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New album, Christmas tour for Trans-Siberian Orchestra
The cover for Trans-Siberian Orchestra's newest album, "Letters From the Labyrinth." - photo by Sharon Haddock
Lyricist, composer and creator Paul O'Neill isn't sure what reaction he'll get from Trans-Siberian Orchestra fans when the group's newest rock album, "Letters From the Labyrinth," debuts Nov. 13.

It's a departure from the albums that have gone before.

Instead of a set of songs built around a single story, this album features 14 tracks written about a variety of journeys focused on the problems and sorrows in today's world. The songs address injustice and tragedy, from unrest and displacement in Syria and Ukraine to bullying and dishonesty in world banking.

"It's a major change for us, but then the Trans-Siberian Orchestra was designed to be an evolving band," O'Neill said in a recent press teleconference. "I'm hoping our public will embrace it. This is a new adventure for us."

O'Neill acknowledged that many of the band's fans love and expect the high-energy, ringing holiday numbers that rocketed the band to fame right out of the gate in 1999.

"Next year is the 20th anniversary of 'Christmas in the Attic,'" O'Neill said. "It was only supposed to run once, and basically it has run every year since the first year. We were completely blindsided by the success of the Christmas trilogy."

O'Neill said regardless of what projects and tour plans the band has, "every October we shut down and focus on the Christmas show," making it more spectacular and brilliantly visual each year with laser lights; over-the-top electric guitar; and rocking, hair-shaking moves and story.

This year, the "Ghosts of Christmas Eve" tour show will include six tracks from the new album that take on the need to stop bullying, to stop worrying about who's to blame in war-torn regions, and to send messages of peace.

"We're at a crossroads in the world," O'Neill said. "This album is addressing the need for change. Bullying has to be stopped. Fighting has to stop.

"We like the comfort of the familiar, but we also like the excitement of something new," he added. "The bottom line is it's all about the audience. Never drop the ball."

He said the band was fortunate to be able to jump on the invention of the electric guitar and "jump generational walls" with its music.

"We have a very, very wide audience," he said. "We had people who loved us in their 30s bringing their kids with them now."

O'Neill said the next step for the band is to head toward Broadway.

"It's time," he said. "Broadway never got the true edge of rock, and it's time for a change. How many times can you reopen 'Oklahoma'?"

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