The veteran Swedish metal band Narnia is back with their first post-pandemic release, Ghost Town. In sound and message, the album feels like a pseudo-sequel to 2019's From Darkness to Light with some subtle differences. Lead vocalist Christian Liljegren gives his voice a rougher edge while keyboardist Martin Härenstam has more to do with synth sounds and piano work. What remains the same is the band's commitment to melodic rock and straightforward lyrics that point to Jesus.
If a theme can be found in Ghost Town, it's the call to come out of worldliness and long for the day when we'll be taken out of it completely. You still have gospel calls (like the opener, "Rebel"), but the larger focus is on Christians living in the world today. There are the more encouraging aspects of that (like "Hold On" and the standout title track), but the band doesn't shy away from calling out those who are straying ("Glory Daze", "Modern Day Pharisees", "Wake Up Call"). Sprinkle in a couple eschatological tracks ("Descension", "Out of the Silence") and you have a record that's ready to take on the world as we know it today.
While that message is always timely, the way it's expressed doesn't always land right. Rhyme schemes don't always catch on some of the tracks, and the melodies on this album don't have the same earworm effect that From Darkness featured. The melodies grow on you through repeat listens, but it would have made the songs feel stronger with better melodic hooks. While that side of the songcraft wavers through the album's course, the music does not. Dynamic, operatic, and epic are all fitting descriptors for Ghost Town. There are moments of sonic swells that catch you up and take you for a wild ride. The added keyboard work from Härenstam also adds a little '80s element to the sound. For instance, the opening to "Thief" feels like the approach of a boss battle from an old SEGA Genesis game. The musical element carries the album from being a run-of-the-mill metal throwback to being something truly worth a listen.
If I may make the comparison, Narnia succeeds with Ghost Town where Stryper didn't with last year's The Final Battle. Where the latter carried on with more of the same, the former found ways to tweak their sound and add subtle elements to distinguish their new album from their previous one. Fans of either band will find plenty to enjoy here. The sound is loud, the guitar riffs and solos fall like a deluge, and Liljegren's vocals have, at times, a Michael Sweet quality. It may take a few listens to really get into this record, but this is one Ghost Town worth spending some time in.- Review date: 3/15/23, written by John Underdown of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Narnia Songs
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