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One of my principle complaints about the “Once” album, which was my least favorite of all the Nightwish LPs but still a good release, was a lack of emphasis on the guitar as a lead instrument. What originally gave Nightwish their strength was the marriage of guitar driven power metal with intricate leads along with the gothic female soprano vocals and the keyboards for atmosphere. What happened on Once was that the latter two gained a little too much prominence at the expense of the former.
“The Siren” is an exception to that rule, featuring an interesting main lead riff that puts a middle-eastern twist on open string pull off riffs similar to the one on Maiden’s “Wasted Years”. The song is basically a retelling of the part of the Odyssey where Ulysses’ ship passes the island of the Sirens; only in this case the Siren plays the violin rather than sings. Tarja’s voice adapts well to the unusual mix of opera and eastern music, while Marco’s vocal role is fairly limited.
This EP actually contains 3 different versions of the same song, which may seem like a bit much, but does actually serve a point. Unfortunately the song is a little bit long for the 4 minutes or less crowd that tune into the video and swallow its lies, so they have to make a radio version where they slash out a whole chorus and shorten the fade out section to make it a moment shorter. I personally think this wasn’t necessary, but it was probably a better call than cutting the violin solo, which would have negated the purpose of the song’s lyrics.
The live version features Tuomas playing a keyboard solo instead of their being a violin player commissioned to do the solo live, which is an interesting change up, unlike the fact that Marco’s vocals are louder than Tarja’s during the chorus which hurts the song a bit. The live version of “Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan” is just as beautiful as the studio version and just slightly more intimate for the listener as it showcases that even in one take Tarja is flawless behind the microphone.
Fortunately I was able to pick up the Finnish version of this so I didn’t have to suffer through the lame cover of “Symphony of Destruction” again, which would have dragged the single down quite a bit. Most of you who would buy this EP for the live material will likely get stuck with it so just heed my advice and hit the skip button, you’ll thank me later. If you’re a Nightwish fan and you want 2 solid live performances of songs from “Once” that you can’t get on any other current releases, this is definitely a worthy purchase.