without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Alright my friends, now I am going to be picky. One of my very good friends is nothing but a sodo-wanker-moron-in-love for Mr. Malmsteem and honestly, I don’t have anything against the neo-classical heavy metal forefather or my friend for that matter, except the boring-ness of the same shit over and over, album after album. Thus, what does this have to do with Narnia?
It has nothing to do with it and all at the same time. Nothing because Narnia is a Christian band and the C.S. Lewis-borrowed name and imagery (the covers only) does not honor the legend status of the books and specially, since the lyrical content doesn’t have to do with the books at all. It has all to do with it because this guitar player Grimmark is nothing, I and emphasize, NOTHING but an Yngwie Malmsteem worshipper, a sodo-wanker who can show off that he can copy Yngwie with all the flamboyance and fret board stunts you can see…you guessed, in an Yngwie concert.
To put it in simple words: Narnia is the perfect excuse for Christians to listen to a shredding Yngwie copycat, but even the superb production and good musicianship cannot save this, well…shit of an album. I imagen Grimmark who founded the band practicing for years, studying the baroque scales over and over and finally, when he got the skills to say: ‘’hey, I can copy Yngwie!, I am going to put a band together, but hey, let’s name it ‘Narnia’ because I didn’t have to create any guitar style, thus, why creating a name? Huh! It is so easy, and by the way, let’s take it to Nuclear Blast which put out any utter shit as long as it becomes a hit’’ and zap: you got Narnia, a worldwide success!
Let me elaborate. First off: Aslan on the cover with this book-alike painting doesn’t hold me up at all. I would actually think it is more from a coloring kids book and not a (90s?) serious cover. Second: the flat riffing, flat drums, because they don’t add absolutely nothing and sound utterly uninspired. They sound like a good newbie following the score and trying so hard to avoid losing time and pace. Third: the annoying vocals. Seriously, does anybody believe this guy sings well? It is amazing the utterly bad vocals. He sounds like Khan (who is an excellent singer) but recently squeezed of all life in him. The vocals are so flat that he sings using only 1 or 2 notes. Lte’s think of Mark Boals but without balls and about to die out of blood. This due to the fact he is unable to sing in any other notes, or provide textures, or high notes for that matter. Comparing him to those stunts of Kiske and Dickinson is like comparing Korn to Gamma Ray or Limp Biskit to Edguy: an abomination.
The over use of those melodic-sugar flavored keyboards (who said Europe?) is excruciating. Why haven’t they (around 1996) learned how to enhance atmosphere but without overwhelming us with keyboards that soften the songs and in the end screw a good song. Take ‘Break the chains’ whereas at the very beginning the keyboards simply overshadow the guitar and sound too mellow and disgusting for my taste. Another example of this is at mark 4:50seconds where the riffs get overshadowed again by the keyboards. ‘Heavenly Love’ is a power ballad and boring as no shift since again the ultra sappy keyboards overshadow the acoustic guitars and it sounds like an Stryper-Europe super sugared ballad.
Now, I am going to explain why this band became such a worldwide success. It is not because of the superb lyrics, it is not for the speed (though not required but since this band is labeled power metal it is worth considering), it is not because of the killer vocalist who lacks any singing skills whatsoever. The reasons of the success of Narnia are: Nuclear Blast promoting the band and they do have the resources to do so, Narnia has catchy tunes because of simple minded song writing, a colored lion cover (cliché as Dragons in power and true metal), Christians desiring an Yngwie clone to justify listening shredding guitars but with Christian lyrics. So what else is there to say about this utter failure? Nothing I hope! But oh yeah, I forgot the last thing.
I have been mentioning this for a while now but it is my last point: Carljohan Grimmark is an Yngwie worshipper: There is nothing wrong at all with his technique. In fact, that is one of the highlights of the album. The exquisite soloing and feeling he transmits through the guitar is astonishing but that single fact is not enough to save this from sinking. The riffs are uninspired and flat, too schematic with to me drawns this into oblivion. There is an instrumental in ‘The return of Aslan’ and guess, this is pure Yngwie all over again, so why bother getting this album when in fact I can go and listen to ‘Far beyond the sun’ or any other mr. Ego solo and I get the same thing. What is the difference? Nothing, and that is what bothers me the most: showing off you can copy your idol doesn’t prove absolutely anything but that you practice a lot. If you do not add your own identity and certainly this is what Narnia lacks the most then you are nothing but an empty clone.
In the end this is not a bad debut (production wise-arranged) but as a worthy album I have to disagree because it doesn’t add anything we haven’t heard before. It is just for fanatic Christians to have an excuse to listen to a clone of Yngwie and certainly they have a lot potential, but they must find their identity and freshen that sappy, cloned and superficial sound, otherwise they will be forgotten as an overrated copycat.
Narnia are mostly a throwback in terms of sound, they’ve had their share of evolution since this debut, but ultimately this band is the closest and purest example of a band that has followed the standard first set by Malmsteen’s Rising Force. They don’t dabble in symphonic sounds as Rhapsody does, they avoid the progressive genre mixing of Magic Kingdom, but they also largely avoid the blues/rock influences in much of Yngwie’s later material. What results is a concentrated re-visitation of what is heard in the mid to late 80s or classic era of Rising Force.
Although stylistically there isn’t really much original going on here, the execution is near flawless. Carljohan Grimmark’s approach to soloing makes use of the same neo-classical tools that Ygnwie is known to employ, though the execution is a bit more reserved, and comes across as more of a storyteller than an impresario. His solos are showy enough, but methodically structured and tend to be shorter than the famed Rising Force axe man. Likewise, the riff approach of many of these songs tends to be somewhat derivative, though very well realized and memorable.
The truly distinctive factor in Narnia’s sound, aside from the Christian themes, is the squeaky clean vocals put forth by Christian Liljegren. He is often derided for lacking power, but this mostly owes to people being used to sleazy approaches to vocals going with this style such as Jeff Scott Soto, Joe Lynn Turner and Michael Vescara. There aren’t many vocalists who just simply put forth a classical tenor range with no grit or grime, not to mention the sometimes over-the-top vocal acrobatic the way Michael Kiske and Bruce Dickinson are known for, but in this particular case it works.
Looking for that one standout track on here is a bit difficult because it is a very consistent listen, but there is some noticeable variation for those looking for different aspects of the power metal sound. Shred fans will obviously go for the well realized hybrid instrumental homage to Yngwie’s “Trilogy Suite” and “Little Savage”, aptly titled “The Return of Aslan” as its sense of triumph matches the event in the first book in the C.S. Lewis series perfectly. Fans of catchy speed metal will like the opener “Break the Chains”, while fans of melodic hooks and powerful choruses will enjoy “No More Shadows from the Past” and “Touch from You”. Even the most unoriginal song on here “Heavenly Love”, which is about as close to sounding like “Dreaming” from The Odyssey as you can get without getting sued (complete with the bass and classical guitar noodling during the ending fade out), is an enjoyable listen.
As far as Narnia’s total catalog goes, this is as good as it gets. It has a crisp production and a consistent approach to songwriting that will sit well with old guard Yngwie fans who didn’t like the changes that began occurring on “Eclipse”. It’s only slightly better than “Long Live the King”, which has virtually the exact same sound and influences but is slightly inferior in the execution department. “Awakening” can be best summed up as a familiar place to return to, it’s predictable, but it never fails to deliver on those few occasions where I do break it out again.
Easily sum this album up in these three words, "Progressive as fuck!" Narnia's debut didn't really do much, probably because of their pro christian themed lyrics, which I myself have no problem with. In fact if you look at this album in a musical point of view it kicks major ass. Narnia's name is taken from the classic C.S. Lewis tales of Narnia, and yes that is a picture of Aslan on the front cover! Most of the time this album sounds pretty progressive, but a lot of the times it sounds like straight neo classical. In fact it is hard to pick out certain riffs as being good or bad, they are all good, just well written. The singing is pretty obvious, its good; sounds a lot like Yngwie Malmsteen. Also some of the lyrics are based on the books The Chronicles of Narnia, which are christian based as well. The solo's are just amazing! Totally Yngwie style, that is neo-classical up and down the fret board scales!!!! Only one spot did I hear a keyboard solos, and that is in the last song, Sign of the Time. Overall musicianship is wonderful, well composed songs and great lyrics. Honestly people who cares what they sing about, the music is fucking amazing. If you like Yngwie Malmsteen, Symphony X, or Kamelot, you got to give this a try!!!!