While writing these words, I've recently learned of Tarja's premature departure from Nightwish. As much as this disheartens me, I truly thank her for the albums she made with the band and I wish her, as well as the remaining members of Nightwish, the best of luck!
Now onto my review...
Over the Hills and Far Away is Nightwish's first and only EP, released in 2001 under the Spinefarm label (and 2005 in the US through Century Media). Comprised of 4 brand-new tracks - a cover, a remake and two original songs written specially for this EP - along with 6 stellar live performances (depending on the version you own), this is a chapter in the Nightwish legacy not to be passed up!
We begin matters with the beautiful rendition of the Gary Moore classic "Over the Hills and Far Away", a song that has been elevated to entirely new proportions, complete with the blaring guitars and soaring operatic vocals we have come to expect from one of the first bands to combine the two. This is probably one of my favorite covers the band has done, head to head with 1998's "Walking in the Air."
Coming next is, one of the greatest Nightwish songs in my opinion, the mesmerizing "10th Man Down", a song written about the gruesome reality of, you guessed it, war. While this song may be depressing, its energetic chorus coupled with vibrant melodic structures easily make it one of the band's top performances.
"Away" falls into the Track 3 slot, and manages to slow things down tremendously, being one of the band's lightest tracks. The chorus to this song is simply unforgettable - I can't see how anyone other than Tarja could pull it off. Definitely not a song to be skipped.
The 2001 remake of "Astral Romance" comes next and, even though I wasn't too hot about the original, is a nice surprise. Taking male vocal duties is none other than Sonata Arctica frontman Tony Kakko - and if you've ever wondered what Nightwish would sound like with DECENT male vocals, listening to this is a must-do. The man really brings out the good in this song - they couldn't have picked someone better.
After this come six live tracks, all taken from From Wishes to Eternity. In order we have - "The Kinslayer", "She Is My Sin", "Sacrament of Wilderness", "Walking in the Air", "Beauty & the Beast" and the closing "Wishmaster." I won't dwell on these individually, as they are all superb, but "Walking..." and "Beauty..." truly shine through as my favorites, the latter of which also features Mr. Kakko on vocals. Just hearing the crowd cheer before and after each song is enough to send chills down your spine. In all honesty, I truly envy the fortunate people who've had the opportunity to see this stellar band perform live.
Well, writing this review has slightly remedied the sadness I was feeling earlier. I guess just thinking about the good times I've had listening to this incredible band is enough to put a smile on my face.