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At Vance - "Decade" (2-CD Set)

At Vance - "Decade" 2-CD Set cover image

"Decade" track listing:

Disc One:
1. Only Human
2. Take Me Away
3. Take My Pain
4. Heaven
5. Chained
6. Broken Vow
7. The Evil In You
8. Fallen Angel
9. The Curtain Will Fall
10. Dragonchaser
11. Shiver
12. Cold As Ice
13. Flying High (Remastered)
14. Princess Of The Night
15. Heart Of Steel
16. Ride The Sky

Disc Two:
1. Broken Vow (Live)
2. Heroes Of Honour
3. Logical Song
4. Shout
5. Highway Star
6. The Winner Takes It All
7. Money Money
8. S.O.S.
9. Gloomy Monday
10. Wannabe
11. Eye Of The Tiger
12. Desperado
13. Vivaldi/Spring
14. Vivaldi/Summer
15. Solfeggietto
16. Beethoven 5th Symphony
17. Flight Of The Bumblebee
18. Caprice No. 16
19. Bach Invention No. 13
20. Cello Prelude G-Major
21. Chopin Etude No. 4

Reviewed by on February 10, 2011

"European power metal at its most indulgent, At Vance's 'Decade' is a celebration of technical skills and classical forms."

A retrospective of the band's first 10 years, At Vance's "Decade" also seems to serve as a microcosm of the good, bad and ugly of the power metal genre as a whole. It's obsessed with technical skill (guitarist Olaf Lenk often mentions how hard some things are to play in the liner notes). At two discs — and more than two hours long — it's completely overblown. It's got ambitions toward classical stature (the last eight tracks on the second disc are Yngwie-style metal covers of classical songs).

And yet it's impossible not to praise the ambition and skill that goes into creating it — especially when it's done well. And, at least on the first disc, Lenk and his ever-revolving crew of backing singers and players get it right a lot of the time.

Lenk is certainly a master guitarist, with the solos on "Only Human," "Take Me Away" and "Take My Pain" being of the face-melting, mind-bending variety. His riffs aren't anything amazing, but they certainly support the vocals of the several singers who, honestly, most listeners will have a hard time distinguishing between without reading Lenk's notations in the liner notes.

Other highlights of the first disc include the speedy "Dragonchaser," which has a splendidly symphonic-sounding opening, the darker, slower "The Evil In You" and "Shiver," which almost has a Whitesnake vibe to it.

If the band had released "Decade" as a single disc, it probably would've still felt a bit overblown. The second disc puts it completely over the top, with odds-'n-sods ranging from live versions to Japanese bonus tracks, strange covers and rarities.

Granted, there are some good moments on the second disc. The band's take on Supertramp's "Logical Song" adds heaviness while still remaining pretty faithful to the original. "Gloomy Monday" is an interesting descent into doom metal territory, with Lenk coming up with a riff that would do Tony Iommi proud.

Even in the overblown classical section at the end, there are a couple bright spots. "Solfegietto" and "Flight Of The Bumblebee" both give Lenk a chance to show off, and the metal touches (bass, drums and keyboards) don't feel out of place.

On the other hand, there are plenty of just plain bad choices made on the second disc. Three different ABBA covers, including a strained takes on "The Winner Takes It All" and "Money Money," and a surprisingly good "S.O.S.," are probably two too many.

The less said about the horrible versions of Tears For Fears' "Shout," Deep Purple's "Highway Star," the "Rocky" film theme "Eye Of The Tiger" (which even Lenk admits to running hot and cold on) and the Eagles' "Desperado," the better. Also, the eight-minute version of "Beethoven's 5th Symphony" is just flat out terrible. As a friend of mine was fond of joking, "It's boring, but at least it's long, right?"

European power metal at its most indulgent, At Vance's "Decade" is a celebration of technical skills and classical forms. Certainly, there are some great moments to be had here, but for the most part, this is a collection that fans of the genre will enjoy, while others will probably find their attention drifting after the first few tracks.

Highs: "Only Human," "Take Me Away," "Logical Song," "Flight Of The Bumblebee" and "S.O.S."

Lows: Way too many bum tracks on the second disc.

Bottom line: Fans of European power metal will find much to like; others, perhaps not so much.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)