Style: prog-rock, instrumental, hard rock, tribute, covers
Label: Shout! Factory
Members: Dan Marfisi ~ drums/bass/rhythm guitar
Mark Adam Watkins ~ keyboards
Andrew Synowiec ~ lead guitar
Additional: Cameron Stone ~ cello
Only the unknowing won't realize this is a take-off of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, even down to a artistic castle on the cover, see Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Night Castle, & a tuxedo'd guitarist on the cover holding up a guitar in a very Al Pitrelli-esque pose. While the name might be cute & the linear notes about travelling deep into the woods to record with a batch of creatures who "represent all that is evil & heinous" the creativity sadly pretty much ends there. The dozen songs include heavy metal versions of classical songs by Bach, Grieg, Dumas, Orff, Mussorgsky, Gounod & Stravinsky, while the rest of the album features hard rock interpretations of "The Munsters" TV theme, Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein", "Tubular Bells", The Doors' "People Are Strange" & the title track taken from The Phantom Of The Opera. However interesting this reads on paper the weaknesses of the album overwhelm it. The linear notes claim it as a "first of a kind album for Halloween", but if that means classical music done scarily, the album is neither scary nor is this a first as Dee Snider already did it with Van Helsing's Curse. Further, of the classical songs at least four have already been reinterpretted by Trans-Siberian Orchestra & Van Helsing's Curse & even Trans-Siberian Orchestra's earlier incarnation Savatage who even named an album after Grieg. Of all the classical music out there why must bands continuously mine from Classical Music 101 for the most over-played classical songs ... a collection already exhausted by Trans-Siberian Orchestra? Anyone heard of Prokofiev? Or, is it a matter of these musicians not actually knowing anything beyond this elementary school tier & not actually being classical music fans & thus just in it for the gimmick ... or maybe they can't play the more complicated pieces? As for the music this is far from the texture of Van Helsing's Curse nor the orchestrated over-the-top rock of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, but actually comes across as a slower-paced Yngwie Malmsteen with some heavy keyboards in the background ... just keyboards for sound effects, not the acoustic piano solos of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. While there's no story to weigh the project down there's also no singing, which is some of the most creative aspects of Trans-Siberian Orchestra & moves it beyond the classical-metal gimmick that this album flounders in dying. As a trio one shouldn't necessarily expect something as grand as the bands its copying, but TSO comes across not as a group but something akin to Wetton/Downes, a modest project of friends wanting to make a guitar album & not investing too heavily on the creative side. It's one good idea stretched to its limit. The best song of the classical pieces is "Vampires", a take off of Orff's "Carmina Burana", that rocks fierce & powerful with big chords that might be an improvement over the Trans-Siberian Orchestra or the Van Helsing's Curse version. Though, the non classical songs are the far more interesting, with greater dynamics & relying not so much on distorted guitars but a mix of keyboards & guitars that intertwine. TSO also fully expands upon the initial compositions & sound like a full band rocking out not just a gimmick. But, sadly, these rock covers are half the album & the later half & with seven songs coming before them of hackneyed imitation it's a let down. The ears have become bored by this time & it takes repeated listenings to get interested stuff is here. If only the classical pieces had been removed this would have been more interesting or if the songs were mixed up more with less of a side A/side B feel. TSO's 'People Are Strange' might be the best song on the album as it nearly does away with the melody in a wierd esoteric keyboard twist that makes it almost unrecognizable with a haunting cello plucking away in the background. But, as the next to the last it's lost in the shuffle. If only the whole album had been like this it would have set-up a challenge for Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which, honestly, they could probably use.
(featured on the World Of Trans-Siberian Orchestra podcast: episode 74 "Savatage Experience & Trans-Sylvanian Orchestra," April 2012, click here to listen)