Monday, September 12, 2016

Album Review: Narnia - Narnia

When you see a new album, and the name on the front cover is Narnia, what do you think? If you're me, you think something to the effect of, "Oh boy, another fantasy-laden power metal band." Fair or not, we do judge things by their cover, and I've heard far too much power metal over the years that seems utterly convinced Middle Earth is a real place. So while I'm usually game to give most anything a try, I was not particularly thrilled by the prospect of a band named for a fictional land. Fantasy stories don't do it for me, especially in music.

So it was with a bit of surprise that I was greeted by "Reaching For The Top", which is a song more in line with the legacy of Dio than what I was expecting. It's punchy, and has good heft and energy. It's a solid little track, except for the lyrics, which deal with being a rocking band. I'm sorry, but even Dio couldn't pull off writing songs about how awesomely he rocked. It's a weak topic, and I always say that if you have to tell people how much you rock, you don't. This song certainly doesn't change my opinion on that topic.

Things quickly get better. "I Still Believe" is a solid melodic metal track, with a deliberate pace, excellent vocals, and a chorus that ups the ante just the right amount. The sound is modern power metal, with more emphasis on deeper guitars and heaviness, and less on double-bass speed, which gets boring quickly. But just when you think you have things figured out, the band goes and throws in a lyric that name-checks Jesus Christ. Look, I have no problem with religious music. Neal Morse is one of my favorite musicians, after all. But there's something about writing that bluntly, and throwing proper nouns into the lyrics, that comes across poorly. I can't imagine anyone not sitting in a mega-church ever singing along to those words.

We also get a song in "Thank You" which is apparently directed to their creator, but which I would advise against ever sending. It's such a weak, flaccid song that it doesn't express any feelings in a way that would make you think it's gratitude. Frankly, if I was given a thank you note like that, I would seriously wonder where I went wrong.

I'm sure Narnia means well, but they just don't have what it takes to make this record good enough. Power metal doesn't ask for the most involved musical backdrops, and they don't give them to us. So when there aren't guitar riffs to remember, it all rests on the vocal hooks, and Narnia doesn't deliver. These songs aren't as uplifting and hooky as they need to be, and the record comes across sounding lifeless because of it. It's competent music, but nothing more.

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