With Letters From the Labyrinth, Trans-Siberian Orchestra noticeably shifts gears from the epic grandeur of 2009’s Night Castle. Labyrinth is more of a hodgepodge of reflections, with songs that can be easily singled out and enjoyed as free-standing statements. It’s also unquestionably compact: 14 tracks (plus a bonus track) that come in under an hour.
That’s not to say Letters from the Labyrinth is completely disconnected from what’s come before. There are musical references to earlier work, and TSO’s musicians apply their trademark symphonic-metal chops to recrafted versions of music by Mozart, Beethoven, Mussorgsky (the satanic Night on Bald Mountain), and Bach (on the closing instrumental). The album is filled with cross-references to the world according to TSO, and the mythic subjects the album touches on in songs such as “Prometheus” suggest elements of an oblique sequel to Night Castle.
Musically, the most interesting aspect of Letters From the Labyrinth is the balance TSO finds between instrumental, symphonic rock and prog-rock vocals — the latter showcasing the ensemble’s fine array of female singers, including the awesome Kayla Reeves on “The Night Conceives” and Lizzy Hale from Halestrom on the bonus track “Forget About the Blame.”