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At the tail end of Nightwish’s 10 year era with opera impresario Tarja Turunen at the helm there was a sudden outpouring of best of compilations, varying only slightly from each other. One might see this from the view of hindsight as a foreshadowing of the band’s split, as commercial success tends to go to everyone’s heads even with a history of paying their dues on the road. But regardless of where this newfound commercial viability would lead to, like with all compilations, a standard of value must be set in order to determine the worthiness of the pick up, be it from a standpoint of rarity procurement, cash saving for those not industrious enough to pick up the discography, or just for the sheer listening experience (which is obsolete with the advent of the playlist).
“Tales From The Elvenpath” is essentially the best of the 3 compilations that are put out, in all 3 categories. The ebb and flow of the pacing from one song to the next on here is well realized, as each song is crafted for a wide audience, yet varying enough from one to the next to listen like an album rather than a portfolio. From the catchiest upper tempo singles of “Wishmaster” and “End Of All Hope”, to still catchy yet too fast for rock power metal ala “Sacrament Of Wilderness” and “Stargazers”, and the large collection of ballads and half-ballads, there is a river of consistency that keeps things flowing and a familiar atmosphere that pervades each contrasting song. All of these songs are hits in their own right, although not all of them necessarily have the same multitude of avid fans hitting the repeat button an equal number of times.
But the place where the job really gets done here is in the rarities department, as a hearty collection of b-sides from the many out of print singles in the band’s earlier history have found their way on here. Some may not necessarily go for the ambient, techno quality of “Lagoon”, while others might find the slow grooving, atmospheric nature of “Sleepwalker” a little plain next to the inventive compositions that made it onto here from the “Oceanborn” and “Wishmaster” albums, but along with more characteristic metal anthems in “Nightquest” and “The Wayfarer”, they are not necessarily easy to come by so if you’re curious, this is the place to go.
Unless the aim of the would be owner of a Nightwish compilation doesn’t feel his/her purchase is complete without a few offerings from the more folksy debut “Angels Fall First” or the modern, gothic rock tinged and controversial final album with Tarja “Once”, this is the one to purchase. But if you’re bent a bit towards one of those other two albums, one or two of the compilations that would follow this might be the way to go. Since the most characteristically power metal oriented songs from Nightwish’s catalog are found here, this is naturally my preferred compilation, not to mention that the epic album art is a cut above the Sonata Arctica oriented visuals on “Highest Hopes”. But to each his own I suppose.