TSO's Robin Borneman sings on both versions of the song, while the idea of adding another vocalist came after the original version was recorded. "I needed someone to bring out the female side of it, so we decided we would have two singers sing that song for a different perspective," O'Neill says. "Lzzy Hale has a great voice. She's a great rocker, a lot of emotion. Robin and Lzzy, in my opinion, knocked it out of the ballpark."
Letters From the Labyrinth is TSO's first new release since Night Castle in 2009 and is the first non-rock opera in the group's canon. But with songs that deal with everything from history ("Time & Distance") to bullying ("Not The Same"), world banking controversies ("Not Dead Yet") and the fall of the Berlin Wall, it's also as pointedly topical as anything the collective has released to date.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra Explains This Year's Trip to 'The Christmas Attic'
"Basically, Letters From the Labyrinth is a hybrid," O'Neill explains. "In some ways it's a straight-ahead album, and in some ways it`s not. It's blatantly out of the box more music-driven as opposed to story- and music-driven. But the world is a mess right now, so Letters From the Labyrinth examines some of the problems we're facing now. You can enjoy them as songs, but they're there to make you think."
O'Neill also refers to it as an "open-ended album"; each song will be accompanied by short stories posted gradually online to embellish and build on the themes they cover. "We're experimenting," O'Neill says. "The stories will emerge from their combined journeys. Like our own lives, the story will develop and evolve. We're not really sure what's going to happen tomorrow, let alone next year.
TSO hits the road for its annual holiday tour on Nov. 18, this year playing The Ghosts of Christmas Eve album in its entirety with the usual two companies criss-crossing North America until Dec. 30. O'Neill plans to include "at least six songs" from Letters From The Labyrinth, and Hale hopes to drop in to sing "Forget About The Blame" at some point of the trek. "I'm currently trying to work that out," she says. "Obviously we both have humongous schedules, and just on my end we're booked through June of next year. But where there's a will there's a way, and there's always something that can be done. Singing with them would be a dream come true, it really would."