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One Hell of a Grower - 98%

Joseph_Leap, October 6th, 2010

I had never heard of Vanden Plas before this album, but had heard it was one of their best, and sounded pretty similar to Dream Theater. Being a Theater fanboy, I snatched it up without a second thought. What I didn't expect was a spacey, yet heavy and nimble atmospheric and futuristic prog album closer to post-Perfect Forever Anubis Gate.

If you have any knowledge of either bands, you probably know what kind of prog approach I'm talking about here, and it's fairly unique, with only Anubis Gate and Vanden Plas doing it well, if at all. I mean, this is still prog metal, so there's no shortage of solid-as-a-rock chugging riffs here, as on the blistering Free The Fire and Nightwalker, and the weird time shifts are here aplenty, as evidenced by End Of All Days and the unmercifully epic title track. The lyrics are also introspective and weird, yet manage to tell some cool stories, and the drum work switches from pounding, mechanical double bass to amazingly nimble on a dime. However all these songs are also steeped in emotion, and spend their time building to incredible climaxes, and without the help of horrendously overlong wank sessions.

But this is kind of standard fair for most well-done prog, where I think this band and this album really stands out is in the synth work and vocals. Loads of alien sounds pour from the keyboard, and the keys actually take more solo time than the guitars when it comes time to show some virtuosity. Singer Andy Kuntz doesn't really need to pick when to be virtuosic, he's just naturally awesome, always belting out catchy and deceptively technical vocal lines with emotion and sophistication in his silky smooth tone that can only be described as "perfect."

I'm not going to lie, though, this album took a very long time to grow on me, as for some reason I felt like I'd heard it all before, but then I realized that all the songs had their respective hooks in me, and I kept coming back, listening and discovering as each new listen showed new parts of the songs that made them all the more irresistible. Highly recommended for those who have patience and a love of prog metal with a twist.

Album Highlights: Cold Wind, End Of All Days, Phoenix, Beyond Daylight.

Beyond brilliance... - 93%

the_bard_of_osyrhia, December 24th, 2007

This album is the fourth full-length by German progressive metal band Vanden Plas. Some say that these guys are simply Dream Theater clones who just steal the styles of the musicians in Dream Theater, however this is simply not true. Vanden Plas have definitely been influenced a lot by Dream Theater but they use their influence in a very refreshing way. With much more emotional and heavy music than Dream Theater, Vanden Plas should not be written off as a simple clone.

I see this album as being Vanden Plas’s magnum opus,. This album truly is the pinnacle of their achievements so far and it includes some of my favourite progressive metal songs ever such as the album’s epic ‘Beyond Daylight’ and the incredibly beautiful ‘Scarlet Flower Fields’, the latter of which always makes me think of romance and summer rain in a beautiful garden, a combination that should make even the most hardened metalhead’s eyes glaze over.

The guitar on this album is spectacular, some people might immediately write Stephan Lill off as being a John Petrucci copyist but, while he does have a similar style to Petrucci, Lill’s playing is actually much darker and, at times, heavier. On ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Free the fire’ Lill’s playing has a very aggressive and heavy edge that Petrucci has never had. Also on the Kansas cover ‘Point of Know Return’ Lill’s playing is much heavier than I would have expected creating a nice spin on the original song.

Andy Kuntz’s vocals reminded me a lot of James Labrie at first but after listening to the album a few times I realised that in many ways Kuntz’s voice is very different to Labrie’s. Kuntz carries more emotion in his voice and he also has a much deeper voice than Labrie.

The keyboardist, Gunter Werno, bares little to no resemblance to any of Dream Theater’s keyboardists past or present, instead he sounds slightly similar to the keyboardist in Manitou, which makes sense as I think that Manitou were heavily influenced by these guys. Werno’s playing also reminds me of Angra’s keyboardist at times although Werno definitely sounds more progressive. The best example of Werno’s most original and spectacular keyboard playing is on ‘Beyond Daylight’ where his grand piano flourishes send shivers up my spine every time I listen to the album.

The bassist and drummer are technically competent and lead the band’s music brilliantly, though I can think of no particular examples as their work on the whole album is very important and of is all equally good.

If you have got the other Vanden Plas albums then I can only ask why you have not got this one yet… Buy it right now! Or if you are looking for a place to start with this band then this is probably the best album to choose as it is definitely the best album they have done do far.

I cannot think of many highlight tracks as the whole album is excellent and deserves to be listened to in one sitting but ‘Scarlet Flower Fields’ is one of the best progressive songs that I know and therefore warrants a special mention.