December 29, 2015 Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Letters from the Labyrinth (Album Review)
Trans-Siberian Orchestra is responsible for changing the way Rock-n-Roll relates to Christmas for millions of people around the globe. A new tradition has taken place because of it. The creation of legendary Producer Paul O’Neill, Savatage Singer Jon Oliva, and Guitarist Al Pitrelli, Trans-Siberian Orchestra is best known for their Christmas themed Rock Operas – Christmas Eve and Other Stories (1996), The Christmas Attic (1998), Beethoven’s Last Night (2000), The Lost Christmas Eve (2004), and Night Castle (2008) – are all elaborate stories that bring an inspired message to life through brilliant storytelling and equally brilliant musical compositions.
They then add a whole new dimension, bringing these works to life with incredible live performances featuring flashy pyrotechnics, dazzling lights, lasers, smoke, moving hydraulic platform, giant video screens, LED screens, and snowfall. Consisting of a complete string section, a full choir, a narrator, and classic Rock-n-Roll instruments such as drums, bass, guitars, and keyboards, Trans-Siberian Orchestra has taken their live show to levels previously unheard of. In addition to their Rock Operas, they released Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night) (2012) and Tales of Winter: Selections from the TSO Rock Operas (2013). Unlike their previous albums, their brand new release, Letters From the Labyrinth via Republic Records, is a collection of works covering many different subjects and is not a Rock Opera at all. Their sixth overall album, it is a mix of Classical and Rock, with Operatic vocals and heavy drums combining for a truly unique musical experience.
Some of the music the record features has been performed by the band while touring. A balanced mix of driving Rock, catchy Pop, and heartfelt ballads, the record delivers a memorable listening experience. First, “Time and Distance” uses a heavy Rock buildup and a chorus of voices to deliver a dramatic piece about the effect of time on our lives and how we seek to overcome it along our human journey. Hard Rock elements are layered with soaring choral passages and strings to create a classic, heavy sound. “Madness of Men” is the first of many instrumental pieces on the record. Written by Ludwig Von Beethoven, Paul O’Neil, and Jon Oliva, it conveys the chaotic nature of mankind. Drums, guitars, strings, and piano fuse together to great effect to convey a sense of desperation, and anxiety, which ends on a hopeful note of determination.
“Prometheus” is also a piece conceived by Beethoven, O’Neil, and Oliva, voiced by Jeff Scott Soto. The song talks about the fate of mankind being in its own hands. Prometheus, the mythological god who created mankind and gave them fire, which he stole from Mt. Olympus, the song begins with an upbeat piano rendition of Beethoven’s “Prometheus Overture,” which is soon joined by heavy guitars, drums, and bass, as well as Soto. “Mountain Labyrinth,” “King Rurik,” and “Prince Igor,” are all spirited instrumental pieces with inspired movement, and all are rooted in the classics.
“What the Night Conceives” is a straight-forward Heavy Rocker sung by the powerful Kayla Reeves. “Forget About the Blame (Sun Version) ” is a heartfelt Rock ballad sung by Robin Borneman. In a gritty, passionate performance, Borneman pulls you in to his pain. Russell Allen takes lead vocals for “Not Dead Yet,” a groove reminiscent of Montrose with a rough, earthy vocal of a man who has seen hard times. The record then takes a sweet turn as the ladies take the spotlight. First, “Past Tomorrow” is a delicate beauty with Jennifer Cella and a lone piano. It is an alluring and charming song about innocence. Then Adrienne Warren sings “Stay” with nothing but an acoustic guitar. The result is a powerful, compelling tale of fame and innocence. Kayla Reeves continues the trend of mighty female vocals as she delivers a sad, soulful song about souls searching for love with “Not the Same.”
“Who I am” is a Choral Metal track that combines many voices in front of heavy guitars, bass, and drums, warning the listener about the reality of time’s inevitable march. “Lullaby Night” is the final instrumental piece, written by Johann Sebastian Bach and Paul O’Neill, which combines piano and strings to create an enchanting and delightful lullaby. The record closes with the second version of “Forget about the Blame” (Moon Version), voiced by Lzzy Hale from Halestorm. Hale delivers a very different vocal in a gripping performance to close out the album.
Letters from the Labyrinth is a Rock record that stands apart from their previous offerings, and stands apart from all others in that it successfully brings together many genres of music that are very, very different from one another. It speaks to life and its struggles, and to a world in pain. Although it is not a Christmas themed Rock opera, it is still filled with magic, hopes, and dreams. CrypticRock gives Letters from the Labyrinth 4 out of 5 stars.