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My history with this album goes back to my Audiogalaxy days, when I was too poor to afford the ridiculous added cost for importing the bands that played in the style that my country (USA) has long since forgotten. During that time I was basically doing common searches for bands that sounded like what I had already heard; namely Helloween, Gamma Ray and Iron Maiden because that was most of what I knew of outside of the 80s acts that had either called it quits in the 80s or had faded into obscurity. When I encountered Narnia I expected something light and happy, but I was skeptical of how good it would actually be.
In many ways this album listens like Malmsteen’s “Odyssey”; with a fair share of Neo-classical inspired riffs, drums turned up and loaded with reverb, and active keyboards. However, the vocal approach of Christian Liljegren is even lighter and cleaner than post-Rising Force Yngwie vocalist Göran Edman, and yet somehow it’s also a bit more conducive to this style of music. Carljohan Grimmark’s lead playing is actually the best pure Yngwie worship I’ve heard, even more faithful to the original than Dushan Petrossi. Since comparisons between this band and its younger brother Magic Kingdom are no doubt unavoidable due to similarity in sound; in terms of an overall body of work, Narnia has the edge over them and Petrossi’s other project Iron Mask combined, though “Metallic Tragedy” is superior as a single effort.
When compared with the bulk of Narnia’s work, “Long Live the King” is the lightest sounding of all of them, particularly in terms of its overall production. The texture is extremely consonant, layered with many interconnecting keyboard themes and a heavily reverb drenched rhythm section. The guitars are able to punch through, but share an equal level of prominence with the rest of the instrumentation. The vocal mix during the choruses are well realized, but place greater emphasis on one voice rather than the equally balanced 3 and 4 part harmonies heard on an At Vance or Edguy album. It is interesting to also note that unlike Mark Boals and Goran Edman, both of whom he is often compared to, Liljegren doesn’t overuse the high notes and actually sings through most of the songs.
As far as picking stand out tracks, it is interesting to note that a disproportionate amount of attention is paid to the longer songs on here, despite this sort of straightforward power metal style tending to work better in shorter, smaller doses. “Shelter through the Pain”, “Dangerous Game”, “Star over Bethlehem” and the title track are all graced with long solo sections and drawn out bridges between each change in feel. In particular, the solo on “Shelter through the Pain” is the best one on here, and invokes a formula of exposition, climax, and resolution that Yngwie often chooses not to bother with, even though he is Carljohan’s chief influence. Likewise, “Dangerous Game” is an excellent homage to the Trilogy classic speed metal tracks “Liar” and “Fury”, but with a harpsichord line at the forefront and a more centered vocal performance.
Yngwie fans who unable to wait any longer for his next LP to come out and who aren’t bothered by the Christian undertones of the Narnia story are encouraged to pick this up. It has all of the best elements of his late 80s Rising force work and in a more reserved fashion. Fans of late 90s power metal acts such as Magic Kingdom, Vanishing Point, and At Vance will also be taken in by this, although lyrically it is much lighter in subject matter than what they put out.