Night Castle | Trans-Siberian Orchestra

| Cadenza Reporter

TransSiberianOrchestra

rating: 3/5

Creating a double album is very touch-and-go. It can be hailed as a hallmark of music (“The White Album”—The Beatles, “At Fillmore East”—The Allman Brothers Band, “Songs in the Key of Life”—Stevie Wonder), or more likely, it will fall short of expectations (too many to list). Critics often accuse them of being created solely to indulge the producer’s whims and thus state that they could often be whittled down into one strong album, rather than filling two mediocre ones. Regrettably, “Night Castle,” Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s (TSO) most recent album falls into the latter. TSO, a modern rock orchestra founded in 1996 by Paul O’Neill, is known for its covering and symphonic rock-reinterpretation of classic Christmas and holiday songs. After releasing “The Lost Christmas Eve” in 2004, the band stopped recording. The 2009 release has been highly anticipated for years, and while it is by no means a failure, it does not fully satisfy either.

The first disc is the weaker of the two. Highlights include the first track, “Night Enchanted” and “Mountain.” “Night Enchanted” contains a beautiful chorus that plays simultaneously with a stunning string build-up, culminating abruptly with an eerie silence. Individual female voices follow, backed by only a piano, which lends the track an innocent, naïve feel. This is quickly terminated, however, when the more traditional string and guitar-heavy TSO music returns to the piece.

“Mountain” is a reinterpretation of the popular “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” composed by Edvard Grieg. Often covered, TSO’s version has a unique combination of leadenness and airiness in sections, sounding most like Apocalyptica’s variant of the song. Another song on the first disc worth listening to is “Mozart and Memories,” but much of the rest of it is filler and could be removed without crippling the album.

The majority of material, if the record were cut down to one album, would come from the second disc. Most notably, “Moonlight and Madness” is very enjoyable to listen to. It starts off with a very quick and dexterous piano and slowly adds guitar in the background. Midway through, it becomes more rock-like: The guitar is weightier, the piano lower, yet it still maintains its original theme. This continues throughout, culminating in a satisfying “safe” ending for TSO, that is, with loud, flamboyant and dramatic drums and guitars.

“Nutrocker” is my favorite song on the album. A cover of the B. Bumble and the Stingers, the song draws heavily on “Marche” from “The Nutcracker.” The song also has elements that are reminiscent of Pachelbel’s “Canon.” The tune is catchy, and TSO somehow manages to add the taste of a dancehall jukebox to the mix.

Also of note on the second side is “Carmina Fortuna,” an explication of the Medieval Latin poem “O Fortuna” from the collection called “Carmina Fortuna.”

Overall, especially given the long time between albums, “Night Castle” disappoints. While certain tracks are certainly worth buying and listening to, the record as a whole can be skipped.

For fans of: Apocalyptica, Electric Light Orchestra, Savatage

Tracks to download: ‘Night Enchanted,’  ‘Mountain,’ ‘Moonlight and Madness,’ ‘Nutrocker,’ ‘Carmina Fortuna’

  • Patrick Crants

    It appears to me that you don’t have a very good understanding of TSO and their album production stylings. Night Castle is intended to be presented as a story, as a rock opera so to speak. Evaluating individual tracks on merit (a la the Bee Gees) not only diminishes the value of the individual tracks, it negates the flow of the story that they are telling. Also your “tracks to download” ignores the three most musically compelling works of the album (Believe, There was a Life, Epiphany). I suggest your critiquing talents would be better used on the latest Katy Perry or Rebecca Black offerings.

  • Kristy

    From what Mozart piece does “Mozart and Memories” originate?

  • MJ

    I got a copy of this recently as a shared gift from my family. (TSO has been a family favorite.) I had to go online to find the track info and related story. I’m glad I took the time to download the story off the website before listening to the full album. The music is made to go with the story obviously. There were a few areas I had to pause either the music or stop reading, but overall, I found it to keep pace with the text fairly well when I started the first track upon loading and reading the pdf document.

    Without the story, it would be very difficult to follow along and figure out the connection between songs. The songs by themselves are okay, but a lot is lost without the story. Paired with the story, it makes a very powerful impact. I found this to be true with Lost Christmas Eve.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vanessa.du.frat Vanessa Du Frat

    No problem, it had been bothering me for two weeks ^^ Actually, I was lucky, because I knew I had tried to play the second piece. First piece, of course, I knew already, I played it ten years ago (was really hard ^^). The Chopin Etude is a piece I’ve wanted to play something like 8 years ago, but it was too hard for me so I kinda forgot all about it…

  • classical guy

    thanks a bunch vanessa this really helped :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/vanessa.du.frat Vanessa Du Frat

    Ok, so after some research amongst my music scores, I found the second piece. It’s Chopin’s Etude n°4 opus 10.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vanessa.du.frat Vanessa Du Frat

    @Classical guy : it’s the 3rd movement of the moonlight sonata, by Beethoven. However, I don’t know the name of the second piece and it’s killing me as well… I’ve tried looking for it everywhere on the net, but I couldn’t find the answer :(

  • classical guy

    does moonlight and madness’ intro originate from a classical piece? if so can someone please tell me what it is…. its been killing me!!!!

  • Chris

    A marvelous story. Put this together with the text. Much richer than just the music.
    So glad ‘Believe’ was included. Many have not experienced it from TSO’s Savatage days.

  • a music person

    Carmina Fortuna?

    Seriously?

    Carmina Burana is the name of the piece. The first portion of that piece is O Fortuna. It was written by Carl Orff.

    http://tinyurl.com/dz3fpz

  • Austin

    It’s hard to take this column serious when you refer to one of the most recognized pieces in the ENTIRE music industry as “Carmina Fortuna.” How dumb are you? The piece is written by Carl Orff. The piece itself is O Fortuna, from Carmina Burana.

  • frank dynes

    just finished listening to both cds. i thought it was EXCELLENT ! well worth the wait

  • William

    This was obviously posted by one who did not listen to the album for the story in it. As with ‘Beethoven’s Last Night’ and ‘Christmas Eve’, this album tells a story, or rather, it helps to tell the story. Nothing in this album is ‘trashable’, as it would take away from the story. Kindly read the story, while listening to the album, before deciding what to say. With that said, Please remember that this is NOT a Christmas album. It is about triumph and folly, transformation and love. The entire story can be found at nightcastlealbum.com, and is a flash site. The story can be downloaded in zip format, expanding into pdf.

    One last thing to note….Ms. Fine compared this album to some legendary albums, thus comparing the artists. I would liken TSO not to The Beetles, Stevie Wonder, nor The Allman Brothers, but to Kiss, in that the recorded albums are lacking in the energy and life that the band is able to put into their songs during live performances.