Vanden Plas – The Ghost Xperiment: Illumination
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 02/12/2020
Running Time: 60:01
Review by Simon Black
Progressive Metal is not everyone’s cup of tea, that’s for sure. I’ve always had a fondness for it, because before I discovered the dark side of Metal, classical music was a significant backdrop to my early life. Music doesn’t always have to be about the three and half minute hit, but if you can meld the musical complexities and long format elements and combine them with those mainstream pop sensibilities, say as a Dream Theater, Pink Floyd or Rush do then you truly get the best of both worlds. Even those that liberally pour in the Metal on top as well can create a hybrid with cross border appeal – and I am thinking here of the likes of Symphony-X, who have an unerring way of winning people over at festivals who would not normally think twice about this style of music. When Prog works, it works well, but when it gets distracted by its own complexities and forget the commercial sensibilities, it can lose its way.
Vanden Plas have many of the positive elements of the movement going for them. Musically and theatrically these guys have many of the strengths of the likes of Dream Theater and certainly comparable experience, but Dream Theater have learned the hard way that even in the rambling long form that is Prog that less is sometimes more. When they did allow their indulgence to carry them away with the fairies, the result was the utterly disappointing and widely panned “The Astonishing” and for their German genre cousins sadly this feels like a mistake of similar magnitude.
This record is not for the faint of heart. It’s the second part of a massive concept piece, the story is based on a true paranormal event and it’s an absolute beast of an opus. This is an approach they have tried before with the two “Chronicles Of The Immortals” records and as with that arc, I can’t help but feeling that a consolidated double album release would have been a better option when trying to tell this kind of story than splitting the releases into two separate recording blocks. I suggest this for one reason – when you split a concept over a several year release cycle and don’t write and produce them together, you sometimes lose some of the flow and continuity that comes of producing them together.
That’s the negatives out of the way. For the positives I cannot fault what I am hearing from any of the performances. Backed by a rich and epic sounding production standard the soaring vocal delivery of Andy Kuntz cannot help but grab your attention. There are also some real slabs of rhythmic melodic metal driving this disk. There’s plenty of instrumental proficiency on display here, and although perhaps not on as grand a scale as the Petrucci/Rudess machine, nonetheless delivers a prodigious display of technical wizardry from Stephan Lill (Guitar) and Günter Werno (Keyboards). Perhaps I need the luxury of the time to give this pair of albums a few more spins to hook myself in with, but sadly this album doesn’t quite grab the attention immediately as well as some of its peers.
‘When The World Is Falling Down’ (Official Video)
01. When The World Is Falling Down
02. Under The Horizon
03. Black Waltz Death
04. The Lonely Psychogon
05. Fatal Arcadia
06. The Ouroboros
07. Ghost Engineers
08. Krieg Kennt Keine Sieger
Andy Kuntz – Vocals
Stephan Lill – Guitar
Günter Werno – Keyboards
Andreas Lill – Drums
Torsten Reichert – Bass
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