Monday, November 08, 2010

You AreThe Safest Way Into Tomorrow

Trans-Siberian Orchestra's (TSO) long awaited "Night Castle" has had me on a fence of like and disappointed since I first bought the CD the day it was released. What I mean is, I hold TSO to a high order of quality and I felt they let me down.

I've been a longtime fan of Savatage (since "Edge Of Thorns") owning their entire catalogue and loving both their earlier style and the progressively more theatrical turn with their latest albums. I have also been a huge TSO fan (since The Christmas Attic was released) and have been to every TSO show that has come through my area since they stated adding Canadian dates.

I don't say this in order to brag, but simply to state my passion for all things TSO and Savatage. I have yet to be disappointed by a Trans-Siberian Orchestra album to date and after several (disappointing) delays of the release of "Night Castle". I held the double album in my hands and eagerly anticipated giving it a spin.

And it was on this first listen that my heart sank in disappointment. See, here's the thing. It took around 4 odd years to release "Night Castle" and what we got was a rehash of a number of Savatage songs. For example; Savatage's "Prelude To Madness" became TSO's "The Mountain" and Savatage's "Mozart and Madness" became "Mozart and Memories". This to me felt like lazy writing. I mean, they had 4 years and they couldn't record different classical compositions. For crying out loud, they were pushing "Carmina Burana" for years on tour as coming up on the "Night Castle" album and then put it on as a bonus track. What the hell is that about? They could've just used that song instead of "The Mountain" and put the "Prelude To Madness" cover as a bonus track.

Now this may seem rather harsh, but I had high hopes for this album. I had the feeling that "Night Castle" was too simplistic to have taken so long to release. However, much like TSO's "The Lost Christmas Eve", this album has grown on me and I've come to enjoy it quite a lot. "Night Castle" is a double album, so there are plenty of original songs (more so then plenty of rock albums)and if TSO can encourage fans to check out the back catalogue of Savatage, I say Amen, Brother!

If I can lay down one more gripe. A minor one. Trans-Siberian Orchestra has also done a cover of Savatage's "Believe". Although, it is mostly faithful, I find it odd that with 3 great guitarists (Skolnick, Caffery and Pitrelli) they don't do the solo at that carries the song out as brilliantly as the original. I only say this because "Believe" is not only favourite song, but the greatest song ever written. At least for me. The layered solo is absolutely brilliant and in my opinion, essential. It just seems weird that the 3 didn't recreate that solo.

I'm all for making a song your own, but c'mon! That solo is a killer. Anywho, the TSO version on "Night Castle" is pretty good and better then some of the performances of it live. Heck, they tour with 2 guitarists and usually a 3rd when needed by one of the vocalists.

Well, I guess you're wondering what the album is like. I liken it to a mix of Savatage's "Poets & Madmen" with the rock ballad stylings off of TSO's "The Lost Christmas Eve". Add in a hint of Sava's "Dead Winter Dead" and you get the idea. There is a lot of material here, but truly, the album flows well for a running time of 2 hours.

There are the standard instrumentals with the opener "Night Enchanted" along with "The Mountain", "Mozart and Memories", "Moonlight and Madness" and "Toccata-Carpimus Noctern". These are done in the traditional TSO way of taking classical pieces and giving them some metal cred. Or should I say shred.

We have the rockers in "Sparks" which could be a radio hit, "Night Castle", "Another Way You Can Die" and "Father, Son and Holy Ghost" with the wonderful Jennifer Cella on vocals. Tim Hockenberry and the versatile Jeff Scott Soto bring life to the other rockers.

Mainstays Jay Pierce and Rob Evan bring heart and compassion to some of the slower ballad songs like "Childhood Dreams" , "There was a Life" and "Epiphany". And let's not forget the interludes such as "Bach, Lullaby" and "Embers". I should mention here that "There Was A Life" and "Epiphany" are my favourite songs off the album. Both are epic power ballads that exude passion and emotion by the talented Rob Evan.

All in all, "Night Castle" is a solid release (never-minding my initial disappointments). I very much enjoy listening to it now, and the rockier edge allows it to be a little more accessible then "Beethoven's Last Night". For those looking be introduced to Trans-Siberian Orchestra, I would recommend their first 2 Christmas albums "Christmas Eve & Other Stories" and "The Christmas Attic".


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