Narnia – From Darkness to Light (Narnia Songs/Sound Pollution)Tuesday, 30th July 2019
In their first incarnation, neoclassical melodic power metal act Narnia probably came to prominence in 2000 once Nuclear Blast signed the band and released their third album Desert Land. After a couple of records they shifted to Massacre Records and eventually called it quits in 2010 – reforming in 2014 and independently releasing their self-titled seventh album in 2016. With singles and a live album filling the gaps, we are now blessed with From Darkness to Light – and it appears that this veteran quintet haven’t lost any momentum in releasing catchy material that aligns well with their past and keeps the focus on positive lyrical content and equally engaging metal music.
As a foundation Narnia use reference points like Dio-era Rainbow and Yngwie Malmsteen to launch into neoclassical touches that are powerful and progressive at points, never forsaking the need for straightforward main hooks in both the music and vocal departments. The simplified modern keyboard aspects supplement the heavier guitar riffs for an obvious commercial cut like “You Are the Air That I Breathe” – something that could be close to a modern rock meets Draconian Times-era Paradise Lost effort, Christian Rivel-Liljegren keeping his majestic voice in a comfortable mid-range, palatable register. The keyboard/guitar interplay between Martin Härenstam and Carl Johan Grimmark gives ample room for some mystical epic nuances and moments where complete aural engagement will take place – especially during the Europe-esque “Has the River Run Dry”, where old style organ tones and subtle lead break activities draw out more emotion. Knowing the right balance between power riffs, melodies, and musicianship keeps the listeners on their toes – properly channeling the cultural harmonies that promote immediate sing-a-longs. Even the rhythm section gets to show off a little flash and flair in spots for “MNFST”, supplementing the heavier/progressive-laden passages and transitions.
Veteran artists understand the dynamic need to color their music with shades of grey – leaving softer or more open spots to treasure when a band rises in a more aggressive manner. That’s where a song like “The War That Tore the Land” becomes a standout – the children’s choir and Carl’s shift from clean to down-tuned axe mechanics captivating as well as Christian’s thoughtful vocals bringing it all home. Many often struggle with Narnia on the lyrical front, as you know the messages are Christian/religion themes that can be a tad on the ‘preachy’ side – but to these ears it doesn’t deter from the professional execution and solid songwriting/musicianship on display. Triumphant keyboards and militant march strains signal the start of the two-part title track set of songs that conclude the record, bringing Styx-like bombast in contrast to the acoustic guitar and softer, left-hand atmosphere, before the electricity kicks into mid-tempo splendor.
From Darkness to Light proves Narnia are back for all the right reasons – they have more to give the world, a melodic metal band with the right power and neoclassical touches, while also adding a bit of modern and bluesy framework to showcase versatility.