|Musical Style: Power/Progressive Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: MCM Music||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2006||Artist Website: Narnia|
|Tracks: 13||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 67:37|
At Short Notice: Live In Germany, the first official live album from the Swedish power/progressive metal outfit Narnia, can trace its origins back to a live performance of the band that was recorded in Owens, Germany on March 29, 2003. Initially released on DVD by MCM Music and Massacre Records a year later, At Short Notice, unfortunately, came out only in PAL format (which is compatible with DVD players in Europe). The NTSC version – which is compatible with DVD players in North America – was later released by Golden Hill in Brazil but with Portuguese sub-titles since the songs are sung in English. At this point, MCM Music stepped forward and made the very wise decision to re-issue At Short Notice on audio CD in February of 2006. The good news is that the CD includes all of the tracks from the bands set list with the exception of “War Preludium” – a short instrumental that opened the bands fourth album The Great Fall – and “Guitar Solo”. (I will leave this one to your imagination.) The bad news, of course, is that the CD fails to incorporate all the bonus features characteristic of the DVD release such as band interviews and rare film footage from recording sessions, live shows and touring – which makes finding a DVD version of At Short Notice essential.
Narnia, in my opinion, has always been a vehicle to showcase the combined talents of vocalist Christian Rivel and guitarist Carl Johan Grimmark. And such is the case with At Short Notice. Rivel, if anything, sounds much more relaxed and “at home” in a live setting, cutting loose with several ear piercing screams throughout the show that are almost never found on the corresponding studio version of each song. If you are a fan of Grimmark, then you have come to the right place, his pyrotechnical and at times neo-classical influenced playing standing out best on tracks such as “Inner Sanctum”, “No Time To Lose” and “Long Live The King”. But Narnia is not just Rivel and Grimmark in that the rhythm section of drummer Andreas Johansson and bassist Andreas Olsson puts in a very strong showing as well. Linus Kase adds just the right amount of touch on keyboards.
Production values are excellent, providing for just the right amount of polish while allowing each member of the band to stand out in the mix. The audience, at the same time, is mixed prominently enough to help give the album that needed “live” feel.
By no means, however, is At Short Notice perfect for a live album. With Grimmark being the lone exception (twice), at no point are the members of the band introduced to the audience. At the same time, I find it somewhat disappointing that nearly half of the bands thirteen song set list comprises material from its sophomore effort Long Live The King. Not that there is anything wrong with LLTK, but I would like to have heard an additional track or two – such as the catchy “Innocent Blood” or the fast paced “Judgement Day” – from Narnia’s most recent outing (at the time) The Great Fall. It also would have made sense to include at least one more from the underrated Desert Land as well.
“Introduction” gets things going to the sound of the audience cheering in the background before Johansson takes over on drums. Eventually, a guitar line with a Middle Eastern feel to it fades in and carries the song over its final minute.
I could not think of a better track to open a Narnia live album than the awesome “Inner Sanctum”. Kicking in at an upbeat tempo, a plethora of guitar driven energy takes over and urges the song to an imposing chorus with a deep and resounding feel. Upon reaching its instrumental section, however, Rivel introduces Grimmark who proceeds to cut loose in fast fingered fashion over the next minute.
“The Mission” ranks among the better tracks to appear hear from Long Live The King. Rivel exclaims, “We are Narnia and this is our mission” before a well placed mix of guitar and keyboards drives the song its distance at an even mid-tempo pace. Rivel really puts in a very fine performance here, delivering several ear piercing screams to help put the song over the top.
“The Countdown Has Begun”, the first of three straight numbers from The Great Fall, does a good job of highlighting Johansson’s frenetic performance on drums, particularly on double bass. As a matter of fact, the band really sounds tight as a nail here in making what is pretty much a laid back – but very good – number come across that much more energetic in a live setting.
Rivel lets loose with another one of his trademark screams as “Back From Hell” embarks to a prodigious amount of upfront guitar driven momentum. No detail, including the monster rhythm guitar sound fortifying its hard hitting chorus and Grimmark’s distorted over-the-top guitar solo, has been overlooked. The song even closes out its final minute to the same wailing sirens and narration found on its studio counterpart.
The energy level decreases slightly with the slower but no less worth “No Time To Lose”. Grimmark’s guitar forms a perfect union with Olsson’s punchy bass as “No Time To Lose” steadily progresses through its verse portions, a smooth sounding environment established as the song reaches its immaculate chorus. An extensive two minute plus instrumental section is driven by a fluid but fierce guitar solo allowed to stand out perfectly in the mix. Beautiful.
“Long Live The King” makes for a very good transition to a live setting as a result of its sublime feel. As the song reaches its instrumental section, Rivel again introduces Grimmark who steps to the plate with an abundance of bluesy metallic flavored lead guitar work. I like how the pace temporarily tapers off for interplay between Rivel and the audience who gets the crowd to song along to the melody to the songs chorus.
Rivel proceeds to cut loose and display the abundant range to his voice during the introduction to “Living Water”. Once the song takes off at a nice upbeat tempo, an emotional setting is created as it conveys in no uncertain terms a salvation message:
I’ve been running all my life
To find some peace of mind
Searching for the treasure everywhere
I met Jesus Christ
He’s the Son of God
He’s the One who healed my broken heart
Upon reaching its catchy chorus, however, Rivel adds an element of grit and gravel to his vocal delivery. I like how the lead guitar and keyboards dual at the beginning of another extended instrumental section.
“Shelter Through The Pain”, the albums lone ballad, opens slowly to a quietly played guitar line as the audience claps in unison in the background. After the rhythm guitar crashes to the forefront of the mix, the song transitions to its first verse prior to flowing to a chorus accentuated by just the right amount of keyboards. Johansson’s drums stand out cleanly in the mix throughout a lengthy instrumental section carried by a bluesy guitar solo.
It only makes sense that the albums fastest song, “Dangerous Game”, would follow a ballad. Rivel repeatedly asks the audience if it likes fast songs before bursting out, “Because here is a dangerous game.” The sweeping keyboard solo that steps forward gives way to a fast pace riff as Rivel unloads with another one of his banshee-like screams. The keyboards in question return to add just the right amount of effect as the song attains a chorus driven at a good upbeat tempo.
The two songs from Narnia’s debut Awakening, “Awakening” and “Break The Chains”, really come to life in a live setting.
The albums terrific production shines as a near perfect mix of rhythm guitar and keyboards introduces “Awakening”. The bass guitar, at the same time, cleanly stands out in the mix as the song moves ahead to a duet between Rivel and a member of the band (Grimmark?) who, unfortunately, is not identified in the albums packaging. More ardent lead guitar work brings out the best in a song with a meaningful message:
I stood there waiting for the dawn
My tears were flowing and my sins faded away
The One who has power is the One who breaks the bond
Let the only Son of God cleanse your soul
After Rivel screams, “And Jesus Christ is alive!” at the end of “Awakening”, “Break The Chains” begins as an abundance of the bands trademark energy helps propel its verse portions, the song picking up further in pace for a smooth sounding chorus backed by pounding drums. Once more, Grimmark is right on target as his mercurial lead guitar work is brought directly to the front of the mix.
“The Witch And The Lion” gets underway to a ton of upbeat momentum as Johansson puts on a literal clinic with his tight sounding work on double bass, the energy-laden atmosphere maintained as the song attains its fleeting but sharp sounding chorus. Rivel brings the album to a strong conclusion by shouting, “The witch and the Lion- and the witch is dead!”
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Introduction” (2:23), “Inner Sanctum” (5:49), “The Mission” (4:04), “The Countdown Has Begun” (5:05), “Back From Hell” (7:26)j, “No Time To Lose” (6:53), “Long Live The King” (5:52), “Living Water” (3:58), “Shelter Through The Pain” (4:49), “Dangerous Game” (5:06), “Awakening” (5:47), “Break The Chains” (5:40), “The Witch And The Lion” (4:31)
Christian Rivel – Lead Vocals
Carl Johan Grimmark – Guitars
Andreas Olsson – Bass
Andreas Johansson – Drums
Linus Kase – Keyboards
Also Reviewed: Narnia – The Great Fall, Narnia - Enter The Gate, Narnia - Decade Of Confession, Audiovision – The Calling, Divinefire – Glory Thy Name, Divinefire - Hero, Divinefire - Into A New Dimension, Divinefire - Farewell, Flagship – Maiden Voyage, Grimmark - Grimmark, Saviour Machine – Legend 111:1, System Breakdown – 102, Wisdom Call – Wisdom Call