Vanden Plas

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Colour Temple

Vanden Plas - Colour Temple ©1994 InsideOut Music
1. Father
2. Push
3. When The Wind Blows
4. My Crying
5. Soul Survives
6. Anytime
7. Judas
8. Back To Me
9. How Many Tears

Vanden Plas' first release for public consumption is comprised of guitar driven melodic power rock. They cross the lines into progressive metal with a sound very much like Queensryche at certain places. The songs themselves are long enough to allow for some great solos without coming off as shallow Malmsteem vehicles for Stephen Lill to strut his stuff. Five of the tracks clock in at over six minutes each, allowing the band to show a good measure of technical proficiency. There is the usual mix of power ballads ("Anytime", "How Many Tears") and solid crunchy rockers ("Judas", "Days of Thunder") making for enough variety to keep you listening. The choruses and melodies are catchy and comfortable. Lyrically, the songs are well written with enough depth to keep the listener interested. No pretentious "We're part of the brotherhood of steel and thunder" silliness here. The lyrics tend toward the spiritual or emotional motif. Andy Kuntz' voice is not quite as relaxed or emotive as on the later releases, but the vocal quality is still very good. All in all, this CD is a wonderful first release, easily matching the quality of many bands' fourth or fifth releases. Definitely a group to keep your eye on in the future.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 05/2000

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The God Thing

Vanden Plas - The God Thing ©1997 InsideOut Music
1. Fire Blossom
2. Rainmaker
3. Garden Of Stones
4. In You: I Believe
5. Day I Die
6. Crown Of Thorns
7. We're Not God
8. Salt In My Wounds
9. You Fly

Wow.

You might want a more in-depth review than that, but wow. I was not ready to be blown away by this disc. The change in Vanden Plas' sound caught me completely off guard. Comparisons with Images and Words or Awake era Dream Theater are inevitable when listening to this CD. The complexity of the songs is a giant step forward for these guys. The music swirls and surrounds you as you listen pushing you to the verge of sensory overload and backing off before renewing the assault. The complexity of these songs can be seen in that seven of the nine tracks are over six minutes each, four of them over seven minutes. The songs and lyrics show definite Dream Theater influences, but Vanden Plas takes Dream Theater's tried and true formula and pushes the envelope further with a wonderfully full, rich sound. From the compositional point of view, there are many different elements, searing guitar work, classical strings, cascading keys, and superb singing. Each track grabs and holds you with a great variety of subtlety, intricacy or sheer power. A large part of that grab is found in the lyrics which go to a deeper level than those found on Colour Temple. Again, the songs are emotionally charged and Kuntz' vocals have relaxed and quickly grab you. Andy Kuntz sings with his heart and soul on this disc, and the difference between his singing here and on Colour Temple will really stand out. Taken as a whole, the CD leaves you satiated, almost drained after listening, and it will take several plays before you have managed to wrap yourself around the content. They have managed to produce a sound larger than the sum of their parts that is sure to please any fan of progressive metal.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 05/2000

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Far Off Grace

Vanden Plas - Far Off Grace ©1999 InsideOut Music
1. I Can See
2. Far Off Grace
3. Into The Sun
4. Where Is The Man
5. Iodic Rain
6. I Don't Miss You
7. Inside Of Your Head
8. Fields Of Hope
9. I'm In You
10. Kiss Of Death

Following on the heels of The God Thing, Vanden Plas had their work cut out for them. They had shown tremendous growth in the complexity of their song writing abilities. Would they be able to follow in the direction they had set for themselves? I am very happy to say that they have not disappointed fans with this release. Not content to stay where they were as a force to be reckoned with in progressive metal, they raised the bar yet another notch or three. Far Off Grace steps up the power and absolutely thunders in your stereo. The continuing maturity in the complexity of the songs is still there, as are the well written lyrics. Once again Andy Kuntz emotes very well, enhancing the already well written lyrics. They continue in the vein of not showcasing one musician over the other players, but letting each shine as they work as a unit to produce some very intricate and powerful pieces. I am very happy to note that they are still writing longer than average songs (seven of them over six minutes) allowing them to flex their technical muscle very nicely. Even so, the music seems tighter and more compact. There is a lot going on in this CD. It will surprise you on each listen with aspects you hadn't picked out on the previous play. Fans of progressive metal, Vanden Plas are here!

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 05/2000

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Spirit Of Live

Vanden Plas - Spirit Of Live ©2000 InsideOut Music
1. I Can See
2. Into The Sun
3. Soul Survives
4. How Many Tears
5. Journey To Paris
6. Spirit Of Life
7. Iodic Rain
8. You Fly
9. Far Off Grace
10. Rainmaker

I am not a fan of live recordings as a rule. In a collection of some four to five hundred CDs, I think I have four live discs. I think this stems mostly from me being a child of the 70's when live recordings were invariably badly mixed and vastly inferior to studio recordings. Things have certainly changed over thirty years because this disc rocks.

Vanden Plas are currently (as of this writing) in the studio working on their next commercial release. In order to give fans something to "tide them over", they released this live disc. The immediate impression you get listening to it is that they are much heavier on stage than they are in the studio. The sound is much more forceful and driven. Even the "lighter" tunes are given new weight and impact. That heavier feel should be refreshing for fans of Vanden Plas who felt let down by the lighter feel of Far Off Grace. The band still has plenty of punch and power in them. The sharp feel of these songs makes this disc well worth buying.

The band plays together with the same precision they use in the studio. The leads don't get carried away, but manage to share the spotlight with the rest of the band. There is a good involvement and recognition of the audience, complete with sing-along on "How Many Tears" and the sense of "being there" is well captured in the production of the disc. Hearing the live rendering of songs from each of their three main releases is a real treat. "Far Off Grace" and "Rainmaker" are outstanding and carried off with a real style and showmanship that impressed me. The whole disc demonstrates why Vanden Plas are one of the leading progressive metal bands today.

As I said, I am not a big fan of live recordings, but that may change after having lived with this disc for a week now. It will please any fan of Vanden Plas or anyone who is looking for progressive metal bands that still remember the "metal" part of their compositions.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 03/2001

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Beyond Daylight

Vanden Plas - Beyond Daylight ©2002 InsideOut Music
1. Nightwalker
2. Cold Wind
3. Scarlet Flower Fields
4. Healing Tree
5. End Of All Days
6. Free The Fire
7. Can You Hear Me
8. Phoenix
9. Beyond Daylight
10. Point Of Know Return

I am a voracious reader. I have a list of authors whose works I eagerly anticipate. It is sort of like how children anticipate summer vacation or Christmas. And when that anticipation is realized, it is one of those moments of euphoria that is very hard to describe. There are a few bands whose works I greet with such anticipated joy. Vanden Plas is one such band.

There has been a long period of waiting since the release of Far Off Grace. Were it almost any other band, the wait might be so long that fans would lose interest or decide that nay new release could not possibly live up to the hope that had been built up over so long a waiting period. What may be a crafty marketing strategy on the one hand can spell death for smaller businesses on the other.

This disc, however, is well worth the wait. It is very early in 2002, but I am confident that this disc will be in the running for the best progressive metal disc of the year. Each track on this disc is outstanding. There are the trademark sweeping melodies that imprint themselves in your mind so that you catch yourself humming them later in the day. This disc is a showcase of wide ranging music. Each piece is on display and presents itself from several different angles so that you come away with a very full sense of the tremendous amount of talent behind their production. There are no extraneous filler bits here. Each song is packed with as much music as possible without sounding "crowded" or contrived. Each layer fits so well with the others that it helps to create a sound that is larger than life. The vocals sweep the listeners along with huge choruses and stunning harmonies. The guitars and keys build walls of sound that surround the listener with the overall warmth of the music. This is not depressing or threatening music, but welcoming. Listening to this disc feels like coming home after a hard day's work. It is bright and welcoming, filled with a sense of the familiar that is very comforting.

Well done, Vanden Plas! You have raised the bar another notch for yourselves. I hope the next disc will not be too far off, but give me enough time to more fully appreciate this one. Add this to my list of Must Have progressive metal discs!

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 02/2002

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