Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Dreams of Fireflies [On a Christmas Night] (2012)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7S1NPLmkXw&w=500&h=305]

I’ve had a little trouble getting in the holiday spirit this year, so despite the fact a new Trans-Siberian Orchestra EP has been out since early November, I’m just now starting to dig into it.

Though TSO mastermind Paul O’Neill has always said he felt the Christmas trilogy was done and out of the way, when I talked to him last year, he hedged his bets a little, probably knowing already that this EP was going to hit in time for the 2012 holiday. While it’s not as immersive an experience as most of the band’s sweeping, story-driven material, it’s still a nice addition to the catalogue.

It opens with “Winter Palace,” which doesn’t have a lot of Christmas elements. It’s pretty much a straight-up symphonic rock piece that reminds me more of Night Castle than the Christmas trilogy. Not that that’s a bad thing.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Paul O’Neill takes us into the beginnings of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, as he sought to blend the majesty of Broadway with the power of rock music.]

The title track comes next, ramping up the holiday spirit a little bit. There’s a sleigh bell feel to the galloping opener, and the band borrows again from Mozart’s Magic Flute, as they did on “Queen of the Winter Night.” It’s festive, powerful and a bit too brief for my liking at only two and a half minutes.

“I Had a Memory” is the first vocal piece, and Erika Jerry rocks it out with a soulful gutsy performance over a song that’s part spiritual and part all-out rocker. There’s a little bit of growl in her vocals, but it seems to fit well. It’s my favorite piece on the album.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DmTN1QF_dw&w=385&h=280]

Tim Hockenberry, a regular with TSO, lends his husky vocals to “Someday,” a remembrance of childhood and the subject’s parents who sacrificed to bring them up right. It’s the kind of heartfelt, sentimental piece that’s right in Hockenberry’s wheelhouse.

Finally, the set closes with a lullaby. The opening piano puts me in mind of Vince Guaraldi, then Georgia Napolitano puts the thing to bed, striking clean tones as crisp as the winter chill of the season.

Ultimately, I’m not sure how much of a Christmas record this is, as there are no outright holiday themes in the songs and they don’t borrow from classical composers and traditional carols as much as the original Christmas trilogy did. But it’s still a pretty good EP, and a nice taste of TSO to hold us over until the promised Gutter Ballet and Romanovs projects appear.

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Fred Phillips

Fred Phillips is a veteran entertainment writer with a love of hard rock and heavy metal. He has written music reviews, columns and feature stories for several newspapers, Web sites and a national wire service, while running a stand-alone site called Hall of the Mountain King in various places and incarnations since 1997. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.