Decade covers the entire first ten years of the band, and is broken down into two discs. The first disc acts as the band’s official best of collection, which starts out with the band’s breakout single “Only Human”, which is one of their most well known, as well as most influential and powerful songs recorded. The performance in that songs has never really been matched in other songs, though the general vibe and atmosphere has been throughout the years, such as with the song “Broken Vow”, which actually just sounds like a rashed and slowed down version of “Only Human”, right down to the closing background vocal performance following the exact same pattern and higher pitched line. It’s also not as strong as any of the other material on this release.
As you go through this compilation, you’re going to hear plenty of similarities between songs outside of that, but none so blatently obvious as “Broken Vow”. Of course, there’s a good amount of strong tracks on here, but there are just some that just weren’t genuinely some of the band’s strongest material. “The Evil in You” is a fantastic slower paced song that is very strong and well composed and performed, as well as “Heaven”, which is just a cheesy Power Metal ballad done right. Of course, “Take My Pain” is a strong track, but fans of the band may step back and ask why this one is here, as it doesn’t really capture the ability to captivate through classical music, or even feature a powerful, energetic performance by the band like “Fallen Angel” can do. One of the main appeals to this best of collection is the “remastered” version of the song “Flying High”, but it really doesn’t sound like it’s been remastered to the best of anyone’s abilities.
While disc one of Decade makes a good jump on point for those who either never heard of the band, or are rather new to the group, the bonus disc is something that only the die hard fans will really embrace, if they even can. The disc includes twenty one tracks total, and features a lot of b-side material that either did or did not make it onto any At Vance recording. “Broken Vow” makes another appearance on this release, which is disheartening to the die-hard fans since it appeared on the Digipack version of VII. “Heroes of Honour”, however, is an original composition by At Vance that makes it’s debut on this recording, and it’s about what you would expect from the band with their more recent material, focusing more on a fantastical sound in a traditional Power Metal sound and some keyboards in the background for some added effect. Of course, this pretty much ends the original b-side material for the band, as the rest is what was alluded to as far as the material for the die-hards is concerned.
Disc two is essentially cut up into two different groups outside the first two tracks. Over the years, At Vance has done various covers that appeared on their full-lengths, so finding a good selection of their covers here is no shock. There are eight total on this collection, and they range from bland to mildly entertaining. “Logical Song”, originally by Supertramp is a rather boring track, and the cover of Deep Purple‘s “Highway Star” pretty much has no bite and is nowhere near as energetic as the original, as well as has a chorus that is just very hollow. Some of the better songs on here happen to be the cover of Tears for Fears song “Shout”, though it’s not that fantastic, “Eye of the Tiger” is also an enjoyable track and one of the better ones on here that actually suits the band’s style, as well as the ABBA cover songs, which are perhaps the most entertaining of all, and not just the fact that there’s three and it happens to be ABBA. Of course, for some stupid reason, there’s a random chunk of two songs that interrupt this group of covers, which honestly should have went right after “Heroes of Honour”, even though looking at the names one would suspect they are cover too, but it’s clear they are not, especially in the case of “Wannabe” which could have been linked to the Spice Girls single of the same name. The latter of the two is the most enjoyable, while “Gloomy Monday” is more of a Doomish approach and is also rather bland, though very dark.
After that, Decade just turns into an insult on those who enjoy classical performances and overtures. The closing six songs are various renditions of classical compositions by famous composers such as Beethoven, Bach, and Chopin, and as a fan of Classical music myself, all I can say is that these are horrible, hollow, and lack any sort of kick that the originals had, with or without an entire orchestra behind them. Of course, some of them actually aren’t too bad. “Vivaldi/Spring” and “Vivaldi/Summer” are actually rather enjoyable, though they do sound a little hollow, but the classical composition is honored nicely in the guitar with some orchestral atmosphere added by the keyboards, and “Solfeggietto” is a nice guitar performane of the song and is actually rather impressive as far as the skill to perform it goes. But “Beethoven’s 5th Symphony” sounds like something that would have been pulled from a video game and sounds a little further back in the recording then the rest of the material here. Though the recording itself is not necessarily bad, it’s simply uninspiring, and “Flight of the Bumblebee” is an absolute joke, though the guitar itself is keeps up a nice pace, mostly falling prey to the horrible sounding silly bass and keyboards backing it up that make it sound more like some kind of classical recreation from an Oompa band at times. With exception to “Chopin Etude No. 4”, the rest are essentially just one instrument performances, and they are actually rather good.
Decade is really just a release that will find a home among those that are new to the band, and the die-hard collectors and fans. The compilation is not bad, though there is plenty to work with, and many songs that pack more kick then some chosen for the first disc do exist. The second disc features some nice original material, but the good chunk of it’s contents are a little lacking, and some classical renditions performed are really not that inspiring, or can be a bit of a joke. Of course, for those who are new to the band, it’s a great deal for the money you’ll put down, as there’s over two and a half hours of music presented here, so this release is more dependent on the listener’s background with the group then whether it generally sucks or not. There’s still some great performances captured in the studio that appear on both discs, but if you already have them, there’s no real reason to look into it outside a few unreleased tracks you can pick out at an MP3 store. Overall though, it’s a nice package, but the ball was dropping on some of the selections for the second CD, leaving much of it bland and forgettable.