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Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Christmas Eve & Other Stories CD (album) cover

CHRISTMAS EVE & OTHER STORIES

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

 

Crossover Prog

3.00 | 49 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Alitare
4 stars An Angel came down, and operatic Christmas orchestra metal was born!

The album starts off powerfully with the moving An Angel Came down, and wraps you around its ability to meld original song ideas with classic Christmas tunes. Now, this isn't progression in the standard sense, but their uncanny ability to make each Christmas instrumental their own (certainly not just "rocked up" Christmas songs) These are fully fleshed out creations. And certainly original for their status.

And there are quite a lot of instrumentals. Oh Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night is absolutely beautiful in its epic approach. The guitars and guitar soloing is grand, but is right out of top rate 80's metal. If you have a predisposition against that, well screw you. No, I jest. If you dislike the sound, you might not like the album as much. Don't discredit it, though, because there are just too many beautiful moments on this disc to let slip away.

There is also very little of what I like to call "filler time" or "down time" or "boring times where the band was too lazy to fill it with something good so they just let the rhythm section fiddle on for a minute or so to waste time" I will take average melodies over that boring chug.

Fortunately, there are rarely any average melodies. No, whether going their own route, or skillfully perverting everybody's favorite winter songs, the melodies are always fresh and are always warm. I suppose the simple introduction to A Star to Follow would be mundane, if it didn't build up so well. The classic Savatage technique of overwhelming vocal overdubbing is a sight to behold. It builds nicely. Thus leaving to break to the pretty children's choir singing. Cynics and naysayers might say this music is only fit for a certain season. I say shove off, fools! This is the end of April and I am loving this stuff. There is a story beneath the music, but it is pushed aside to make sure all the music is easily accessible(and the proggers cry foul) but not accessible in a MTV propositioned pop way. It is accessible in that the attention to melodic craft and lead musical lines is phenomenal. First Snow has another captivating melody played on seasonal instrumentation. Well, before those pumping guitars kick in, and this turns into a warm and interesting rocker.

Some could accuse the songs of being a bit too poppy, and they wouldn't be wrong. There is a Wagner style production that is immediately accessible and surrounding. I don't think they should be faulted for strong production techniques, though. Nor do I think they are very simple, either. The songs feature staggering progression of song ideas and twisting. No, not progression in the sense of playing a million notes per second in a time signature nobody has heard of (read: compositional). This is ideological progression. The Silent Nutcracker begins with a sweet acoustic guitar melody. It is a soft moment of prettiness. Which then segues into the darker and more frenzied Mad Russian's Christmas, that has them busting out in metallic form. I do adore those squealing and dark guitars. This is a punching rocker, with mood changes, and a very professional feel.

The Prince of Peace softens things up, again. The female vocalist has such a sweet sound. Lyrically, they could have done better. But, not offensive. Their story is loosely based upon a child's quest given from God. I don't let the religious connotations get to me, as I am a nonbeliever (Heathen! outcast unclean!) I don't think that even the coldest of satanic hearts could ignore such powerful and exquisite melodies. I get goose bumps during some of those well crafted hooks. Then we have the big one. The song they took form Savatage's Dead Winter Dead. Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24. This is an album highlight. As it was on the aforementioned album. The guitars scream with dark passion, and it all crashes down with such meticulously performed bombast. What a paced and furious rendition of two of my favorite seasonal tunes.

Good King Joy is the first real slip up I see. The song is just slower and less interesting than their other songs, and it isn't paced as well as it could be. But it isn't bad. Well, the melody lines could have used more work. And it does a nice job of building tension. And halfway through it just hits that soaring and well known melody. See, not even the whole song is bad! Still a little too average, though. Ornament arrives and has a hoarse, but warmly lovable singer with pretty piano accompaniment, pompously crashing in are the guitars, again. Not a divine song, but the quite prettiness, interspersed with the thick guitar crunch is straight out of the best of Queen. An unoriginal, but nonetheless emotional solo follows.

Another pretty acoustic snippet of First Noel is next, and doesn't do very much to alter the original piece, but the song is so very peaceful and touching all the same. This melds into another brilliant album highlight. Old City Bar has those rough but warm singing that fits so well with the smart acoustic playing. The lyrics are actually good imagery wise, if a bit mundane. But the way the image is portrayed is just as important as the image, itself. So certainly not a failure. It is a heart wrenching movement. The snow, it was falling, neon was calling. This song is capable to move me to tears, in the right mood. I am normally a very cynical person, and normally despise overtly happy endings, or bright and poppy stories. But the story here is so inoffensive. It is so warm and ...damn it, I like it! It might not be perfect.

Promises To Keep is next, with more soft Christmas time atmosphere. The child choir is at it, again, and I still like it a lot. How can one small set of individuals pack so many absolutely terrific melodies and musical ideas into one hour long album, without relying on cliche riffs and bland or banal filler rock? It amazes me each time I hear this album. Now, the songs do have a sort of depth to them, and carry that, as well as a timeless quality. This Christmas Day is good. No, it isn't brilliant, but the piano is nice, the vocals are soft and encompassing, the lyrics are bland and weak, but don't offend, and as always, the attention payed to the main musical idea is terrific. And another nice and stirring solo comes in, with guitars a-slingin'. The opening theme is referenced in An Angel Returned, and carries the same grandeur. O Holy Night has a nice and calm, yet fleeting melody that is able to mesmerize you if you let it. Rather simple, but the soft playing is of accurate and regal quality. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is the closing acoustic melody, and I feel it fits very well.

It might help if you like opera to enjoy this album. It also might help if you like this style of music. The lyrics aren't grand, but convey their message with deft imagery. The playing is great. There are no flights of "showing off" here. Nothing is used to any other affect than to further the music and its ideas. This is my absolute favorite "seasonal" album of all. It is hard for me to find many actual flaws. The compositions are somewhat simple at times, but there exist a fair share of twisting and complicated tunes. They take cues from The Beatles, Queen, and Meat Loaf, as much as they do classical composers. There are an eclectic mix of influences, and anyone who likes a full wall of sound, with melodies up front will love this. Highly Recommended.

Best Song - Oh it has been so long since I have had to fight to choose this category. Perhaps Old City Bar/Christmas Eve-Sarajevo/An Angel Came Down, but the album never really slips in quality.

Worst Song - First Half of Good King Joy.

**** Strong stars. They only once came close to topping this once.

Alitare | 4/5 |

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