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Here's to the good old days. - 90%

hells_unicorn, May 4th, 2013

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.