NARNIA: Ghost Town

Narnia Band

Narnia’s new release snuck in under the 2023 radar. Coming in during the early part of the year, Ghost Town represents the band’s 9th studio release and 3rd release with Christian Liljegren back on vocals. Returning musicians are founders C.J. Grimmark and Liljegren along with the band’s first (and only, I think) drummer Andreas Johansson. Jonatan Samuelsson (bass) and Martin Harenstam (keys) return from 2019’s stellar melodic metal/rock From Darkness to Light.

Apologies aside for not covering Ghost Town sooner – my vinyl copy got lost in the “stack” and I thought this was a late 2022 release – I will try to keep the comments brief as I’m sure most fans of the band already know more about this release than do I.

Consistent Narnia

Narnia has been crafting melodic metal for 25 years, and while they did have a neo-classical bent to their early releases, they’ve maintained a consistent mix of power/melodic metal with some prog tendencies. In more recent years they’ve produced a few more rock anthems as well. Their message remains a constant variable as well, and an incredible reassurance in this current age of chaos.

No Judgment Here … Just Observations

Consequently, there are, however, two sides to this unwavering sword of musical consistency and lyrical truth. On the positive side, Narnia fans know exactly what to expect with the release of a new collection of songs. On the negative side, Narnia fans know exactly what to expect with the release of a new collection of songs. And while there is absolutely nothing wrong with playing to your fan base – and playing to the heart of your calling for that matter – it becomes, over time, harder to reach a larger audience of listeners.

For clarity, I love this band and what they represent and what they’ve accomplished. My observations about Ghost Town are just that, observations and not judgment.

Ghost Town

Observations aside, how does this music sound? For point of reference, my favorite – what I feel are the most engaging and enduring – Narnia releases are Enter the Gate, Course of a Generation and From Darkness to Light. From another perspective, I have nothing negative to say about any of the band’s albums (okay, the drum programming on the debut?) as they have all been so consistently solid and inspiring.

Categorically, Ghost Town fits right in there with The Great Fall and the self-titled release in the “middle” tier of the musical canon, with the debut, Long Live the King and Desert Land bringing up the not very far behind third tier.

The Songs

As with all the band’s releases, there is plenty of great music to enjoy, and plenty of words to challenge our hearts. In fact, the first 3 songs will feel like home to Narnia fans, all worthy rockers with Grimmark’s trademark riffs and solos and Liljegren’s beautifully and powerfully articulated truths.

The opener “Rebel” is a true Narnia metal anthem – the grit in Liljegren’s voice, the triumphant guitar lead, the fast-paced drums and bass harken to the band’s core metal.

Thief” revisits Judas’ betrayal, the frantic keys, drums and guitar capturing the essence of the event in full drama – the spoken/sung words of Judas (Samuelsson?) juxtaposed with Liljegren’s heartfelt plea.

Even the uplifting “Hold On,” with its ‘80’s synth opening salvo, has an undeniable appeal – probably the catchiest hook and melodic chorus on Ghost Town. Grimmark’s clean solo echoes back to the day of melodic metal bliss!

And then with “Glory Daze” the impact of the tired pursuit to maintain control and the status quo comes to a head. Solid rocker, but maybe just a bit too familiar … but then maybe that is the point?

The title track may best exemplify the struggle to find relevance in the apathetic world in which we live in 2023. The song has an almost U2 vibe of sorrow which is something new for Narina.

But then, in true Narnia form, the following song “Alive” takes that negative observation and despair and offers the hope in Christ which is still “alive” even in this dark age for those who “seek.” Musically, it represents a true highlight on Ghost Town, a semi-ballad/rocker with those ‘80’s keyboard sounds.

Similarly, the 7 minute “Descension” is a well-crafted song with a despairing theme which prequels the title track in a “how did we get here?” fashion. And I do think that with a song like “Modern Day Pharisees” Narnia is making a more rock-oriented song with more melodic accessibility.

Out of the Silence” also departs from the traditional Narnia vibe as it circles back to the cinematic, almost Floydian, rock of those years the members spent supporting Eric Clayton and Saviour Machine’s “Soundtrack to the End Times” days. In fact, Eric Clayton guest “speaks” the Lord’s Prayer on this track!

Wake Up Call” circles back to classic Narnia – both in lyrical and musical content.

Summary of Sides

Interestingly, I only have the vinyl to review, but I like how the 10 tracks split between the two “sides” of Narina. Side A represents the more metal side, more familiar side of the band – that which we’ve come to anticipate and enjoy. But Side B represents the more experimental, more rock-oriented, more cinematic and expressive side of the band. Nice.

In summary, Ghost Town is a wonderful collection of songs from one of the most consistent and enduring bands in our scene for over two decades. While I don’t think they steer too far into new waters here, they remain vital, relevant, and inspiring.

1. Rebel (4:06)

2. Thief (5:06)

3. Hold On (4:05)

4. Glory Daze (4:27)

5. Descension (7:11)

6. Ghost Town (3:42)

7. Alive (4:02)

8. Modern Day Pharisees (4:11)

9. Out of the Silence (4:17)

10. Wake Up Call (5:52)


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