Before Metallica recorded Live S&M with a full orchestra, Trans-Siberian Orchestra was already breaking new ground in the name of metal. Metal also-also-ran Savatage was running out of Judas Priest material to emulate by 1986, so the band connected with producer Paul O'Neill, who steered it in a prog-rock direction that led to 1995's Dead Winter Dead (a concept album about the Sarajevo conflict) and spawned the single "Christmas Eve Sarajevo 12/24." An inspired O'Neill decided to adapt Christmas classics such as "O Holy Night" and "The First Noel" to guitar and back them with a symphony, and thus, TSO's metal theatre was born. The phenomenon has since grown so big that two touring troupes are necessary to meet demand.
Commercials quote reviews that have praised TSO as "a new holiday classic" and "stunning." To that, we add "the apotheosis of mullet culture" and "a disturbing development in the commodification of a once-sacred holiday." Though fans will undoubtedly take offense at the less-than-glowing appraisal -- the Christ Child Himself knows that Northeast Ohio's teeming with devotees; last year, the troupe played more than a dozen dates in the Cleveland-Akron area -- let the record show that we're taking it easy. The Boston Herald's Robin Vaughan called TSO "an overwrought spectacle" of "phony, empty crap." Hey, her words, not ours.