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Vanden Plas - The Seraphic Clockwork

Vanden Plas
The Seraphic Clockwork
by Mike Novak at 03 July 2010, 4:07 PM

For the longest time, the majority of progressive metal bands played music in the vein of DREAM THEATER, with somewhat heavy guitars, lots of solos and weird time signatures, and a base in 80’s metal. Somewhere over the past ten years, prog-metal (or what critics call prog-metal) has shifted to where bands like MASTODON, BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME, and even (ugh) THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN are marketed as the front-runners of the genre. Some may disagree, but I believe that in a fair world, bands like SHADOW GALLERY and VANDEN PLAS should be much bigger than they are (maybe if they toured more often, they would be) and would serve as direct contrasts to the typical stereotypes of the genre.

VANDEN PLAS is a band that has been around since 1986, and has been releasing albums every 3-4 years since their debut, “Colour Temple” in 1994. “The Seraphic Clockwork” is their sixth album, recorded with the same lineup that recorded the debut.

The slightly heavier direction that VANDEN PLAS has been moving on since their previous album “Christ 0” continues here. Don’t worry, this is nothing like “Train of Thought” (although I loved that album), but the guitars are slightly heavier and more in the forefront of the sound, and there is a greater focus on the riffs. The chemistry and interaction between the guitar and keyboards is fantastic.

There are only 8 songs on the album (9 if you count the bonus track), but half of the songs are about 9 minutes or longer. I never found the length of any of these songs to be bothersome, in fact, I love how well that they worked so many ideas together, rather than just taking one riff or melody and driving it to the ground. The great thing about VANDEN PLAS, especially recently, is that they can write technically proficient songs without sacrificing good songwriting. The melodies, both from singer Andy Kuntz, and from the actual instruments, are so powerful.

For lovers of guitar and keyboard solos, there’s plenty to enjoy here, but those who eschew progressive genres because of the over-abundance of solos and “wanking” will still find the performances tasteful. My favorite song on here is probably “Holes in the Sky,” with its grand hook. “Scar of an Angel” is technically a ballad, although it has some superior heavier parts. The use of a female vocalist is so effective in this beautiful song. Closing epic “On My Way to Jerusalem” goes from soft to heavy and back again, along with some nice progressive sections as well. Bonus track “Eleyson” was recorded live and sung entirely in Latin; it’s a decent song, but it’s a good thing that they left it off of the regular album, because it is the weakest song on the album.

The Seraphic Clockwork” is an album that can be divided into two halves, with the longest songs on the second half and the comparatively shorter songs in the first. However, regardless of their length or placement on the album, VANDEN PLAS succeeds mightily. The only thing keeping this from a perfect score is that I thought “Quicksilver” was slightly weaker than the rest of the songs. I cannot stop listening to this album and chances are you won’t be able to either. Just like “Christ 0,” The Seraphic Clockwork” is an album that you will see on my end of the year “best-of” list.

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
  1. Frequency
  2. Holes In The Sky
  3. Scar Of An Angel
  4. Sound Of Blood
  5. The Final Murder
  6. Quicksilver
  7. Rush Of Silence
  8. On My Way To Jerusalem
  9. Eleyson
Lineup:
Andy Kuntz - Vocals
Stephan Lill - Guitar
Torsten Reichert - Bass
Andreas Lill - Drums
Günter Werno – Keyboards
Record Label: Inside Out Records
     


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