The Trans-Siberian Orchestra has gained world-renowned fame for their Christmas albums. As their name implies, they are an orchestra with a twist: they are a rock orchestra incorporating styles of progressive rock, symphonic rock, and classical music.
What many people don’t know is that Trans-Siberian Orchestra also has albums aside from their Christmas ones. In 2000, they released Beethoven’s Last Night, which was a wonderful departure from their Christmas music and was an all-around solid album. Last week, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra released their second non-Christmas album just in time for the holiday season. Night Castle is no Beethoven’s Last Night. While there are some tracks worth listening to, it is largely an album that disappoints.
First of all, this album is way too long. This seems like a silly statement, but since it attempts to tell a tale using all of its tracks as chapters, length becomes an issue. At 122 minutes, it is almost twice the length of Beethoven’s Last Night. I found myself getting bored with what the Trans-Siberian Orchestra had to offer after listening to it for an hour. Second, there seems to be no energy exuded by the band on their tracks, but they give a lot of life to their songs when performed. Many lackluster songs have the ability to be, at the very least, entertaining. To verify, I went on YouTube and tried to look for a live performance of some of their songs. I found a couple of clips, and the performances were energetic and fun, so they seem to be best appreciated live.
The album is not without any redeeming qualities. The last track on the album, “Tracers,” is a wonderful example of what is good about the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. There is energy, there is power, there is excitement, and there is fun. The melody is lively and there is great harmony between the instruments. The bassist and rhythm guitarist start off setting the tone, foundation, and rhythm for this spooky track. The drums and lead guitar join and create a melody that is just inspiring. Even the vocalists and piano make their way in the middle of the track, which was a little surprising, but they meshed perfectly.
“Carmin Burana” is another good track, but sadly, it is an overused track in music lore. It is a nod to “O Fortuna.” There is nothing that the Trans-Siberian Orchestra added to the song, and the track definitely did not add more to the album except for time.
I don’t particularly like remixes, and it seems like most of the second CD in the album was covered with them. This isn’t usually a deal breaker for me, but when you ruin a classic, you have crossed the line. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra began as a side project from the band members of Savatage. Their signature track was “Believe.” Night Castle contains a remix of “Believe,” and it’s hard to “believe” it’s the same song. The guitars seem neutered, the vocalist almost ruins the track, and what remains is an empty shell of the song’s former glory.
This is quite possibly the second album this year I’ve listened to that has come off trying to be more epic than it can and should be. Muse’s The Resistance was the first. At least The Resistance had a lot of redeeming qualities. Sadly, Night Castle does not. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is trying too hard to be what it is not, and when a band tries to do that, they fail as greatly as this album does. I’m sure if you are a die-hard Trans-Siberian Orchestra fan, you will enjoy this album, but if you are a casual listener who just enjoys a Christmas track once in a while, stay away!