Narnia - The Great Fall

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Nuclear Blast
Catalog Number: PSV0105014
Format: CD
Total Time: 54:00:00

Every time I read a review of Narnia's work, I see words like "competent" and "above average." That may have been true with their previous releases, but I believe The Great Fall is one of today's most underrated progressive or power metal albums.

Narnia is a 5-piece founded in Sweden - that hotbed of power metal - in 1996. Their fourth album is their finest release yet, and showcases the maturity achieved since their earlier Yngwie Malmstein-cloned sound. There is nothing unique about Narnia's music, but it is melodic, very well executed, and it deserves a place alongside Europe's best.

The Great Fall has that progressive / power metal sound that is so popular in Europe - heavy, yet melodic and positive and uplifting. Almost all the songs have a deep double-bass track at the bottom, supported by detuned guitars pumping out power chord rhythms and crunchy riffs. Christian Rivel's vocals are very good - not the wailing pipes of the best in metal, but well suited to the music and only slightly accented, and mixed so that even when sung softly they are clear and pleasing. Carljohann Grimmark's guitar work is excellent. Listen for the David Gilmour-esque solo in "No Time To Lose." It is long and emotional and all over the fretboard - from soaring treble to crunchy bass. "Desert Land" is a 90-second instrumental with a classical-style guitar over gently rumbling bass. It is simple and moody, and there's a nice transverse from treble and mid-range in the beginning to bass notes at the end.

A sound common to many songs is deep bass drums and a rhythm guitar thrashing staccato riffs at the bottom, elegantly contrasted with clean vocals over the top and way in the background, a choral or orchestral accompaniment that you'd swear came from a mellotron.

There are nine tracks on the album. Six are 5- to 7-minute numbers and follow a formulaic verse / chorus / solo / chorus / verse / fade structure with catchy melodies and good musicianship. Competent. Above average. Two are wonderful instrumentals and introduce variety to the album. The final song "The Great Fall Of Man" is a 14-plus minute epic with a full, textured sound and all the progressive elements of the best in the business. It features Eric Clayton, vocalist from Saviour Machine, and is complex with lots of variety, many breaks and changes, and a huge choir from Stockholm.

It is this track and the two instrumentals that bring out the superlatives - this isn't just competent music, it is wonderfully melodic, multifaceted, and a great listen. It leaves me thinking that when I grow up to be a metal-playing rock star, I want my music to sound like that!

As you'd guess from the band's name, The Great Fall - along with Narnia's previous albums - was inspired by C.S.Lewis's Chronicles Of Narnia, and the songs are infused with Christian allegories and the timeless issues of good and evil, faith and hope. A good deal of poetic license is taken with the lyrics and Narnia has built anti-war themes into several tracks. Listen for the spoken lyrics at the end of "Back From Hell" - they are the introspective words of a soldier's remorse and his plans to set off on a soul-cleansing pilgrimage. Narnia has never denied the "White Metal" description, even though it is a commercial kiss of death in some metal circles. I have no problems with the spiritual themes, and with or without the religious overtones, the music stands on its own merits and will appeal to open minded metal fans looking for something positive and refreshing.

Very good production allows each instrument to shine through, and you won't have to reach for the liner notes to figure out the lyrics. I have just two small criticisms: First, the cover art is disappointing and looks cheap (I have taken better photographs of African lions in their natural environment). Second, I didn't appreciate the sudden tacet at the end of the album. An extra ten seconds would have provided a respectable fade-out.

Considering their prior releases, Narnia may be forever relegated to B-Team status. But if their future releases can capture more of the complexity and richness of the best 3 tracks on this album, then I for one will campaign for them to skip varsity and head straight for the major leagues.

War Preludium (1:41) / The Countdown Has Begun (5:12) / Back From Hell (7:31) / No Time To Lose (6:27) / Innocent Blood (7:35) / Ground Zero (5:11) / Judgement Day (4:31) / Desert Land (1:33) / The Great Fall Of Man (14:19)

Christian Rivel - vocals
Carljohan Grimmark - guitar, vocals
Andreas Olsson - bass
Andreas Johansson - drums
Linus Kåse - keyboards

Awakening (1998)
Long Live The King (1999)
Desert Land (2001)
The Great Fall (2003)
Enter The Gate (2006)
Decade Of Confession (2007)
Course Of Generation (2009)

Genre: Melodic Metal

Origin SE

Added: November 3rd 2003
Reviewer: Duncan N Glenday
Artist website:
Hits: 663
Language: english


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