VANDEN PLAS – The Ghost Xperiment; Awakening (2019)
To be released by Frontiers Music Oct. 11, “The Ghost Xperiment; Awakening” is the title of the new album from German progressive melodic metal combo VANDEN PLAS. This is the ninth studio release by the quintet, part one of a two-part concept project, with the second album to be released in 2020.
Despite of being a concept LP – which supposes a story to follow and sometimes intricate arrangements – this is not the case with “The Ghost Xperiment; Awakening”; this should be the band’s more commercial, melodic and even catchy album to date, and while these are pretty lengthy, each track can be enjoyed standalone.
“The Ghost Xperiment – Awakening” continues to underscore the high artistic level of musicianship and lyrical creativity that the band have sustained for so long, but as said – and I can see Frontiers’ direction here – this is an extremely catchy and melodious set of songs.
Based on an actual documented paranormal experiment ‘The Ghost Xperiment – Awakening’ is the first chapter of a dual release. The main character in the story brought to life by singer Andy Kuntz, is Gideon Grace, constantly fighting for his life against the relentless shadows of the “House of Rain” as he wanders through France.
Burdened with sorrow following the agonizing death of his beloved Ivy, Gideon’s pain is also the driving force in war with his demons. He expands his knowledge with books found in the library of a German school of metaphysics and it is there that he reads about teachers and parapsychological experiments, which become an important foundation from which he can fight against the creatures of darkness.
After the first showdown with these demons, rather than finding peace, the insights Gideon learns from this fight tear open a hole deep into the abyss of Hell…
There you have it: the story of the new album in a nutshell. Again an epic and illustrious story vividly brought to live by the German band that, since their debuting days, has piled surprises and high quality rock musical performances upon one another.
As said, if you don’t want to follow the story, just play the album randomness, and still works wonderfully. The secret of this is the awesome musicality, nuances, and arrangements Vanden Plas add to each of their compositions.
A blunt riff from Stephan Lill takes us into the action without an ominous intro casting its elusive spell on the dark story brought to live. With the band immediately laying down their typical progressive groundwork so well known from their previous releases, we’re in for an impressive album. ‘Cold December Night’ is full of sublime riffs pulling forward with great thrive and Lill’s brother Andreas hammers his polyrhythmic beats down with intense panache.
Rather compact compared to the overall long spinning tunes offered, on ‘The Phantoms Of Prends-Toi-Gar’, bass player Torsten Reichert drops pulsating interaction on Lill’s insane riffs. The song stomps forward with towering grandeur and drops an insane musical interaction upon us as it evolves. The band-specific melodies switch and morph throughout the song with Kuntz belting a star studded job. He pushes the envelope with a performance that is captivating and gut wrecking, unloading passion and sincerity.
‘Three Ghosts’ has a serene touch opening with appealing melodies and exquisite piano sections over the low throbbing bass. Andreas adds to the poise with intrinsic percussion work covering the rolling drive underneath. He switches pace frequently and 3 minutes in picks up momentum with impressive riffs unloading an uncomfortable sub note. Hoovering keys are reminiscent to the cast-spelling soundtrack of X-Files before unloading another intense and dense instrumental section with towering allure and insanely progressive symphonic elements upholding the escalating sonic bodywork of the track.
‘Devil’s Poetry’ casts comfort with attractive keyboards added in multiple layers adding to the riff-rage of Stephan switching crunchy to delicate in poignant altitude. Interaction is again phenomenal. The song switches pace midway with heavy riffs with swirling keys over the double bass firing.
The intro of ‘Fall From The Skies’ sends shivers down your spine and evokes bone-chilling turmoil as the anger button is pushed with both Lill-brother sparking the flame to their combustion engine. Tuning on and of in aggressive toning and complexity the guitar work pulls the track forward. Werno adds the symphonic arrangements and Reichert more than ones stuns with his intelligent bass ‘riffs’ adding to the grandiose overhaul of the track. The chorus orbits, making it one of their most ravishing tracks ever with arrangements literally breathing fire.
Putting an exclamation point to the album the band delivers a short-lived magnum opus with the title track. Focusing on the band’s key ingredients it switches emotions and stumbles onto the prog field with a hail of riffs and insane drumming. Fusing staccato keys with the dynamics of Andreas’ drum shuffles it has an entrancing effect on the overall dynamics of the song. Pace goes up and unload with wonderful hooks and melodies exceeding in harmonies.
On ‘The Ghost Xperiment – Awakening’ Vanden Plas excels. All songs, though mainly exceeding the 8-minute mark, are all spot on supporting the story and elevating with complexity, without losing their direct appeal via terrific hooks.
It’s also benefited by its 46 minutes only, where the melodies are simply jaw dropping, enchanting, and the musical craftsmanship explodes constantly with extrovert inspiration.
This is, by far, Vanden Plas best album.
01 – Cold December Night
02 – The Phantoms Of Prends-Toi-Garde
03 – Three Ghosts
04 – Devils’ Poetry
05 – Fall from the Skies
06 – The Ghost Xperiment
Andy Kuntz – Vocals
Stephan Lill – Guitar
Günter Werno – Keyboards
Andreas Lill – Drums
Torsten Reichert – Bass