First off, I just gotta say that I hate the album cover of Narnia's new album The Great Fall. Now I know that there is always a lion on the front cover of all their albums, but there is usually some meaning behind the rest of the artwork. I have no earthly idea how this cover of a lion has anything with "The Great Fall". Somebody out there let me know if you've figured it out. Maybe they just couldn't think of anything, so they just put a cruddy picture of a lion on the cover and just said, "to heck with it", that's just gonna have to do.
With that said, this is Narnia's fourth album on Nuclear Blast Records and I believe it is their strongest effort yet. The band continues in their slightly progressive, neo-classical metal style and proves that they are nowhere close to calling it a day. The album starts with a really cool intro called "War Preludium". It is basically almost an ambient type song with some spoken vocals that are extremely well done! The spoken vocals by a "soldier" also reappear at the end of the song "Back from Hell". While some bands like Rhapsody have ridiculously cheesy and horribly sounding narration, the speaker Par Hagstrom here does a very nice job. The opening song "The Countdown has Begun" is basically a typical Narnia song, if there was such a thing. A solid, well executed tune, but nothing that we haven't heard before. The next song "Back from Hell" was quite a shock. I don't think I've ever heard Narnia rock this hard. The verses are very calm with Christian Rivel's pretty, nice guy vocals, but the chorus has Rivel singing very aggressively in a manner that I've always wished he'd do. This is definitely a direction that I'd love to see Narnia go in more in the future. Carl Johan Grimmark does a little showing off with his guitar playing on this song and I love it. This guy is very talented and he really takes Narnia to the next level that they would be unable to reach with less of a guitarist.
If you liked songs like "Falling from the Throne" and "Angels are Crying" off of their last release Desert Land, then you will dig the next song "No Time to Lose". It's much more of a slow rocker that just plods along for the most part. "Innocent Blood" starts off with a nice piano intro, before picking up the pace. The song continues with the nice guy vocals that Rivel is known for. He picks up the aggression a little bit on the chorus though. This song has a pretty good crunch at times and the chorus is one that will stick in your head long after the album is done playing.
"Judgment Day" starts off really cool with some keyboards and some fast riffing. This song incorporates some good background vocals as well. This is probably one of my top three favorite songs on this album. Anders Johansson of Hammerfall is the guest drummer on this song.
The band does two instrumentals, one long one "Ground Zero" and one short one "Desert Land". The album closes with a very long, epic fourteen-minute song called "The Great Fall of Man". It has a Saviour Machine meets Narnia feel to it, and rightfully so since Eric Clayton of Saviour Machine makes two appearances in the song, once singing and once with spoken vocals. And as expected, his performance is stellar! They even have choir vocals on this tune, so Clayton has really got to be feeling at home. I wish the song was a little more consistently heavy throughout, but all in all it is a great closer to this fine disc. The abrupt ending was not very much appreciated though.
Lyrically, the album is a concept about a soldier and his experiences and journey through a war, and his spiritual journey and struggles to find God for his broken soul. Production-wise the band does another fantastic job.
Overall, if you were already a fan of Narnia you will love this album. If you didn't like the first three albums, chances are you will not dig this one either. Although the band is improving with each release, there is no doubt that this is still Narnia...albeit a slightly heavier Narnia. As a long-time Narnia fan I'm very pleased with what I hear on this disc and I can't wait to hear the live DVD they are putting out later this year. (Review by Matt)