Review Summary: It’s like like your dream car; it’s absolutely perfect in every way, but it turns out to be a Toyota and ends up being totally undesirable, except for a few things here and there.
Floor Jansen (After Forever, ReVamp) joined Nightwish in place of Anette, along with session player Troy Donockley in 2013, and the Elan EP/maxi-single is the first time we hear both in studio form, having both played live in the past. Troy is quite prominent in Elan, with his woodwind playing, followed by his Uilleann pipes being the first thing to grace your ears. The song serves as the perfect introduction for him. However, Floor’s singing here is rather weak and a terrible showcase of what she is truly capable of. (Like the album itself is much better.) For those who don’t know, drummer Jukka Nevalainen had to take time off from the band due to chronic insomnia. A session drummer stands in his place, with no real noticeable difference.
Elan presents itself as a decent song on its own. It’s fun, catchy and well produced. It’s definitely one of their most accessible, with its pop flavors and not being particularly heavy. Also notable is the Celtic vibe. At the end of the second chorus, the song slows down and plays the main riff on acoustic guitar for a nice and effective change of pace. Then the 3:27 mark happens. At this point, the song becomes kind of terrible. It abruptly changes pace again, gaining a harder edge, and, partly due to the lyrics, becomes extremely cheesy. It then goes into the chorus for a third time. This is where the song becomes overlong, repetitive, and otherwise jarring. Fortunately, the outro soon cues, which is decent, but unable to do anything but clean up it’s own blood from the suicide it just committed.
Included in the package is a totally necessary radio-edit. It’s quite literally nothing you haven't heard before. The cheesiness and jarring repetitiveness are thankfully gone. However, the effective change of pace and the great outro are also gone. In other words, the song tries to solve the problem by making it worse.
If yet another version of a not-so-great song seems like a bad idea, you’d be right. But the Alternate Version of Elan will take you off guard for sure, just because of how purely different it is. Everything is different here, from the tone, the choir and live sound during the first chorus, to the familiar main riff coming afterwards. However, it’s also very inconsistent. From the odd mixing, the fact that the choir and the live sound literally appear during the first chorus alone, to the drum n’ bass inspired beat that appears and goes away erratically throughout the song. Then there’s the pace change problems, cheese and jarring ness yet again, utterly destroying any chance of reconciliation. It’s as if it couldn't handle the death of the main version and killed itself as well.
Sagan is the one original song here. In short, it’s pretty standard. Compared to everything else however, it feels like a magnum opus. It’s a decent song, with no real flaw. In fact, there’s a great woodwind solo from Troy, which alone, automatically makes the song better than Elan.
Tuomas originally wanted Edema Ruh to be the lead single but Troy and Marco persuaded him to instead do Elan. Tuomas was right. Edema Ruh not only sounds more like Nightwish in general, but is infinitely better, has just as much of a pop sound and though not doing Troy much justice, it’s more representative of the album as a whole. Just think of the potential for what could have been the other versions of the song.
Really there are two reasons to reasons to buy this. The first is of course Sagan. The second is the alternate version. Despite being easy to trash on, it’s really quite unique and worth hearing. All versions of Elan have greatness, but are ultimately destroyed by bad decisions. Or, you know, you could just buy it for Sagan.