The lion is roaring again! Swedish power metal band Narnia has released their seventh full length album amidst unbridled anticipation from fans across the world. The self-titled album boasts Christian Liljegren back on vocal duties, which is more than fitting. German Pascual did an excellent job in the interim, but it just wasn't the same -- similar to how Iron Maiden just wasn't quite Iron Maiden without Bruce Dickinson at the helm. The album Narnia stands as a statement of both musical quality and bold integrity. As the band's twentieth anniversary approaches, it's apparent that Narnia isn't backing down or giving up.
The album begins with "Reaching for the Top," a typical Narnia offering that immediately brings to mind Enter the Gate material. The swirling guitar and backing keyboards, all framed by a catchy rock anthem, will have you bobbing your head along in no time. Then it's on to what is arguably the strongest song on the entire album. "I Still Believe" boasts an introduction with strong folk influences. The song structure and memorable chorus brings to mind Golden Resurrection, one of Christian's other bands. Tight drumming and a standout performance by the keyboardist propels this song into legendary territory.
With the first two tracks being home runs, it's difficult to stay on par, but the band manages a solid number with groove-laden "On the Highest Mountain." The song "Thank You" is an interesting experiment in production. The first part of the song is somewhat muted and laid back, which helps to emphasize the shredding guitar solo in the second half of the song.
"One Way to the Promised Land" would have fit well on Course of a Generation. Featuring another strong chorus and some of the best fret-work on the album, it's a testament to the band's penchant for skilled songwriting. "Messengers" lags a bit behind the rest, and while I don't quite want to call it filler, there's not much that stands out. "Who Do You Follow?" is an indictment of the Swedish church. Like the prophets of old, Narnia is not afraid to both admonish and encourage an establishment that has long been in decline.
"Moving On" is a fitting name for the next track. Drummer Johansson is a monster on this song. In many cases power metal underutilizes percussion, but that's not the case here. Out of the breakdown soars the electric guitar, thrumming with chords of palpable energy. Narnia ends the album with "Set the World On Fire." While it's a solid track, the end of the album isn't quite as strong as the beginning. The band does end up losing some steam on the last number. I was also disappointed that the band decided not to craft a lengthy epic on this album. Narnia would have benefited greatly from a track similar to "The Great Fall of Man" or "Trapped in This Age."
Narnia's return is a convincing one. Longtime fans of the band, power metal fans, and advocates of metal in general will find something to enjoy on Narnia. As the band progresses, it will be interesting to see where their next endeavors head. C.S. Lewis, progenitor of the world of Narnia, once said, "There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind." The band captures this sentiment perfectly in their seventh studio album Narnia.