The progressive Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) rock band was established around 1993 by composer, producer, and lyricist Paul O’Neill by bringing together Jon Oliva and Al Pitrelli who were both members of Savatage, as well as keyboardist and co-producer Robert Kinkel to start the creative team. However, the group managed to gain popularity from the 1999 tour after completing their second album, ‘The Christmas Attic’. Over more than the past two decades, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra has become a rock band of critical acclaim musical powerhouse and multi-platinum for their winter tours which have since become a multi-generational tradition.
The band specializes in genres including progressive metal, Christmas, neoclassical, hard rock, speed metal, heavy metal, progressive rock, and symphonic metal. They had a unique success path as being the first major rock band to move straight to the theaters and arenas without ever playing at a club, as well as never being an opening act and never having an opening act. In the years they have been active from 1996 to present they have signed with Lava, Atlantic, Rhino, and Republic labels.
Their debut album, ‘Christmas Eve and Other Stories’ was released in 1996 and remains one of their best selling albums, and contains the instrumental ‘Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24’. Their second album ‘Beethoven’s Last Night’ was released in 2000 and starts with the story when the Mephistopheles appeared before the Beethoven that they referred to as the world’s first metal rock. ‘The Lost Christmas Eve’ was their third album released in 2004 that carried the story of loss and redemption that encompassed a rundown hotel, a blues bar, an old toy store, and a Gothic Cathedral all intertwined on one enchanted Christmas Eve. Other albums that followed included ‘Night Castel’ released in 2009, ‘Dreams of Fireflies’ released in 2012, ‘Tales of Winter’ released in 2013, ‘Who I Am’ released in 2011, and ‘Merry Christmas Rabbi’ released in 2013.
O’Neill died on April 5, 2017, at Embassy Suites by Hilton Hotels located near the University of South Florida in Tampa. The cause of the death was determined as intoxication emanating from the reaction of prescribed medications of codeine, methadone, doxylamine, and diazepam. The band had some philanthropic activities including donations of more than $10 million to some local and national charities at every stop in their tours.
Their last album ‘Letters from the Labyrinth’ was released in 2015 when the band reunited with the Savatage on their 26th edition of Wacken Open Air Festival in Germany. It marked their largest metal festival internationally and lasted three days, as well as featuring more than 100 bands. The united Trans-Siberian Orchestra featured 4 guitarists, 2 drummers, 4 keyboard players, a full string section, 2 bassists, and 24 vocalists and dancers performing in sync for nearly an audience of 80,000 people. For the first time in the history of music concerts, the entire band played a coordinated set spanning the 2 festival main stages, connected by a catwalk. The shows were spectacular and memorable for the Savatage's and Trans-Siberian Orchestra bringing the show to a whole new level of shows.