Most American metal fans will know little about Carl Johan 'CJ' Grimmark only because most American metal fans are simply ignorant of what goes on outside this country. Mr. Grimmark is a guitar virtuoso in the neo-classical style with a strong modern flair. He cofounded Narnia with Christian Rivel in 1996. Since that time he has played guitar for some significant metal artists and bands including Rob Rock, Divinefire, Planet Alliance, Saviour Machine, and, in 2006, he joined Uli Kusch's (ex-Helloween and Masterplan) Beautiful Sin. Without any doubt, Mr. Grimmark has the cred and resume to debut a work of his own solo material. And his his first solo venture is a sound one.
Mr. Grimmark supplies all guitars (except bass which is provided by Jan Eckert of Masterplan) and the vocals as well. On vocals, he's adequate, but this is not his strong point by any means. What you want to listen to is his guitar work and that is certainly the highpoint of the album. Additionally, Grimmark allows his Christian faith to influence the songwriting. This in itself is an interesting attribute because if he were subject to American metal critics his work would never receive any recognition. They would dismiss him outright simply because of his faith in Christ. Thankfully our brothers across the Atlantic recognize talent regardless of the sound theological commitment upon which it is based. Enough of the editorial commentary and on to the music ...
'Pray' begins the album and it is a paradoxical number. The song is fine as whole, but the guitar solo somehow does not fit the overall style. Mr. Grimmark recovers quickly on the next three cuts, really ripping it up. The guitar work on 'Hiding From The Sun' is particularly impressive. 'Free' is straight metal from beginning to end, a fine cut with some quick drumming and, again, superb fret work from Grimmark. A personal favorite is 'Monkey Man,' a song that mixes melodic metal with a power metal vibe with a stinging commentary on evolutionary theory. (If we really did evolve from monkeys, why are there still monkeys? It's a joke!) 'The Kingdom' proves that Grimmark has some vocal versatility. It's number that also has elements of symphonic and progressive metal. The lyric and arrangement take center stage here against Grimmark's guitar work. The work closes with the creative instrumental, 'The New Song,' an impressive piece that displays Grimmark's exceptional speed and control.
'Grimmark' is not a work that is going to redefine melodic metal. However, as a first solo work, Mr. Grimmark should be sufficiently lauded. He excels on guitar and has produced some fine metal. Definitely recommended!
- Craig Hartranft
CJ Grimmark is an outstanding guitarist whose work is found on the work of some very impressive bands: Narnia (he cofounded this band with Christian Rivel), Divinefire, Beautiful Sin, and Planet Alliance, just to name a few. On his first solo project, Mr. Grimmark succeeds in displaying both his exceptional guitar skills and his Christian faith. Guitar lover should purchase this album forthwith!
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