Night Castle is the fifth rock opera by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra; a double CD that includes a sixty-page booklet illustrated by Greg Hildebrandt, it was released on October 28, 2009, debuting at #5 on the Billboard charts and #1 on the rock music charts. It was certified gold in eight weeks and is currently a platinum album.
Like in all of Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s previous albums, the story in Night Castle is as important as the music. Though both music and story are designed to stand alone, when combined they are far more powerful and emotionally engaging. The progressive rock website Sea of Tranquility called Night Castle “A musical masterpiece that will have you on edge one moment and weeping like a baby the next.” The story revolves around a young child on a beach late at night, where she encounters a mysterious but non-threatening stranger. While they build a sandcastle together by the light of a bonfire, he tells her a tale that takes her all around the world and throughout history. The characters of this story include an American Vietnam War soldier named William Cozier, the Renaissance era philosopher Erasmus who is keeper of the eponymous castle of lost knowledge, and a Communist general based on the dissident Tran Do.
“Their most ambitious and adventurous work to date. It runs the gamut from hard rock to classical taking the listener on a journey through history detailing the triumphs and follies of man but is ultimately a story of transformation and love.” Metal Kaoz album review said, “From the moment the play button is pressed, the listener is exposed to a wide range of emotions and colors reaching many a delightful climax … The second CD serves a hearty collection of re-arranged tracks that will blow your mind”. SoundPress called it compelling, dramatic, diverse, and “although the songs stand on their own merit it is strongly suggested that listeners read the 64 page booklet”, As of April, 2013, iTunes customers rated it 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 346 reviews and the vast majority rating it perfect. Skope Diverse Music Coverage starts their review with, “TSO is recognized as the ultimate touring operatic/theatrical act in music today”.
In 2011, Atlantic released the album on vinyl in an eight side (four disc) set in a special slip box designed to avoid the cracked corners that plague many vinyl box sets. The album includes a version of Kim Fowley’s Nut Rocker as a tribute to Emerson, Lake & Palmer, who in turn had performed the song as a tribute to Tchaikovsky. Greg Lake from Emerson, Lake & Palmer honored the band by playing bass on the album.
Bonus tracks include the songs “Child of the Night” and “Believe” which, according to the band, are a glimpse into future projects. An additional bonus track, “The Flight of Cassandra”, was available exclusively online on Amazon.com, the first time that TSO had done something like this.