|Musical Style: Power/Progressive Metal||Produced By: Carl Johan Grimmark|
|Record Label: Nuclear Blast||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2003||Artist Website: Narnia|
|Tracks: 9||Rating: 90%|
|Running Time: 54:04|
On its fourth full length effort entitled The Great Fall, Sweden's Narnia returns with a concept album telling the story of a soldier returning from war who, as a result of being unable to cope with his experiences, suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome. Continuing to combine elements of both power metal and progressive metal similar to its very fine 2001 effort Desert Land, Narnia has released by far its heaviest and most guitar driven effort to date. And I cannot help but think guitarist Carl Johan Grimmark was behind the change to a heavier sounding musical direction. Nothing less than a world class musician who often invites a comparison to Yngwie Malmsteen, Grimmark combines an abundance of crisp and edgy rhythm guitar with his flashy and fast fingered lead guitar work. Lead vocalist Christian Rivel, who came up with the idea of the albums concept while visiting Israel, contributes perhaps the cleanest and smoothest sounding vocal performance of his career. The rhythm section of bassist Andreas Olsson and drummer Andreas Johansson puts in place a solid foundation for the bands sound.
The superlative production values to The Great Fall give prominence to a near perfect mix of rhythm and lead guitar backed by a tight and steady rhythm section. Keyboards are used to good effect in adding just the right amount of texture to the bands sound without unnecessarily overriding it.
"War Preludium" is a short instrumental album opener that slowly fades in to keyboards before it closes to narration over the sound of a helicopter in the background.
"The Countdown Has Begun" provides a good introduction to the bands heavier and more guitar driven sound. Commencing to a fast paced double bass driven riff, the song gains momentum until a crunchy rhythm guitar moves to the front of the mix as it quickly advances through its first verse. The rhythm guitar, on the other hand, plays a diminished role as "The Countdown Has Begun" approaches a smooth sounding chorus carried by double bass.
The heavy duty guitar riff introducing "Back From Hell" abruptly drops from the mix as Rivel takes over on lead vocals. After the bass guitar drives the song through its first verse, the rhythm guitar returns hard and heavy to reinforce a powerfully delivered chorus resonating a plethora of energy and aggression. Rhythm guitar harmony opens an instrumental passage culminating in an incredibly intense pull-out-all-the-stops guitar solo.
"No Time To Lose" moves at a slower and more laid back pace when compared to "Back From Hell". Getting underway to a drum solo, a combination of rhythm guitar and keyboards holds sway over the song before the bass guitar carries it forward at the start of its first verse. As "No Time To Lose" gains momentum, the rhythm guitar returns and propels it to a chorus backed by just the right amount of catchy vocal harmonies. Grimmark follows with two minute of slowly moving bluesy lead guitar work.
"Innocent Blood" stands out with its first class melody line. Opening to a piano as a truck drives away in the background, a blend of rhythm guitar and double bass quickly takes the song forward. "Innocent Blood" steadily progresses through its verse portions to a crisp sounding rhythm guitar until it picks up in pace for an infectious chorus with a huge refuse to go away hook. Grimmark tops things off with a minute of superlative lead guitar work.
An incredibly catchy but equally heavy riff accentuates the first-rate instrumental "Ground Zero". Beginning to a bass guitar solo, a crunchy rhythm guitar pushes the song ahead before Grimmark steps forward with a minute of stylish lead guitar work. "Ground Zero" regains its momentum, however, as the rhythm guitar moves back to the songs forefront as it is underscored by double bass. Rhythm guitar harmony proceeds to carry the song forward until a combination of upfront rhythm guitar and double bass closes it out.
"Judgement Day", the albums fastest track, takes off to a heavy but clean mix of synthesizers that combine with a quickly moving double bass driven riff bordering on speed metal. Slowing upon reaching its first verse, the song gains impetus for a chorus bolstered in a frenetic manner by a plethora of hard hitting double bass. As "Judgement Day" picks up further in pace and peaks, Grimmark cuts loose with a blistering guitar solo.
"Desert Land", a brief acoustic based instrumental, serves as an introduction to the albums title track.
"The Great Fall Of Man" holds up well musically despite coming in at over fourteen minutes. An immaculate blend of rhythm guitar and keyboards impels the song through its first three minutes at a mid-tempo pace. After the rhythm guitar takes a backseat in the mix as "The Great Of Man" slowly advances through its first verse, it suddenly picks up in pace at the start of the second when the rhythm guitar returns hard and heavy. The song maintains an upbeat tempo during its third verse only to slow for huge choir-like vocal harmonies before Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine) makes a guest appearance on lead vocals. Picking back up in pace, "The Great Fall Of Man " transitions to an instrumental passage featuring a fast paced guitar solo underlined by double bass. The album reaches its high-water mark as Clayton delivers the following line in an emotional manner:
Gently picking up the pieces of this shattered dream
I place the broken puzzle into blood stained hands
From safety in the distance I watch...the great fall of man
The Great Fall proves every bit the equal of Narnia's standout 2001 release Desert Land when taking into consideration the albums strong production job backed by the bands top notch musicianship and songwriting. "Back From Hell" and "Ground Zero" both stand out with their heavy duty guitar riffs, while "Innocent Blood" showcases one of the albums strongest melody lines. "The Great Fall Of Man", however, represents the creative pinnacle of the bands songwriting skills.
The only constructive comment worth adding is that due to the albums lack of narration its concept can be a bit difficult to follow. For example, it remains unclear how the tracks "Judgement Day" and "The Great Fall Of Man" fit within the concept in question. All around, The Great Fall proves a very noteworthy release and comes with the highest recommendation.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "War Preludium" (1:41), "The Countdown Has Begun" (5:13), "Back From Hell" (7:31), "No Time To Lose" (6:28), "Innocent Blood" (7:35), "Ground Zero" (5:11), "Judgement Day" (4:29), "Desert Land" (1:33), "The Great Fall Of Man" (14:19)
Christian Rivel – Lead Vocals
Carl Johan Grimmark – Guitars
Martin Claesson – Keyboards
Andreas Olsson – Bass
Andreas Johansson - Drums
Eric Clayton – Lead Vocals
Anders Johansson - Drums
Also Reviewed: Narnia - At Short Notice, Narnia - Enter The Gate, Narnia - Decade Of Confession, Audiovision – The Calling, Divinefire – Glory Thy Name, Divinefire - Hero, Divinefire - Into A New Dimension, Divinefire - Farewell, Flagship – Maiden Voyage, Grimmark - Grimmark, Saviour Machine – Legend 111:1, System Breakdown – 102, Wisdom Call – Wisdom Call