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Vanden Plas – The Ghost Xperiment – Awakening

Vanden Plas
The Ghost Xperiment – Awakening
by Santiago Puyol at 08 December 2019, 2:18 PM

From the very first track on the ninth studio album by VANDEN PLAS, "The Ghost Experiment – Awakening," it becomes clear the band is offering classic, conceptual Progressive Metal in the vein of QUEENSRŸCHE still with enough of a modern edge and subtle Alternative Rock influences to show their proper voice. Being a band with over twenty-five years of history, their sound is fully formed, and the chemistry is audible.

"Cold December Night" is filled with classic Metal drama. Andy Kuntz is a powerhouse and his vocal delivery gets RUSH-like at moments. It is a fun opener and is to-the-point with its nasty riff, giving the album an urgent start. As most of the tracks here, it features a catchy chorus that you will find yourself humming along. Stephan Lill provides an impeccable guitar solo, one of the many here.

Electronic elements put "The Phantoms" into modern-sounding territory. The Alternative Rock influences feel clearer here while the chorus takes a passage or two from the Hard Rock vocal harmonization book. Günter Werno sprinkles beautiful piano and contributes to the bluesy feel of the instrumental bridge, leading right to another chorus and an outstanding outro.

"Three Ghosts" starts with some lovely acoustic and clean guitar, one of the lengthiest tracks on the album. Werno gets to shine here with some great organ runs, ethereal sci-fi synth layers and some piano lines that feel straight out of a theatrical production. Andreas Lill’s dynamic work behind the drum kit keeps things in motion, anchoring the shifts in sound and feel of the track.

The longest song on the record, "Devils’ Poetry," comes next. The usage of electric piano and the synth tone choices in general give an artificial, 1990s videogame soundtrack quality to the music that works as a charm with the album feel. Werno shines, in particular, getting to flex his muscles behind the keyboards with some Keith Emerson level of manic soloing.

"Fall from the Skies" has a pretty intro that gets briefly into ballad territory before setting into a heavy mood. Stephan Lill provides some nasty guitar work, heavy riffing and powerful solos. The track circles back to more classic Progressive Metal influences, closer to epics by QUEENSRŸCHE and RUSH and goes off into a powerful symphonic outro.

"The Ghost Xperiment" takes off where the previous track left, playing heavy on the symphonic side of the band. Flute and string flourishes move atop military march drumming, as well as superb piano playing. The song sums up all the strengths of the band: powerful vocals, tight and groovy rhythm section, theatrical arrangements, virtuoso guitar and keyboard playing and memorable songwriting.

The production wise, but having a little more breathing room for instruments in a couple of songs would not have hurt the album. The mixing gets a bit muddy at times, making some of the stuff to get lost. The higher tones are the ones that suffer most, especially cymbals on the drum kit.

Vanden Plas deliver some organic sounding modern Progressive Metal on "The Ghost Experiment – Awakening" with strong, classic Heavy Metal influences and just enough Alternative Rock in the mix. Songs are built in a way that makes them accessible even when featuring several shifts and changes. Overall, the record shows a band in great shape, releasing a strong album with a great set of songs on it.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 7

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Cold December Night
2. The Phantoms of Prends-Toi-Garde
3. Three Ghosts
4. Devils’ Poetry
5. Fall from the Skies
6. The Ghost Xperiment
Lineup:
Andy Kuntz – Vocals
Stephan Lill – Guitars
Andreas Lill – Drums
Günter Werno – Keyboards
Torsten Reichert – Bass
Record Label: Frontiers Records
     


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