7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Night Castle Finally Sees The Light Of Day
, November 3, 2009
This review is from: Night Castle (Audio CD)
Like many metal fans, my TSO fandom is deeply rooted in their association to the criminally underrated band Savatage. TSO is the remaining Savatage members, the producer/main songwriter, Paul O'Neill, along with a bunch of additional musicians and of course, an orchestra. The music and story concepts are basically in the same vein as they were in Savatage, but a bit more orchestral with the metal toned down a bit. Basically TSO is Savatage-lite. Paul O'Neill basically started TSO on a kind of whim in order to deliver a holiday themed album based on the success of a Savatage song. While a very musically talented group, it always seemed like a halfassed project that got lucky(Jon Oliva has even said himself that he does this band to basically pay the bills. His role anymore in TSO is basically just playing keyboards). Now, Paul devotes all his time to TSO and basically left Savatage to more or less fade away to a footnote in heavy metal history. Doesn't seem quite fair, but at least Savatage lives on to a certain degree. TSO has always been looked at as a seasonal kind of event, an annual tradition to take the family to when they swing through your hometown. So, TSO has been a holiday household name ever since. I'm not sure how well Beethoven's Last Night sold, but it was very refreshing to see a TSO album on the shelves that wasn't Christmas themed. Not that I have anything against the Christmas albums, but who throws The Christmas Attic in their cd player in mid July? It was cool to see TSO become a band that wasn't strictly associated with one specific time of the year.
That brings us to Night Castle, an album which has been in the works for what seems like 800 years now(they played songs from it when I saw them in 2004!). All this anticipation will undoubtedly create high expectations, which is kind of a curse coz you really can't live up to it(Phantom Menace anyone?).
Well, Night Castle's sound is what you pretty much expect it to be. But honestly, I find myself getting kinda bored of it after awhile. I love orchestral and progressive rock/metal, but there's too much of a sameness to this. The story isn't bad, but it's a little lacking, especially when compared to O'Neill's previous stories. I can't honestly say it's bad musically-it's actually very good-it's just a bit monotonous, not much variance at all. It's missing something. Also, as many have said before, a bunch of Savatage tunes are used here as well, mostly instrumental. I suppose I don't have too much of an issue with this, after all they are O'Neill's songs, but it just seems a bit cheap to fill space with songs that have been done before, especially for an album that has been in the works this long. This is a bit irritating to me on Disc 2 with the bonus track, "Believe", one of the most cherished of Savatage songs from the album Streets. I'm not sure why this was done at all coz most would agree that you simply cannot touch that song. As far as "Believe" goes, Savatage vocalist Jon Oliva is what made a great song a friggin phenomenal and unforgettable song. Oliva's performance will damn near make your eyes tear up. No disrespect to vocalist Tim Hockenberry, who does the TSO version, but he just doesn't hold a candle to Oliva. It actually sounds alot like Joe Cocker singing "Believe". TSO's vocalists have never been all that great. Not bad singers by any means(at least they sing, a rare thing anymore), but they've always sounded(to me anyway) like weaker and clumsier versions of Zak Stevens.
In all honesty, it seriously pains me to have to say anything negative about this album, especially considering that in today's music mainstream, "music" is more or less a four letter word. But on the other hand, because of this rarity and also my fandom, I can't just simply give the album nothing but praise and say it's a masterpiece. That wouldn't be honest. And yes, there are good songs to be found here. I'm not giving up on this band, and I'll continue to support them.
Paul O'Neill was really onto something with Savatage. There was some real magic there, and I can only hope that in the future Paul will be able to tap back into that.
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