Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Night Castle

The main composer and mastermind behind Trans-Siberian Orchestra is Paul O’Neil. When you know your Savatage classics his name should ring a bell. The Savatage connection is further strengthened by people like Jon Oliva, Bob Kinkel and Al Pitrelli and various other musicians who were active in this late band. Trans-Siberian Orchestra is a very successful enterprise with several millions of records sold and sold-out tours across the biggest venues in the U.S. Night Castle is their latest creation, so let’s take a closer look.

Savatage are still one of my favourite bands, so listening to Night Castle is a somewhat awkward and nostalgic experience. It’s a concept album spread over two compact discs and it shares many musical similarities with Streets: A Rock Opera, Gutter Ballet, Dead Winter Dead and The Wake Of Magellan. In fact, Trans-Siberian Orchestra are very much Savatage in spirit, beefed up with a whole cast of classically trained vocalists and additional musicians in a rock opera setting.

This brings me in a very difficult position on how to judge Night Castle. I don’t hear anything new really. Songs like Childhood Dreams, Time Floats On, Orchestra Sparks, Another Way You Can Die and Tracers could have easily been included on Streets, Gutter Ballet or Dead Winter Dead. This notion is further strengthened by the presence of re-worked versions of Mozart And Madness, Believe and In The Hall Of The Mountain King on this album. They really fit in with the rest of the material, but somehow it simply doesn’t feel right. I guess it’s a form of legalized plagiarism.

On a positive note those songs finally get the attention they richly deserve and the sheer musical scope of Night Castle is simply mind blowing. The music on this album is quite bombastic at times, but it’s done in a very tasteful way. Everything’s simply there where it should be. Paul O Neil’s love for classical music becomes apparent in instrumental parts like Carmina Burana, Mozart And Madness, Night Enchanted and some other parts. Finally, the production of Night Castle is simply flawless.

Night Castle by Trans-Siberian Orchestra is a classic case of mixed emotions. In one way I view it as a fitting tribute to Savatage and the specific style they’ve created. The execution of this rock opera is impeccable and it’s done with obvious passion and love. However, somewhere deep inside it simply doesn’t feel right. Despite this, it’s a great alternative for the usual Christmas drivel by Mariah Carey and Wham…

written by Raymond Westland

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