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Trans Siberian Orchestra
Released: 2000, Lava/Atlantic
I have been excitedly awaiting this album for quite some time now. Having loved the two "Christmas" albums that this Paul O'neill-led outfit cranked out, I was stoked to hear that the new album would be a new, non-Christmas related story. If you've never heard a TSO album before, go and get one ASAP - they are truly a moving experience. This time, the story revolves around Beethoven's final night on earth. Without giving too much of the story away, he completes his final, and best, symphony and then goes through a series of disturbing experiences before a final confrontation. A tried and true plot motif, but one that works almost every time.
Indeed, plot/story is what drives the album, the individual songs being mostly vehicles to carry the story along. Still, what vehicles they are! For those who have heard TSO before, or for fans of Savatage (whom O'neill produces), you know that the music is essentially heavy opera. Rarely fast, mostly mid-paced material in the symphonic vein is the order of the day here. By the end, you'll be ordering more! Led by a series of vocalists, the songs seem to drift by, slowly weaving their story-telling magic into your ear.
The amazing thing is, most of these are vocalists that you've never heard of before! Jody Ashworth is brilliant as the voice of Beethoven, truly conveying the many emotions that the character goes through over the course of the album. Savatage man Jon Oliva makes a show-stealing appearance as the villain Mephistopheles. His performance is his easily his best in years! Not to be outdone, current Sav-singer Zak Stevens is as good as ever in his one performance on lead vocals. Oh, what's the point? Everyone on the album is great!
There is not much that I can say that will do this album the justice that it deserves. TSO was always on a different plane than the rest of the heavy metal crowd, and this album simply raises them even higher! Suffice it to say, that TSO/O'neill have outdone themselves on this album. Heavy-opera at its best that simply should be heard.
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