NARNIA – Following The Winds Of Change
October 2, 2016, a year ago
Swedish Christian neoclassical power metal band, Narnia, is back after a four-year hiatus with undoubtedly its strongest release to date with its seventh full-length self-titled album. Formed in 1996 in Jönköping, Sweden by vocalist Christian Liljegren and guitarist CJ Grimmark, the band went on to sell over 100,000 albums and shared the stage with the likes of Dio, Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica and Children Of Bodom. As Liljegren left the band in 2008 for personal reasons, Grimmark carried on the band’s name, but achieved lesser results without the Dio-esque singer by his side. After regrouping in 2014, the pair immersed themselves in a long, two-year writing process to try and write the best Narnia album ever, which they think they’ve achieved with new album Narnia. It’s a great comeback album and one that the band feel will please its longtime fans, as Liljegren explained to BraveWords’ Kelley Simms.
BraveWords: Welcome back first of all! What was the reason for the band split in 2010? However, you actually left before that.
Christian Liljegren: “I am now 45 years old and been doing metal for 30 years, and I am a guy who is either all or nothing. It has always been a hard road for me regarding relationships and my music career and I have been going through difficult times. I was in a new relationship in 2008 and we are still together today. I was tired of working so hard for many years, as this Narnia is my 31st studio album since the early ’90s, and I needed a break from music. I am not a guy who just stands beside and I was very tired. I understand that now after going through some rough years. Also, we were going in different directions me and CJ on musical points of view. He wanted to try new areas and I was more stuck to the old style of Narnia.”
BraveWords: Even though you regrouped in 2014, it’s been seven years since a new album. How’s it feel now that the album is finally released, and did the writing process take a long time?
Christian Liljegren: “When we decided to try Narnia again, I think we both understood that Narnia is the songwriting team between me and CJ Grimmark that makes the special Narnia sound and brand. We both felt the last chapter was not written yet and when we decided to continue, we promised ourselves to make the best Narnia album ever. It took two years, as we said to each other we will not release the album until we have an album with killers and no fillers, and in my opinion we have a killer metal album with really good songs and production. And you can hear the joy, passion, heart and fire in the album.”
BraveWords: Produced by guitarist CJ Grimmark, the band re-visits its melodic roots on Narnia. What were you going for sound wise?
Christian Liljegren: “We wanted to make and produce the best possible Narnia album ever. We all have worked hard as musicians in different ways beside Narnia, and the time was right. We took time to write, make good arrangements where the new Narnia meets the past in a good mix and a fresh production in 2016, and we are very pleased with the result. Of course the neoclassical and symphonic elements are there in a fresh way. Listen to the song ‘Who Do You Follow’, it is a good example where the old meets the new blended in a perfect mix.”
BraveWords: The band name is based on the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. What was it about the name that would fit your band concept and sound?
Christian Liljegren: “When I got the vision for the band 20 years ago, I remembered the books and films about Narnia and I like them a lot. For me, it was perfectly suited for the music we do, and that is the reason I picked up the name. It sounds good and was short and easy to remember.”
BraveWords: “Reaching For The Top” is the perfect opener, as it explodes right out of the gate. Was this the clear cut choice to start the album?
Christian Liljegren: “When I heard the demo for this song, I knew it right away that this is the comeback opening song for the new album. Also the lyrics say, ‘Here we are, We´re on the road again, We travel far to see your smiling faces!’ It’s the perfect opener in all aspects. There’s so many emotions in this song! We love to play live and have a close relationship with our audience and I am 100 percent sure ‘Reaching For The Top’ will be a Narnia classic.”
BraveWords: The heartfelt ballad “Thank You” is your homage to God. Have you tackled something like this before in Narnia?
Christian Liljegren: “What we really wanted was to make the song a statement, a prayer and tribute to our creator. We will always be the band that tries new musical ways, but still in the concept of Narnia. ‘Thank You’ is our way to give our thanks to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for making Narnia happening again.”
BraveWords: What’s Jönköping like? Sweden in general has a reputation for creating some great metal bands and Gothenburg usually gets mentioned as the epicenter of Swedish metal.
Christian Liljegren: “Gothenburg is the epicenter for hard rock/metal in Sweden. Jönköping had a scene 20-25 years ago with bands like Arrow, Retrace, Sentinel, Modest Attraction, Cornerstone, Forecast and Metal Mercy. Some of the members are still doing music. We did our first concert outside Jönköping as Narnia and we want to do our first on this world tour in Jönköping. We are excited for the Sweden tour, starting September 23rd.”
BraveWords: What’s next including touring plans?
Christian Liljegren: “Our goal is to reach as many countries as possible the next years ahead. Because we have big families and other work besides the music, we have to plan our touring and logistics very carefully. The Sweden tour is in September while a European tour is in November. We are in touch with promoters in South America, US, Mexico, Australia and Southeast Asia. So the future looks bright for Narnia fans to see the band live.”
BraveWords: This new album is a great return for Narnia and one that will surely please the fans. How does it feel to be back and what do you hope to achieve or accomplish in the future?
Christian Liljegren: “It feels wonderful and the fans are waiting for us. We are so excited to be on the road again. Our aim and goal was to make the best Narnia album ever and in our opinion we have done so. There are songs that will go straight to the heart like ‘Reaching For The Top’ and ‘I Still Believe.’ We are here to stay and are looking forward for the next chapter of the Narnia history. To all BraveWords readers and listeners, thanks for your support and please buy our new album so we can continue the vision and mission as Narnia.”
(Photos by: Mats Vassfjord)