The Magic Of Winter Casts Its Own Special, Musical Spell On Listeners

Courtesy: Adrenaline PR/Breaking Bands, LLC

Courtesy: Adrenaline PR/Breaking Bands, LLC

Early last month, power prog band The Wizards of Winter released its latest full-length studio recording The Magic of Winter. The album, the band’s second is a fittingly titled offering from the band, which includes former members of fellow power prog rock act Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO). That is because the ten-track, forty-plus minute recording. That is because from beginning to end it is an album that casts its own magical spell, especially in a year when TSO’s latest release is a non-holiday recording. That is not a stab at TSO by any means just to let audiences know. This critic is a major TSO fan and has nothing but the utmost respect for the veteran prog rock act. What is meant to say here is that being that TSO is known more for its holiday offerings than its non-holiday records, the release of a new non-holiday recording (and a truly impressive one at that) this year left the door wide open for another act to pick up the slack. Enter The Wizards of Winter, which itself takes its name from TSO’s ‘Wizards in Winter.’ The Magic of Winter casts a spell on listeners that is just as powerful as any cast by TSO in its current catalogue. The main reason for this is the album’s lyrical content. That will be discussed shortly. The musical content is just as important to the whole of this record as its lyrical content. It will be discussed later. Last of note in regards to the album’s presentation is its sequencing. This plays right back into the album’s lyrical content and brings everything full circle. Each element plays its own important part in the whole of The Magic of Winter. Collectively they make The Magic of Winter a truly magic record for both fans of TSO and for audiences in general.

The Magic of Winter, is a fittingly titled new effort from The Wizards of Winter. The band’s second full-length studio recording, it is such a fittingly titled recording from the ban because in examining each of its many elements, it is a record that casts its own magical spell on listeners. That spell is created in part by the album’s lyrical content. Audiences will note that the band is made up largely of former members of TSO. Now having that knowledge and the knowledge of TSO’s albums being concept records, one would expect the overall lyrical presentation of The Magic of Winter to be interconnected as with TSO’s albums. And it is. but it is only to a point. Lyrically speaking it is more akin to TSO’s 1996 debut album Christmas Eve and Other Stories than the later releases in the band’s “Christmas Trilogy.” That is because it doesn’t necessarily follow one distinct story line. It takes listeners on a musical journey around the world, presenting what winter and the holiday season means to different people. So there is one underlying thread between each of the album’s songs. However, the story (if one wants to call it that) is not necessarily a story in the traditional sense of the term when it comes to concept albums. Even with that taken into consideration the lyrical content presented in each of the album’s songs is still entertaining and moving from beginning to end. ‘The Spirit of Christmas’ is a good example of the importance of the album’s lyrical content. The song is sung from the wide-eyed vantage point of someone that obviously loves the holiday season quite a bit. That is obvious as the vocalist sings, “Every year I get this feeling coming over me/Is it just the change of season/What else can it be/What’s this spell that grabs us/Did you ever wonder/Is it dream or fantasy or something in-between.” He goes on to sing in the song’s chorus, “When you see it all around you/Like the snow that fills the air/Open up to all the magic/Christmas spirit everywhere/Let the spirit work its magic/Fill your heart with love and cheer/Can you feel it all around you/Christmas spirit everywhere.” The delivery of these lines gives them so much power. By comparison, ‘I Am Here’ presents its own happy story in which a female lead sings happily on Christmas Eve of dreaming of her beloved. It is a similar musical story. But it is not necessarily any relation to ‘The Spirit of Christmas.’ It is really its own story. There is even a musical presentation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol presented here. It stands completely on its own two feet yet still boasts the same themes presented in the album’s other full songs (those with musical and lyrical content–That, too will be discussed later). All three songs show in their own way how the songs presented in The Magic of Winter connect to one another without actually being part of one bigger story that requires listeners’ devoted attention. The other seven songs that make up the remainder of the album’s body show this just as much. Collectively, all ten songs show clearly why The Magic of Winter’s lyrical content is such an important part of its whole. They are just a portion of what makes this album such a standout collection of songs for The Wizards of Winter. The album’s musical content is just as important to note as its lyrical content in its whole.

The lyrical content presented throughout The Magic of Winter is a key element to note in examining this latest full-length studio effort from The Wizards of Winter. That is because in examining the songs that boast lyrical and musical content, the picture painted by those songs is one of an album that is a concept album but isn’t one at the same time. The songs carry a similar underlying theme that could connect them together for one story. But that connection proves in the end to not be strong enough to call the album a traditional concept album yet strong enough to keep listeners engaged regardless from beginning to end. While the album’s lyrical content proves to be unquestionably important to its overall presentation, it is just one part of what makes the album’s presentation solid. The album’s musical content is just as important to note as its lyrical content. In regards to the album’s musical content, it should come as no surprise that said content bears a striking resemblance to that of TSO. That is because the band’s lineup includes a number of former members of said power prog band. This is obvious in the hugely symphonic approach to ‘The Spirit of Christmas’ with its horns, guitars, bombastic drumming and equally powerful vocals. ‘Flight of the Snow Angels,’ which opens the album, can also be cited as an example of that similarity between the musical styling of The Wizards of Winter and TSO. The driving string and horn arrangements that open the song instantly conjure thoughts of TSO. That is because together they sound quite a bit like a certain TSO song. The song’s multiple guitar approach adds even more to that similarity. ‘With One Voice,’ the album’s penultimate composition is one more example of the importance of this album’s musical content to the album’s presentation. The song is essentially a re-working of ‘Hark The Herald, Angels Sing.’ Yet it is anything but a cookie cutter rendition of the song. It hasn’t been re-imagined and re-worked per se. But the overall musical delivery of the song is quite different from the original composition. And in hearing this, listeners will agree that it is one of the single strongest examples of the importance of the album’s musical content if not its single most important example. Together with the album’s lyrical content (in the songs that contain both music and lyrics), both elements do plenty to make this record worth more than just one listen. Of course as much of an impact as they have both by themselves and collectively they are still not all that makes this record worth hearing. The album’s sequencing is just as important to the whole of the album’s presentation as its musical and lyrical content.

Both the musical and lyrical content displayed throughout the course of The Magic of Winter are equally important to the album’s overall presentation. They paint a picture that in whole will impress both TSO fans and audiences in general. As important as both elements are to the whole of this record they are but a portion of what makes its presentation so interesting. The album’s sequencing rounds out its presentation. From start to finish the album’s sequencing puts the finishing touch on it. From the album’s upbeat opener to the more reserved vibe of ‘Winter Magic’ and beyond the album’s energy rises and falls at all of the right spots. The end result of those well-placed ups and downs is an emotional impact that ensures listeners’ engagement from beginning to end. Together with the album’s equally enjoyable musical and lyrical content, the overall presentation of The Magic of Winter will cast a special magical, musical spell on every listener.

The Magic of Winter, the second full-length studio offering from The Wizards of Winter, is a wonderful addition to any family’s home music library this and any holiday season. That is because whether one is a long-time TSO fan or just a lover of holiday music, this record will cast its own special, magical spell on any listener. That is thanks in large part to the combination of the album’s musical and lyrical content. The smart sequencing of that content creates an album that will ensure listeners’ engagement from beginning to end of the album’s forty-minute plus run time. The end result of that engagement is agreement by listeners that this album is its own wonderful, magical treat for every family. It is available now in stores and online. The band is currently touring in support of The Magic of Winter and will be in Collingswood, NJ tonight and Easton, PA on December 5th. More information on The Magic of Winter is available online now along with the band’s latest news and tour dates at:




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Friedman Proves Again To Be One Of Rock’s Elite With New LP

Courtesy:  Prosthetic Records

Courtesy: Prosthetic Records

Prosthetic Records recently re-issued famed guitarist Marty Friedman’s 2009 and 2011 records, Tokyo Jukebox I and II in a double disc set for his fans.  The recent release marked the first time that these two albums had ever been released stateside.  Fans know of Friedman’s work with the likes of Megadeth.  But how many know of his abilities on his own?  That question is answered loud and clear with this recently released double disc set.  The aptly titled album presents quite a bit of material that sounds like it came right from a Japanese Anime feature film.  Though, it does also offer heavier material such as its relentless opener, ‘Tsume Tsume Tsume.’  What’s so interesting about this song is that rather than just being one song, it actually splits itself into two separate movements within its near five and a half minute run time.  It goes from being a thrashing, speed metal opus to a slower, heavier work that will leave listeners breathless by the song’s end before moving into the first of the album’s more anime favoring songs in ‘Gift.’

‘Gift’ sounds just like a work that could have come right out of the likes of Dragonball Z or a similar anime work.  Any listener who has any knowledge of Japanese features will be able to hear it, too.  Even those who are less initiated into the world of anime will be able to hear it simply by closing their eyes and taking in the song.  The album continues in this fashion in the album’s next handful of songs before finally leaning more towards a mainstream sound in the much more subdued acoustic song, ‘Romance No Kamisama.’  Friedman truly shows his talents here proving that just as he can shred with the best of the industry’s guitarists, he can play just as amazingly with a slower song.  As the old adage states, anyone can play fast.  But it takes a true musician to be able to play slow.  That being the case, Friedman shows here that he definitely is a true musician.  The addition of some very gentle piano runs and what sounds like a flute add so much more emotion to the song right up to its fading final moments.

The second half of Tokyo Jukebox Vol. 1 & 2 movies back in the direction of Friedman’s heavier side through all five of its tracks.  The opener, ‘Yeah! Mecha Holiday’ does lean more toward the vein of something from an anime feature.  But it somehow manages to walk the line, balancing that side of the music with a more mainstream sound.  Even more interesting about the song is the guitar break late in the song.  Instead of being metal, Friedman tosses in his own take on a jazz/fusion sound, believe it or not.  It really makes for an interesting listen. 

Just as much of an interesting listen is Friedman’s take on Pachelbel’s Canon in D in ‘Canon A La Koto.’  The introduction of an Asian element and Friedman’s guitar work makes this a piece that would amaze even the members of Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  It doesn’t even run a full two minutes.  It comes up just shy of that.  But in that time, it proves to be one of the shining gems of this combo release as does the powerhouse ballad style song that follows, ‘I Love You.’  Friedman expertly captures the emotion of someone newly in the bonds of love in this opus.  To make another comparison, anyone who is familiar with Dream Theater guitarist John Petrucci will appreciate this song as the similarity to Petrucci’s guitar work is evident here.  It makes for yet another high point to an album that is one of the best examples to date of Marty Friedman’s talents.  Tokyo Jukebox Vol. 1 & 2 is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via the Prosthetic Records store at

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TSO Goes Back To Its Past On New EP

Courtesy:  Atlantic Records

Courtesy: Atlantic Records

Trans Siberian Orchestra is back at it again.  It’s been over fifteen years since this famed melodic power rock band first turned the world of Christmas music on its ear with its blend of classical, rock, and holiday sounds.  And it’s been eight years since the band’s last holiday themed release, The Lost Christmas Eve (2004).  Now, the band has returned to form after the release of its most recent album, Night Castle with the release of its new EP, Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night).

TSO’s new EP offers fans four new songs and one that revisits an old classic and updates it at the same time.  That track is the EP’s title track.  Long-time fans of TSO will instantly recognize the band’s song ‘Queen Of The Winter Night’ in this song.  The change here though is that it has been mixed in with the final movement of Vivaldi’s legendary ‘Four Seasons’ opus.  Obviously, going back in time for this song has and will continue to divide the band’s legions.  But adding in new material makes for an interesting musical reboot of sorts.   

The EP’s opener, ‘Winter Palace’ is the perfect first impression for this new release.  Its ominous piano based intro will instantly grab listeners and keep their attention throughout the course of the song’s near four minute run time.  It’s the song’s buildup from the first bars to the sudden harder edged rock sound that makes it such a powerful first song.  It will instantly conjure thoughts of the band’s breakthrough hit, ‘Christmas Eve Sarajevo 12/24’ with its overall tone.  And its transition into the EP’s title track adds even more power to the overall general effect of this new release.

The EP’s third track, ‘I Had a Memory’ is just as…well…memorable as song as anything that the band has released over the course of its “Christmas Trilogy.”  This one will instantly conjure thoughts of ‘Faith Noel’ also from the band’s previous Christmas album, The Lost Christmas Eve.  Fans will recall that after the song’s initial slower opening “A” section, the tempo picks up in its “B” section.  The overall sound here even goes to more of a rock based sound.  A side by side comparison of the two songs will surely show the similarity.  While the band obviously looked to its roots for this piece, it can’t be said that the band directly ripped itself off.  But the influence of its previous record is undoubtedly there in this song. 

The influence of the band’s previous works is evident even as it moves into the EP’s penultimate track, ‘Someday.’  Stylistically, its emotional, almost folksy sound is similar to that of certain material from the band’s debut 1996 album, Christmas Eve and Other Stories.  What’s different here though, is the song’s lyrical side.  Lyrically, it is a tribute on the part of TSO founder and singer Paul O’ Neill to his parents sung by vocalist Tim Hockenberry.  Hockenberry’s haunting vocal style won’t leave a single eye dry after hearing singing here, “So I wrote these words/And I hope they last/For the years have come/And the years have passed/Think of all they gave/Think of all the debt/But can’t find a way/To repay them yet/For the days still come/And the debt still mounts/And do words unsaid/Ever really count/But sometimes still/In the dead of night/I can see them there/In the pale moonlight/I am trying/And I don’t know how/And I don’t know when/But I’ll have to tell them/Someday.”  It’s not just Hockenberry’s vocals that will move listeners in this emotional piece, either.  The music makes for a fitting compliment to Hockenberry’s gritty and almost mournful vocals in this song.  Together, they make one more highlight to the EP.  It’s a song that will leave even the strongest person at least a little teary eyed.

TSO’s new EP closes out with the gentle and equally emotional vocals of singer Georgia Napolitano on ‘Time You Should Be Sleeping.’  Yet again, TSO has reached back into its bag of tricks here as its obvious this song was influenced at least some part by the band’s song, ‘Dream Child’ from its 1998 album, ‘The Christmas Attic.’  Napolitano’s vocals are so powerful in their gentility, proving once more the old adage that less is more is very true.  Listeners can almost see this loving mother figure holding her young child, smiling down on said child as she sings, “I can see you breathing/Know that I am near you/Feel the evening whisper/In gentle sighs/To close your eyes until tomorrow/Childhood dreams are always new/And when you are there I’ll follow/And believe that my whole life is…/You.”  If this final moment doesn’t send chills and draw tears once more from listeners, then it’s anyone’s guess what would.  ‘Time You Should Be Sleeping’ doesn’t necessarily show any real Christmas themes.  But that aside, its beautiful lullaby style sound and lyrics make it the perfect counterpart to the EP’s opener, gently landing listeners on another musical shore after the journey taken from the EP’s other songs, thus closing one more impressive release from one of rock’s greatest and most talented bands around today.

Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night) is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct online via TSO’s online store at  It can also be picked up at the band’s shows as it tours the country in support of the new release and its most recently full length Christmas album, The Lost Christmas Eve.  To get a full list of tour dates and all the latest news from the band, audiences can go online to or

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