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It's always risky for a band to do a cover song. At best, the band pulls the cover off well, adapts it to their style, and sometimes even makes it just as good as the original. At worst, the band does not transition the song over to their style in a smooth way, the song is butchered beyond recognition, and it draws the ire of their original artists' fans. With Over The Hills And Far Away, Nightwish take an even bigger risk than usual by basing an entire release around a cover song. Fortunately, this EP falls into the former category.
The EP begins with the title track (originally by Gary Moore). The song works because, not only did the band successfully adapt the song into their signature style, but they took an already great song and arguably made it even better. It is a song designed to get the listener into the album, and to capture their attention. In other words, it's the usual Nightwish opening track.
Most of the EP lives up to the expectations set by the title track. Both "10th Man Down" and "Astral Romance", while not being among Nightwish's finer songs, still manage to be good enough to keep people interested, while doing nothing truly impressive. However, "Away" gets a little boring. If it were cut down from 5 minutes to 3 minutes, it would be a much stronger track, but at the length it is, it feels unnecessarily drawn out. The EP sometimes sounds a little unfocused, because while being presented as an entirely new collection of songs, it is a compilation of unreleased tracks (save for the title track).
Ultimately, Over The Hills And Far Away is a solid addition to the Nightwish catalog, that while not being impressive by any stretch of the word, will certainly please fans of the band, and will hopefully leave a positive impression on a new listener.
(Originally written for sputnikmusic.com)
The early 2000s was basically the zenith of the European power metal scene in a collective sense, seeing some of the most brilliant works coming out of a host of different bands from north to south. Two particular bands on the the northern end of things in particular were that of Nightwish and Sonata Arctica, the latter of which saw their magnum opus "Silence" released at around the time vocalist Tony Kakko made this one time studio collaboration with Nightwish. This is both bands before they abandoned their roots and saw key members of their lineups cut ties for greener (though not as green as the original) pastures, ergo this is both bands back when they were actually playing power metal rather than experimenting with mallcore and modern pop influences.
This EP basically centers around the Gary Moore cover that it's named after, which is both brilliantly innovative in its adaptation and also very faithful to the original. A greater emphasis is placed upon the drum work and its relation to the thickness of the guitar sound, resulting in a sound that has about twice as much punch as the original, though Tarja's angelic croon and the keyboards definitely soften the arrangement a bit. For the most part this thing runs along similar lines to several remakes of "Out In The Field" that have sprung up over the past 17 years in power metal circles, where there is a good deal of tinkering around the edges, but nothing drastic enough to really rob the song of its original folksy, Celtic charm. In fact, Nightwish puts a greater emphasis on the archaic character of the primary theme to the point of doing a historic reenactment of pre-modern Northern Europe.
The accompanying songs that round out the arrangements are all cut from the same grain as the preceding LP "Wishmaster", taking things from less of a speed metal angle (unlike "Oceanborn") but still keeping it a bit more animated and exciting than "Century Child". The most poignant of the bunch is definitely "10th Man Down", which plays up the keyboard presence to the point of sounding like a Viking funeral while telling the tale of a man driven mad by what he has on the battlefield. Special note should also be given to the remake of "Astral Romance" featuring Tony Kakko in duet with Tarja, a duo that is more equally matched in terms of vocal abilities and an arrangement that is given a stronger edge to it by putting more gusto into the production. Those who have gotten one of the numerous special editions will note a respectable collection of live material from the height of the "Wishmaster" tour in the closing days of 2000, one or two of them being "Angels Fall First" songs also featuring Tony Kakko filling in the vocal duties of Tuomas.
It's nothing short of a tragedy that this band split up not long after putting together such an impressive array of pioneering albums that have come to redefine the concept of merging mainstream melodic hooks and the consonant beauty of symphonic and operatic common practice period music with the underground aggression of metal. Imitators have been numerous, but few of them have managed to be as potent and as enticing as the original. There's a little bit of old and a bit of new to be found here for the starving poet in all of us, a veritable range of mountains caught in the clouds, signified through an ingenious game of notes and timbres that has become a staple of female fronted bands from Northern Europe to East Asia.
Over the Hills and Far Away is a sort of bridge in Nightwish's discography. Proceeding it are the albums Angels Fall First, Oceanborn, and Wishmaster, which can be summarized simply: stark melodies, blaring operatic vocals, wild keyboards, powerful guitars, catchy drumming... And then the three albums after it, which are smoother, less hectic, and perhaps a bit darker. Over The Hills and Far Away links the two styles of Nightwish, syncing the energies and passion of their early releases with the confidence of their later ones.
With just four songs, this EP gives a short, but sweet taste of what Nightwish has to offer. I would especially recommend this release to new listeners, as it is a perfect sampler. The four tracks each show a different side of Nightwish, making it a showcase of what they can and do contribute to the metal scene.
"10th Man Down" is a very strong track that builds up significantly, until the end where the listener can experience Nightwish at its most powerful (perhaps "angriest" even...) to date. And following that is "Away", a track with a soft, sleepy sound that is among the calmest you can find in the genre (though Nightwish has done mellower...).
The title track, "Over The Hills and Far Away", is unquestioningly one of Nightwish's most endearing tracks. While remarkably catchy, this cover could be considered the pinnacle of female-fronted metal for its perfect balance of feminine vocals and powerful metal music. And the final track here is Astral Romance, a remake of a favorite off their debut. The improved production and the fresh take on Astral Romance helps make this old Nightwish "classic" into something more accessible to audiences, while still honoring the "youthful" and inspired vibe of the original.
This effort not only effectively paved the way for future Nightwish releases, but it marks a strong time in Nightwish's history, where the artists seem to have fresh ideas and a pulsating passion for the music they create, yet still strive to satisfy the listener (a balance that could be considered off in other releases).
"Over the Hills and Far Away" is the only EP that Nightwish ever released. The sound doesn't differ a lot from the previous release; "Wishmaster". It is, however, superior.
This EP contains two original tracks, one cover and one remake. A track-by-track review is unavoidable here since there are too few songs.
"Over the Hills & Far Away" - Although I wouldn't start an album with a cover, this is still pretty good. I've heard the original track, and I can say that Nightwish made a good job in improving it. It's got excellent drumming and also some cool guitar work from Emppu. The chorus is very catchy and Tarja amazes with her operatic vocals. However, it's not as stunning as the two following tracks.
"Tenth Man Down" - This song has all it takes to be Nightwish's best song. It contains: one of their best lyrics yet, a mesmerizing atmosphere, a very catchy chorus, great vocal work from Tarja and amazing musicianship overall. The song talks about war. It has a lot of moans (sorry, couldn't find a better word) from Tarja that give the song an ambient feeling to it. It also has a clean male voice protesting in the middle of the song. In a few words, it's their best track to date. It's actually the reason why this EP got such a high rating from me.
"Away" - This is also a Nightwish jewel. It's a very soft song that gives out a sense of freedom (not lyrically, musically). When you hear it, you can't help closing your eyes and imagining clear skies and mountains. It has a catchy chorus which contains one of my favorite lines (which is shown in my review title). Tarja is exceptionally good here. I cannot think of another female vocalist who can sing this song as perfect as Tarja Turunen.
"Astral Romance" - This is my only slight disappointment in the EP. It's a good track, but not up to the same standard of the previous three tracks. It's a remake from the song present in the band's debut album. It might sound great if you haven't heard the original, but it will only disappoint you if you have. Instead of Tuomos, we have Tony Kakko (from Sonata Arctica) singing the male vocal parts. His voice is good, but I prefer Tuomos (I guess I'm one of the very few who think so). Musically, this track is heavier than the debut, but lacks the same originality and beauty. However, it's still a decent listen, and is by no means worth skipping.
As for the live tracks, they're a must if you're a Nightwish fan. Apparently there are a lot of versions, but I'd recommend the Drakkar release (because the release with "Beauty & the Beast" can be a disappointment if you're like me and prefer Tuomos' singing over Tony's).
Overall, this album has 2 awesome tracks ("Tenth Man Down" and "Away"), one good cover ("Over the Hill and Far Away") and one decent remake ("Astral Romance"). I know the rating might be a bit too generous for that, but the greatness of "Tenth Man Down" is just too great for me to give this album less than a 9/10. It's a song that's worth ten times the price of this EP. I mean, you cannot possibly give a low rating to an EP containing the best track from a band, can you?
Except for the live tracks, this album only has four songs, with one of them a remake of a song that formerly appears in Nightwish¡¯s first album. But this fact has no influence in my comment of this album, I think if you want to know which kind of music Nightwish make and how is their music, listening to this album is the best and easiest way.
Actually, the music style of Nightwish is not so complex. The first three songs of this album, over the hill and far away, 10th man down and away, can substantially summarize all their works in the last three albums. For the first one, it is a typical one of the main fast-song style, and just like their former work, stargazer, she is my sin, etc, representing a primary factor that make Nightwish distinguishable with other bands. Regarding the second one and the third one, they are mid-tempo and slow-pace, respective, and generalize their main manner of the song structure, the arrangement of the relationship between various instrument and vocal. For me, and someone else who have listened to all of the Nightwish¡¯s albums, when you listen to these three songs, there may be many other Nightwish¡¯s works into your memory.
For the live tracks, they are all Nightwish¡¯s excellent work in the last three albums, and together with the first four studio works, you can roughly get your own idea of them.
This E.P. is worth picking up, but find the version with the live tracks which is in common circulation, even more than the version without them it seems! The title track is a Gary Moore cover, and even though I've never heard the original, Nightwish certainly have made a cracking version to my ears. I might have even mistaken it for original if I had not known it were a cover. The next two tracks are our last taste of Nightwish's "Oceanborn" and "Wishmaster" era style, before the direction turn of Century Child. They sound a lot like the songs from the "Wishmaster" album, but not so good that they could have fit comfortably into the album. They just seem to pass by without stirring me as much. The remade version of "Astral Romance" is good but I feel it doesn't add anything that improves the original even with a different vocalist in place of Tuomas. The live tracks are the highlight of the album really, and the band puts on an exhilirating performance of material mainly from their last two albums and one song from "Angels Fall First". With only 6 tracks it leaves no room for disappointment of favourite songs missed out, and remains the easiest live document of this band to find. Hardly any errors are to be found and the atmosphere created is incredible, even in such a short space of time. It makes the prospect of seeing the band live even more enticing!
Perhaps the best recorded work by Nightwish! However, it is a shame that this was made into an EP instead of a regular album. If it was a regular album, this would have been one of the greatest Nightwish albums! Probably the best song on this album is 10th Man Down, the intro of bloody screams and bullets ripping across a battlefield sets the emotion of the listner up. It is a very moving song about war, and has one of the coolest chorus riffs. And when the man is talking in the middle of the song, that is just the best part becuase everything mixes together. And it doesnt sound choppy, just perfect and in time. The other really great song on this album is Over The Hills And Far Away. If there is a reason to but this album it is because of this song. The drum beat at the beginning of this song kicks ass, plus it also shows how everything mixes well, including the symphonics and the guitars. There are some other good songs on here, but the rest is all live stuff! Usually when bands put live stuff on albums like these it usually sucks goat balls, but not this time. There is no problems with this live stuff. All the sounds are clear, no instrument is overpowering any other, you can still hear the crowd, the mixing is in time..etc. Plus they pick all there great songs, most of them from Wishamster. Plenty of killer riffs and symphonic madness! A wonderful album for any metalhead.
The Over The Hills and Far Away Nightwish ep is the last recording of Nightwish before they stopped having Tarja sing operatic vocals, this is also their last Symphonic recording. Century Child is a bit Symphonic, but its more a pop metal album than Symphonic Operatic Metal. This ep has some solid tracks on it, Over The Hills And Far Away is a great classic Symphonic Operatic Nightwish song. Very easily to get into it, flowing, melody, this track has it all. This is defiantly the high point of the album. Tarja sings with alot of power on this track too. Away is a very pretty track, peaceful, and ambient. Tarja sings a little less operatic on this track, but it works well, very pretty. The drums and singing on this album is what really stands out. The drums for one are very loud, but it works well. Gives the songs volume and size.
Astral romance is off Nightwishes greatest album, Angels Fall First, the remastered version is really anything better than the origonal, but its a nice track to have on it.
The Drakkar Import has some nice live songs, if you are going buy this ep get the drakkar import, has many additional live tracks. You'll get more for you money. Overall this ep leaves me wanting more. Not bad for what it is though. Great music, just needs more origonal tracks.