"Believe". If there is one word in the English language that can sum up the music and stories that Paul O'Neil and Company conjure up it is that one. Their latest epic tale is finally here and yes they have beat McDonalds on Mars as the band has jested about on tour for the last few years. Was it worth the wait? Let me just tell you that if there is one disc that you purchase this year, this has to be it.
Let's start with the story. As with all the tales that Paul has produced it is one that deals with faith, hope, fate and the inherent belief that there is good in all people. Without giving the storyline away, let me just say that one of the most unlikely folks you will meet is shown the power of love and faith. He also comes face to face with another twist of fate that shows to him that people do have choices. It is what we do with those choices that determine our destiny.
O'Neil also makes it clear that everyone can make a difference. In this story, one man touches the lives of many across the globe and in such a way as he will never know. Sometimes it is the smallest act that gives the biggest reward. This is quite a story, one for the ages and a timeless tale that I cannot wait to share with my daughter and hopefully for her to pass on to her kids someday. If you take anything away from these discs, I would hope it is the message that Mr. O'Neil is delivering.
And how he delivers it!! With all the pomp of a Broadway spectacular, O'Neil and TSO bring you a musical masterpiece that will have you on edge one moment and weeping like a baby the next. Breathtaking in its scope, this is as good of a concept work that you can ever imagine finding. Using the style of telling a part of the story and then musically creating that scene, TSO brings to life the tale of Night Castle vividly with the wide array of musical talent at their disposal.
Starting off with the guitarist: Paul himself, Al Pitrelli, Chris Caffery, Angus Clark and Alex Skolnick, TSO has a virtual high powered six string arsenal! They deliver a multitude of styles that combine to create some of the most majestic metal moments you will hear. This shines through very much in many of the instrumental tracks such as "The Mountain (Hall of the Mountain King)", "Tocatta-Carpimus Noctem" and the closing track to the story "Embers". Of course this is not the only places they shine as this is a disc that has been in the works for so long that every note and nuance is so well thought out you should expect to hear only the most phenomenal music. These guys deliver big time!
The magic of the TSO is in a large part the work of not only the orchestration but also the way that they bring a very epic feel to all they produce thanks to the glorious keyboardist involved. Co-Producer Robert Kinkel along with the legend Jon Oliva, Luci Butler, Shih-Yi Chiang, Jane Mangini and Derek Wieland bring the music to a level that is unsurpassed. Just a couple examples would be the amazing "Dreams We Conceive" and the exhilarating "Moonlight And Madness". These are just two of many fantastic keyboard moments on Night Castle.
Drums are handled by John O.Reilly and the man…Jeff Plate. One of the highlights of each years TSO concert for me is seeing the drum solo by Jeff and I usually hate drum solos! On this disc they both bring just the right touch no matter where the music takes them. Never overpowering but done with the idea of complimenting the story, it is that cymbal crash or the dynamic roll at the perfect time that is the final touch that completes the picture TSO is painting.
The voices of TSO are some of the most dynamic artist on this planet. With singers like Jeff Scott Soto, Jay Pierce, Tim Hockenberry, Rob Evan and Jennifer Cella just to name a few, they bring this epic to life. Each one of these vocalist have the ability to make us feel each of the characters involved. I cannot wait to see them perform this live. It will be amazing I am sure of it.
I don't know if it was intentional or not but Paul O'Neil has made this album one that will make all the fans of the core group Savatage drool. There are so many moments that make you think of the group in their heyday. He even manages to touch on different periods in the bands history. "The Mountain" was of course partially taken from The Hall of the Mountain King. "Moonlight And Madness" is a spin on Mozart and Madness from the Savatage album Dead Winter Dead. The song "Another Way You Can Die" has a similarity to another song from the same album "Doesn't Matter Anyway". Then of course there is a version of the classic Savatage song "Believe". Most of the songs that are credited to Jon Oliva and Paul O'Neil as songwriters seem to have this quality. Not much of a stretch when you think about it.
The bonus tracks on the disc are just as good as anything else on here. The first song "Child Of The Night" is kind of the epilogue to the tale. It is the final twist that happens twenty years later.
"Believe" is one of the best songs ever done by Savatage. As Jon Oliva's song to his brother who was taken from us way to soon, this is as touching a song as you will find and although it isn't Jon singing this time, Tim Hockenberry does a find job and I am sure that Jon must agree.
TSO enlist the help of one Greg Lake to perform a scintillating take on the Emerson, Lake & Palmer classic "Nutrocker". ELP is one of the founding groups of this style that blends classical with rock and the band pays tribute to them in a way dynamic way.
The final two songs "Carmina Burana" and "Tracers" are amazing, if you have seen the band in concert the last few years than you are familiar with these songs already. If you haven't seen them than you are in for a treat!
If you order the CD through Amazon, there is an additional song that you can download called "The Flight of Cassandra". This instrumental piece is outstanding and I recommend that if you can get your hands on it, do so!
I have tried to not give too much away about the disc as this is one of those that the thrill of hearing it and being enthralled is something to cherish. There are few times that you will have the chance to be swept away in this kind of manner so I suggest that you forget about what you are doing and find a way to get this into your home as soon as possible. This is the stuff that dreams are made of and you cannot help but be touched by what Trans-Siberian Orchestra has to offer.
1. Night Enchanted
2. Childhood Dreams
4. The Mountain
5. Night Castle
6. The Safest Way Into Tomorrow
7. Mozart And Memories
8. Another Way You Can Die
9. Toccata – Carpimus Noctem
10. The Lion's Roar
11. Dreams We Conceive
12. Mother And Son
13. There Was A Life
1. Moonlight And Madness
2. Time Floats On
4. Bach Lullaby
5. Father, Son & Holy Ghost
6. Remnants Of A Lullaby
7. The Safest Way Into Tomorrow (Reprise)
1. Child Of The Night
4. Carmina Burana