Customer Review

82 of 93 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great and a little dissappointing after 5 years, October 27, 2009
This review is from: Night Castle (Audio CD)
It's been nearly 10 years since TSO's last non-Christmas effort, Beethoven's Last Night. While completely bombastic, over the top, and bordering on ridiculous, it was a great and very original take on a story involving a key figure in musical history. The arrangments (vocal and instrumental) were solid as was the majority of the song witing and the performances.

I love TSO. Must make that clear, I directed live performances of two of their albums (Xmas Eve & Beethoven's Last Night) when I was in college and have studied them and their music in depth for over a decade. They have always had an unparalleled ability to instill beauty, magic, and tenderness in their music and truly captivate their audiences.

Now in 2009, we have Night-Castle. A double disc, 28-song epic. The question is however, does it truly reflect 5 years of work and the need for the constant delays.

The instrumentals, as TSO is famous for, are certainly the perk of the album. Leading numbers being Midnight & Madness, The Lion's Roar, Tracers, and Flight of Cassandra (possibly one of their most versatile and best) and Nutrocker.

My heart jumped when I saw the title "The Mountain" as I thought, my god, maybe finally a metal-version of Night on Bald Mountain. No luck, unortunately it was merely an underperformed, uninspired, rehashing of Savatage's cover of "Hall of the Mountain King"

The treatment of Verdi's "Requiem" re-titled "Night Enchanted" is solid and has a truly kicking opening but at about a minute in, gives way to completely over produced vocals (female mainly) and is a bit repetitive and over-produced. The lowest point of the instrumentals is possibly the shameless borrowing of Savatage's "Mozart & Madness". Now cleverly (not) titled "Mozart and Memories" it is so unneccessary that it borders on insulting to Savatage fans. I do respect that they may want to introduce fans to the music of Savatage and Mozart and Madness was a great track but its place was on Dead Winter Dead, not here.

While the instrumentals are strong, some absorb track time by overly repetitive riffs, immensely exaggerated ritardanos and diminuendo and few have any shred of modulation or creative tempo change.

The vocal songs are packed full of musical emotion albiet they are really just over-the-top ballads pounding I,vi,IV,V for up to ten minutes (see Epiphany & There was a Life) The vocalists sound unmotivated and do not at all refelct the immense emotion heard on previous TSO albums. Most open with a standard 8-16 bar piano progression. Oliva, Kinkell, and O'Neill certainly have an undoubtable knack for these openings as they always "twinkle" in a sense and bring about that "magical (Christmas?) feelings and provide for a delightful listening experience.

I was very happy at the lack of filler tracks (only 2 tracks under a minute) but between the amount of borrowed material, the mechanicaly-perfect sounds, and the computer-sounding choral vocals they should just focus on writing and continuing to be as original as possible, not over producing and perfecting everything beyond acceptable reality. With all of the formulaic, fake, and repetitive garbage in mainstream music, it is pertinent for a group such as TSO, who bring something so unique and new to modern Rock and Classical, to keep as much of their material as original and unique as possible.

As always, the musicians are top notch, the arrangments are masterful but the this is certainly far from their best effort. I do however have complete faith that as TSO continues to strive for new musical heights and directions (thank god they're laying off the dead-horse that was Christmas) they will certainly continue to broaden their audience and hopefully continue to bring us solid classical/classic rock/metal influences music for years!
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Showing 11-14 of 14 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 17, 2009 8:56:56 AM PST
Don't say such things... DEAD WINTER DEAD was original and beautiful...this is a sad bastardization

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 17, 2009 9:00:55 AM PST
I agree with you man. I have all Chris's stuff as well. This album is sad. I will listen to it occasionally I'm sure. My wife (who knows like 3 sava songs) was like isn't this on like two other savatage albums... What's with the weak ass version on Prelude to Madness?

Posted on Nov 19, 2009 11:01:54 AM PST
Well said B.E. Nickerson, After fully listening to both discs , despite the large volume of music, I still was left feeling somehow "shorted" by this album. First off, almost one third of this material is either directly stolen from the Savatage back-catalogue or rehashed versions of previous TSO riffs. Secondly, I felt the vocals on this seemed emotionally "forced" and uninspired, I was almost literally inadvertantly laughing at some of the forced emotional "cheesiness" in the lyrics and the vocal performances.
While TSO has never put out a "bad" album , I would definitely rank this dead last in their discography. My personal favorite is their very underrated " Beethoven's Last Night" which I thought was their most original and emotionally compelling album to date.
This "Night Castle" while not entirely without merit, leaves the listener a bit disappointed, especially given the long wait between this and their last album one would hope they could have been a bit more creative than this.

In reply to an earlier post on May 6, 2010 10:41:34 PM PDT
Actually the lousy story makes the album that much worse... O'Neil and Olivia have put out (including this) 9 concept album/rock operas so far. This is by far the worst story of the lot.
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