|Musical Style: Melodic Power Metal||Produced By: Carl Johan Grimmark|
|Record Label: Massacre||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2006||Artist Website: Narnia|
|Tracks: 9||Rating: 95%|
|Running Time: 50:14|
Enter The Gate, the fifth full length album from Sweden’s Narnia, can best be described as a “best of both worlds” scenario in that it takes the guitar driven heaviness of the bands two prior efforts, Desert Land and The Great Fall, and combines it with the lush keyboards found on its sophomore release Long Live The King. The end result is potentially the album of the year, a compelling combination of catchy melodic metal and guitar driven power metal with an occasional progressive leaning thrown in (such as on “The Man From Nazareth”). What ultimately puts Enter The Gate over the top, nevertheless, is perhaps the strongest songwriting effort of Narnia’s career, the albums compositions reflecting the obvious emphasis the band placed on writing catchy melodies that stick in your head and refuse to let go. If in doubt, then give tracks such as “People Of The Blood Red Cross”, “Enter The Gate” and “Show All The World” several spins and you will be hooked (no pun intended). The only comparison I might make to Enter The Gate in terms of quality and style might be the recent efforts from Magnitude 9 (Decoding The Soul), Rob Rock (Holy Hell and Eyes Of Eternity) and Shining Star (Enter Eternity).
Lead vocalist Christian Rivel puts forth quite the versatile showing. While he still exhibits his trademark clean and smooth sounding vocal style, on several tracks he adds an element of grit and aggression to his delivery not always found on the bands past efforts. Carl Johan Grimmark continues to make his presence felt with an abundance of crunchy riffs along with his fiery and at times bluesy soloing abilities. A very well rounded musician, Grimmark backs away from some of the more Yngwie inspired elements to his playing and has adopted a style that is allowed to stand in full complement to each of the albums tracks. Grimmark also handles keyboards, and his work here is also one that accentuates without coming across in a manner that is overriding. Bassist Andreas Olsson and drummer Andreas Johansson return to round out the rhythm section.
The albums excellent production values literally breathe life in allowing each member of the band to stand out above the instrumentation.
It is also worth pointing out the more bold and upfront lyrical stance taken by the band in comparison to The Great Fall and Desert Land.
Album opener “Into This Game” immediately kicks in at an upbeat tempo before settling down to a huge wall of rhythm guitar underlined by keyboards, the two evenly leading the way to a catchy chorus with a faith based message:
Into this game
Running through fire and water
In Christ I am strong
My vision is clear
You are the reason I live
I’m into this game for Your name
Grimmark steps to the plate with several seconds of fluid but fast paced lead guitar work.
“People Of The Blood Red Cross” ranks among the albums finest compositions. The song begins slowly before it abruptly launches into a quickly moving double bass driven riff. Tapering off for its verse portions, “People Of The Blood Red Cross” gradually gains momentum until it transitions to a chorus that builds in intensity and culminates as its title is repeated in a refined sounding but infectious manner. A lead guitar and keyboard trade off carries a nice extensive instrumental section. “People Of The Blood Red Cross” talks about exactly that:
There is danger in the air
Afraid to face reality
Where can we run and where can we hide?
Listen to the Master’s voice inside
We are protected in His name
You can take our lives, but
You cannot take our faith
The crunchy rhythm guitar opening “Another World” is soon interlaced with a forward mix of showy keyboards. As the song moves through its first verse, Rivel adds an element of grit and gravel to his vocal delivery before he displays the full range of his voice upon attaining a smoothly flowing hook filled chorus. Grimmark is right on target with a minute of high quality blues flavored lead guitar work.
“Show All The World” fades in to a keyboard solo before the rhythm guitar steps forward and increases the tempo exponentially. Progressing through its first verse as keyboards play an upfront but complementary role in the mix, the rhythm guitar returns to its place of prominence as “Show All The World” reaches an energetic chorus with a good catchy hook. A lengthy run of blistering lead guitar work is by far the albums best.
Introduced to a brief drum solo, “Enter The Gate” advances through its first and second verse with a ton of grace and class prior to transitioning to a beautiful acoustic laced chorus with just enough commercial appeal to draw you in and refuse to let go. Olsson’s punchy bass guitar plays a prevailing role throughout an extended instrumental section carried by an exquisite guitar solo. Great, great song that rates with the finest of the bands career. “Enter The Gate” points the way to eternal life:
Yeah, I hope to see You there
Don’t’ You see I care for you
All to win for You and me
Eternal love and peace for free
The eternity to win
Jesus is the open gate
Enter in and You will see
The sins are gone, You are free
The seven minute ballad “Take Me Home” gets underway to a minute long keyboard solo before the rhythm guitar steps forward and slowly carries it forward. Tapering off to a blend of piano and bass upon reaching its first verse, the rhythm guitar returns at the start of the second and propels the song to a haunting chorus perfectly accentuated by just the right amount of verdant vocal harmonies. Grimmark’s blues flavored lead guitar work only adds to the songs emotional appeal.
“This Is My Life” commences to several seconds of crunchy rhythm, a touch of keyboards adding to the hard rocking atmosphere as the song proceeds through its first verse and the beginning of its pre-chorus. Once the keyboards drop from the mix, “This Is My Life” moves on to a fleeting chorus carried at a catchy upbeat tempo. Another ardent guitar solo stands out in the mix in a crystal clear sounding manner.
The wall of edgy rhythm guitar driving “Aiming Higher” forward from the start takes a backseat in the mix upon reaching its first verse. As the song regains its momentum, the rhythm guitar rebounds hard and heavy in time to fortify a sweeping chorus with a message based around end times themes:
We’ve got to pull the brakes before the
World’s on fire
God’s creation falling, falling
Rule the world, enslaving mankind
The final hour will come and we shall see
The ethereal progressive rock of “The Man From Nazareth” is set in motion by a piano before the rhythm guitar crashes to the front of the mix. Slowing again to a piano, an emotional setting is put in place as “The Man From Nazareth” details the life of Christ during its first verse:
He was a carpenter, a simple man
Living a simple life in Nazareth, the story tells
His mother always knew that He was meant
To serve a special purpose here, the angel had said, the story tells
Once the rhythm guitar returns, it plays a commanding role as the song reaches a worshipful chorus also pointing to the person of Christ:
Messiah, oh Messiah
See the Son of God among
Saints and sinners, old and young
Speaking words of wisdom
Turn the other cheek, believe
And the truth shall set you free
Spoke the man from Nazareth
Jesus, King of Kings
The instrumental section that follows is shored up by a sublime keyboard solo that gives way to several seconds of bluesy lead guitar work. “The Man From Nazareth” proceeds to move back to a piano based direction as Christ’s crucifixion is portrayed during its second verse:
As His friend betrayed Him with a kiss
They tortured Him for all to see
A victim of atrocity
And they nailed Him to a cross
The earth was shaking curtains fell
As He spoke His final words:
“It is finished”
Another lengthy instrumental passage closes out the albums final minute and a half.
In the end, what we have in Enter The Gate is a very fine work of art which proves to be the best of Narnia’s career- and that is saying a lot when taking into consideration the quality found on The Great Fall and Desert Land. I find the albums production values to be near flawless and the bands musicianship top notch; the emphasis placed on bolder and more upfront lyrics only enhances its appeal. All of the compositions here prove noteworthy; however, “People Of The Blood Red Cross” and “Enter The Gate” both stand out with their catchy choruses, while the creative progressive rock of “The Man From Nazareth” proves equally notable.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Into This Game” (4:36), “People Of The Blood Red Cross” (4:38), “Another World” (6:05), “Show All The World” (5:10), “Enter The Gate” (4:36), “Take Me Home” (6:57), “This Is My Life” (4:18), “Aiming Higher” (5:12), “The Man From Nazareth” (8:40)
Christian Rivel – Lead Vocals
Carl Johan Grimmark – Guitars, Lap Steel & Keyboards
Andreas Olsson – Bass
Andreas Johansson – Drums & Triangle
Also Reviewed: Narnia – The Great Fall, Narnia – At Short Notice, 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