETERNAL damnation. Given the potency of your God, why did he have such a communications failure when handing down this absolute truth? What could flawed humans (created sick) do that warrants eternal condemnation and torture anyway (commanded to be well)?
            And yes, I know there are kinder, gentler Christianities that downplay this, and more power to them. But they are a minority strain. Certainly, again, in the United States! And even more so in the regions of the world where Christianity is growing the fastest. They are HUNTING WITCHES right now in West Africa. Torturing Children in the name of the Lord.
            And, broadening our focus, they are raping and killing in the name of Allah right now.

  • Wilhelm

    This makes me want to break out some classic Mercyful Fate

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      You have a good heart.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Oh great!

    A theme album about an imaginary, insecure and sadistic overlord who needs you to love him in your mind at all times… cause if you don’t, it’s hell! Torture for all eternity… At the order of the omnipotent super being who created the universe and everything in it from galaxy sized blackholes to each individual snowflakes. An omnipotent being who’s main preoccupation seems to be listening in on the thoughts of billions of humans in order to keep check of which ones get tortured for eternity…

    I need to wash the taste of this out with some Merciful Fate

    • [not a Dr]

      Crap. Now you made the christian god sound metal. Much more metal than everything else.
      Let me prescribe some Therion: instead of focusing on the exact opposite, just superficially browse through a crapload of reinterpreted alternate beliefs.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Oh yeah hell awaits!

    • basenjibrian

      For an amusing take on this (as a thought exercise), I recommend The Owner of All Infernal Names. https://www.amazon.com/Owner-All-Infernal-Names-Omnimalevolent/dp/1512263524

      The author’s blog is also amusing in an inside group way. https://thesuperstitiousnakedape.wordpress.com/

      Apologists will respond that “God gives you the choice so it is all your fault”. Which does not really answer the questions you raise, nor does it respond to the issue that given that He is all knowing from the beginning to the end of time, He dropped sentient beings into an already contaminated world (because remember, Lucifer had already rebelled) who he knew would largely fall short of His purported “glory”. In other words, we are nasty video game characters for this God. “Created sick, commanded to be well.”

      Merciful Fate? Heck, I need some Inquisition. (LOL)

      • Brother Ben

        You neglect the multiplicity of theologies on the omniscience of God, the ontology of God and man’s nature in relation to him, God’s purpose for man, and a host of other religious questions. Plus, you spew hatred for Christianity while sparing other religions your caustic remarks, likely due to a Western bias.

        • basenjibrian

          Well…your first part seems to indicate the Atheist’s main point, that Christianity is a made-up thing that varies with the setting. Not a very good confirmation of its truth, given how important it is supposed to be.
          I am a “westerner” commenting on a music review of a Christian band. Are you expecting some kind of broad take down of all theologies? There have been tens of thousands of religions. I doubt if our host would accept the necessary encyclopedia in a comment thread.
          My hatred is because the theology seems wicked. You can find minority sects and viewpoints within the broad Christian that do not share the main failings of Christian orthodoxy (omniscient creator, fallen man thrown into an already fallen creation (depending on how and when Lucifer rebelled), the need for salvation, etc., eternal punishment for thought crimes known from the beginning by the creator to be flawed) and that is fine and dandy. Discussing these minor sects and threads would, again, take an encyclopedia. As you are a Brother, you might have time to do that as part of your monastic duties.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Will check those out

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Lots of leg twisting by those drawings…

  • Chris Mohrman

    Why dont you guys ever make fun of bands for singing about satanism? Satanists are some of the most hateful people on the planet and yet its always fine and dandy when they make a record about murdering children and spilling their own blood to worship their “master”. Black metal has some of the most hateful, anti-human lyrics in existence and yet no one ever says i disagree with that or thats not cool.

    • I don’t think too many people take all the Satan crap seriously. It’s a gimmick and a metal cliche.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Including those singing about it. Which makes most of the difference.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      I’d say that the Christian bands reviewed here get treated very fairly.
      I often wonder why Christians feel the need to crowd or crash a style of music that for the most part propped it self up on its opposition to the “great” faiths, that revealed in rebellion and individualism.
      Is there such a thing as Christian gangsta rap If there is I can only imagine that it’s as conceptually silly as christian metal.

  • AnnieK13

    Sorry..but all I can say is – ehh. This one just doesn’t work for me.