|Musical Style: Melodic Power Metal||Produced By: CJ Grimmark|
|Record Label: Massacre||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2009||Artist Website: Narnia|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 90%|
|Running Time: 42:14|
Sweden’s Narnia has delivered its share of variety throughout its five album history. Getting started with the neo-classical metal of Awakening from 1997, the group took a turn towards a more melodic direction for Long Live The King two years later. The heavier sounds of Desert Land (2001) and The Great Fall (2003) blended aspects of power and progressive metal while Enter The Gate (2006), in contrast, presented with a polished brand of melodic metal that hinted at Long Live The King.
Narnia continues to bring change on Course Of A Generation, its sixth full length studio release from 2009 and second on Massacre Records. The album finds Narnia returning to the heaviness and power-progressive overtones of Desert Land and The Great Fall but interwoven with melodic sensibilities not unlike Enter The Gate.
“Sail Around The World”, a cruncher with a catchy chorus, and “When The Stars Are Falling” and “Behind The Curtain”, with their enticing progressiveness, reflect this best. “Kings Will Come” and “Rain” bring a melding of the melodic and the heavy while a more aggressive stance is taken on “Curse Of A Generation” and “Armageddon”. The refined mid-paced leanings of “Scared” and “One Way To Freedom” mix keyboards and piano with metal edged rhythm guitars.
Speaking of change, Course Of A Generation allows Narnia to introduce its new lead vocalist, German Pascual. Pascual, a native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil that moved to Sweden in his teens, replaces founding member Christian Liljegren.
At this point there is only one question to ask: And that is how does Pascual measure up in comparison to Liljegren? While Pascual is not that far removed from his predecessor style wise and brings many of the same qualities, he showcases greater range and power. This is aptly demonstrated in the smooth flavorings he imbues “Sail Around The World” or full expanse to his voice found on “Armageddon”.
Now, it is without a doubt that Pascual is the better vocalist; that said, is he the better vocalist for Narnia? Only time will tell, but his performance here proves he is more than capable of filling the big shoes left behind by Liljegren.
A Narnia album would not be complete without the contributions of guitarist extraordinaire CJ Grimmark. And contribute he does, as is aptly demonstrated in the emboldened riffs that help to make this one of the heaviest Narnia projects to date (“When The Stars Are Falling” and “Behind The Curtain” find him in top form). Of course, he also makes his presence felt lead guitar wise, frequently cutting loose in expeditious fashion (such as on “Miles Away”) or taking a plunge into bluesy territory (check out “One Way To Freedom”).
Drummer Andreas Johansson and bassist Andreas Passmark maintain a high level of performance. The project finds Johansson coming into his own (his work on “Sail Around The World” is particularly deft) while Passmark delivers a well played bass solo on “One Way To Freedom”.
Production values and packaging are professionally done.
The album opens to two of the better songs in Narnia’s repertoire, “Sail Around The World” and “When The Stars Are Falling”.
“Sail Around The World” stands out with its big hook chorus. The song delivers a melodic touch certain to pull you in on first listen, drawing upon the same type of accessibility that made Enter The Gate such a special release. Grimmark tears it upon lead guitar while Johansson pulls out all the stops behind the drum kit. “Sail Around The World” talks about perseverance in the face of life’s storms:
Sail around the world
Sailing ships of hope
Storm is coming
I cling to my rope
My Captain set me free
On the ocean
“When The Stars Are Falling” stands out with its equally prevalent guitar riff. Some interesting time changes can be found throughout the song, ranging from eerie bass guitar driven verses to an energized chorus driven in the more forthright manner- all the while a dominant guitar riff holds sway over the unsettled environs. Grimmark descends into some low key – almost bluesy – soloing.
Many of the albums more aggressive moments take place on “Curse Of A Generation”. The song immediately kicks in fast and heavy, slugging through its verses with abandon only to surprisingly smooth out upon reaching a chorus in which polished backing vocals add a highlighting touch. If you mix the best elements of Long Live The King and The Great Fall this is what you might end up with. The impersonalized nature of modern computer driven society is the subject at hand:
Programming my social skills to suit the latest code
Connected to the network as I go
I don't believe in anything but virtual existence
Never let me out of here, I plead
Nobody wants to listen
In the real world
I'm perfectly happy when I'm...
Climbing higher, higher and higher
Never ever hiding from a storm
Walking through fire
Flying higher, riding higher
Falling deeper than ever before
The curse of a generation
A mid-tempo heading is taken on “Scared”. A faint whisper of piano accents the song during its ethereal verses, momentum not picking up until a chorus in which the bands verdant backing vocals again make their presence felt is obtained. The resulting ambient atmosphere cannot help but bring to mind Enter The Gate.
“Kings Will Come”, in contrast, moves in the more upbeat direction. A near perfect mix of guitar and keyboards characterizes this one, an animated chorus – in which a crunch-laden guitar steps forward – and flowing verses – backed by tinges of keyboards – add to the resounding scene. “Kings Will Come” deals with how you “cannot take it with you”:
What do I have to bring when I settle in my coffin
Is there anything I'll need, anything at all?
You have heard of a place where there will be no trace
of those valuable belongings, or did you even know?
Kings will come and kings will go
He will stay the same, stay the same
Nations rise and nations fall
He will stay the same, stay the same
“Rain” holds up under its melodic flavorings. It all begins with the songs chorus – flowing angelically in near Stryper-like fashion – but ends with the aggressive guitar tones throughout and quite the assertively delivers solo section. Pascual shines as well with a vocal performance ranging more even moments to occasional edges of grit and gravel. This one finds Narnia in top form.
“Armageddon” moves at a frenetic tempo its full length, explosions of bombastic drums, tireless riffing and mercurial leads holding sway over the relentless milieu. Momentum slows, if only just slightly, for the variations presented by the refined feel to the songs chorus. I am almost reminded of other fast paced Narnia songs such as “Judgement Day” (off The Great Fall). This one is aptly entitled:
The day has come, they gather here
The fallen angel and his army comes marching out of the deepest pits of hell
They're crossing the rivers, the mountains and sand
Forcing the gates of the holy land
Run away, hide way. The sky is burning
Run away, hide away. Faces turning
Fields of pain, tears of blood
The sword of Christ among the evil legions of the underworld
As they're cast into the lake of fire
“One Way To Freedom” represents a return to melodic territory. A majestic and flowing piece with a mid-paced proclivity, the song presents with walls of keyboards backed by upfront guitars and a prodigious chorus bordering on the mesmerizing. A bass guitar solo opens an instrumental interlude giving rise to a bluesy feel.
The mid-paced leanings continue on “Miles Away”. Keyboards again play a prominent role, a piano lightens things during the songs verses, while the rhythm guitar flexes its muscles, as is demonstrated on a stylish carried chorus at the faster tempo. An instrumental interlude abruptly picks up pace for a lightning-like stretch of lead work. “Miles Away” emphasizes learning from the past:
Follow the path
2000 years of wisdom
We're still building castles in the sand
Learn from the past
The time is getting short now
Oh Father, have mercy...on me
Can you hear me?
Please forgive me!
Album closer “Behind The Curtain” begins to a thunderstorm joined by a piano only to gain initiative once the rhythm guitar steps forward. Descending to a bass guitar backed by keyboards for its verses, the song regains force for its guitar driven bridge and emotionally charged chorus that ensues. I particularly enjoy the aggressive riffs found on “Behind The Curtain” in addition to its well conceived time changes.
If you are a long term fan of Narnia then you will be certain to embrace Course Of A Generation and its joining of the melodic with elements of power and progressive metal. Those of who have been unable to get into Narnia in the past might want to give the band a second chance in that newcomer German Pascual proves more than capable of filling the shoes of the departed Christian Liljegren. All around, with the strength of its songwriting and band performance, Course Of A Generation is certain to rank with the top releases of 2009.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Sail Around The World” (3:40), “When The Stars Are Falling” (4:21), “Curse Of A Generation” (3:55), “Scared” (3:35), “Kings Will Come” (4:01), “Rain” (4:17), “Armageddon” (4:11), “One Way To Freedom” (4:19), “Miles Away” (4:47), “Behind The Curtain” (5:03)
German Pascual – Lead Vocals
CJ Grimmark – Guitars & Keyboards
Andreas Passmark – Bass
Andreas Johansson - Drums