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Trans-Siberian Orchestra

The Lost Christmas Eve

Review by Gary Hill

For those not in the know, Trans-Siberian Orchestra is a spin off from the band Savatage. This is the third CD in a trilogy of Christmas discs the band has produced. Although these albums, and the accompanying tours, are some of the most popular holiday fare out there, I find the disc to be a little bit of a mixed bag. When the combination of progressive metal and holiday themes gels, it is truly magical. Unfortunately, it doesn't often come together all that well. Many moments don't feel at all Christmas oriented. That isn't the biggest shortcoming here, though. There are a lot of points where they seem to take it way to far into the field of theatrics, coming across at best as pompous and at worst as over-dramatic. Both of these got in the way of my fully enjoying the CD. Still, there are enough strong segments here to make this a worthwhile release. It just seems that it could be a lot better with a little bit of self-restraint.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Faith Noel
This starts with piano, then the full band enters for a short burst of sound before they launch into a metallic instrumental version of "The First Noel". This carries the cut through for a time, then they shift gears to a new arrangement that is a triumphant sounding progmetal jam. The guitar leans a bit towards noodly here, but still has some tasty riffing. The group then move the cut into "O Come All Ye Faithful". Piano returns overtop the metallic mode later in the piece, and is the last instrument standing.
The Lost Christmas Eve
A beautiful balladic mode begins this. As the vocals enter, it is over the top of this backdrop. The group ramps it up for a time here, and the vocals go just a little too far towards the over-dramatic side. They drop it back to the verse segment, and this alternating cycle carries the cut onward. A mellow interlude takes it later. As the vocals re-enter here the composition is quite dramatic. They eventually jump back up to the chorus segment. This is built into a very powerful staccato segment, and a tasty guitar solo eventually emerges to take it to a reprise of the earlier segments.
Christmas Dreams
A pretty piano section starts this, and the vocals build on this backdrop. The band moves this melody up in a powerful style. For some reason the vocals here remind me of a heavy metal Neil Diamond. Still, this cut, with its powerful imagery and arrangement is very effective. It manages to be both Christmasy and musically powerful. This instrumental is definitely a highlight of the disc.
Remember
A mellower, sparser arrangement calls to mind "Little Drummer Boy" just a bit. Choral vocals enter and carry this one forward in a very traditional holiday style.
Anno Domine
A traditional choral arrangement makes this one a solid old-school holiday song. It would be a good choice for carolers everywhere. The only complaint here is that it goes on a bit too long.
Christmas Concerto
As one might expect, this is a traditional near classical approach. It is a short instrumental.

Queen of the Winter Night
This starts with fairly traditional sounding Christmas piano. As the band enters they take us on a hard rocking and dynamic neoclassical excursion that gets a bit generic and over the top at times. Still, there are other moments where it is quite effective.
Christmas Nights in Blue
Now, this bouncy bluesy jam is quite strong. It is a lot of fun. This is actually another high point of the album. Again this one overstays its welcome just a bit.
Christmas Jazz
This instrumental is aptly enough a mellow jazz instrumental.

Christmas Jam
This is a hard-edged metallic excursion that feels a bit like Ted Nugent at times. It drops to mellower segments, though. This rocker is quite effective, just not very Christmas-oriented.

Siberian Sleigh Ride
This hard rocking instrumental feels a bit like something Joe Satriani might do. The Christmas leanings, although not blatant, do show up from time to time.

What is Christmas?
This is a hard rocking, neo-classically oriented number that has strong Christmas textures. The arrangement and especially vocal performances are way over the top.

For The Sake of Our Brother
This starts as a mellower balladic track, then moves into a bluesy rendition of "O Come All Ye Faithful". This is another that, although fairly effective, gets a bit over blown. It drops back to the balladic segment as it carries on.

The Wisdom of Snow
A mellower piano melody being this. It starts building up in a very pretty progression. This balladic style keyboard solo is quite effective. It's a definite winner.

Wish Liszt (Toy Shop Madness)
Based appropriately in Lisztian themes, keys start this, as the other instrument join it becomes a neo-classically oriented smoking prog metal jam. This one is strong, even if not so Christmasy. It is a highly dynamic piece, working its way through numerous changes as it carries forward. This one is fun and creative and one of the best pieces on the disc. It also includes some of the most metallic, if slightly noodly at times, guitar soloing on the album.

Back To A Reason (Part II)
This feels like a slightly melancholy and powerful piano based ballad at first. They add the other instruments and pump up the intensity later, while still maintaining the original musical themes. Unfortunately, later in the piece the vocals again wander into the over the top range. It drops back to the opening section to create a nice bookend.

Christmas Bells, Carousels and Time
This is a brief, pretty instrumental.

What Child Is This?
A hard rocking rendition of the Christmas classic, this one has potential, but once again winds up too far over the top. The backing vocals are especially strong, though. The group is not content to stick with the original themes alone, adding their own material to the mix. With a different lead vocal performance this would work like a charm. It's so close.

O' Come All Ye Faithful
This is an acoustic guitar solo rendition of the holiday standard.

Christmas Canon Rock
This is one of the more effective tracks on the CD. It deftly combines the hard rocking elements of the band with traditional holiday themes to produce a powerful and pretty song. The female vocals here work quite well. This is definitely one of the best two or three tracks on the disc.

Different Wings
This is a pretty acoustic guitar driven ballad.

Post Script: Midnight Clear
An acoustic guitar solo rendition of the familiar holiday song, this works well and serves as a nice finale to the disc.

 
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