Album review: VANDEN PLAS – The Ghost Experiment, Illumination

VANDEN PLAS – The Ghost Experiment, Illumination

Frontiers [Release date 04.12.20]

Vanden Plas are something of an institution in their native Germany, and indeed increasingly in the wider world. The Ghost Experiment, Illumination is their 12th studio album.

So many Progressive Rock bands succumb to Must Have A Concept Syndrome, suffocating the songs and the music with an impenetrable storyline.

Vanden Plas are an exception. Illumination, the second part of The Ghost Experiment, is where the album’s high concept Frankenstein plot reaches a complex, but satisfying resolution.

As with all Vanden Plas material, events are woven through fabulously musical compositions and compelling, expressive arrangements. Key tracks in the story, ‘The Lonely Psychogen’ and ‘Fatal Arcadia’, are both provocatively tense.

The harmonies are powerful and punchy. Andy Kuntz’s voice frequently scales vocal skyscrapers and stays there, buoyed by multi layered instrumentation that frequently drifts between driven hard rock, and high pressure power metal. Impressive.

The dramatic ‘When The World Is Falling Down’ opens with a bit of Chopin, or it could be John Williams, who knows nowadays? With ‘Under The Horizon’ it sets the scene. Vocals, keys, guitars, bass and drums all play significant roles … this is equal opportunity Progressive Rock, and storytelling on a grand scale.

A world within a world, one that frequently reflects the members’ involvement in musicals and drama down through the years, including works by literary giants, Alexandre Dumas and Wolfgang Holbein. They coat the choruses with a thin veneer of operatic grandeur, just enough to add a sense of theatre.

And like all skilled storytellers, they counter the drama with softer, more thoughtful moments. Like weaving piano and strings through the sombre passages of ‘Black Waltz Death’, then kicking it up through the gears in order to grasp a climactic conclusion. The thirteen minute ‘Ouroboros’ cleverly repeats and expands on this approach, as the protagonist recognises his genesis and his potential fate.

Many music critics, even those who’ve long admired the band, wondered if they could rise to the challenge of writing and recording this sequel. Illumination shows us a band who have met that challenge head on, delivering 8 heavy duty progrock tracks that sound fresh, exciting and … yes, interesting. ****

Review by Brian McGowan


The latest Facebook Live session from Canadian singer-songwriter Josh Taerk was streamed on Sunday 20 December., imbued with a festive flavour to raise the spirits

More about Josh:

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 20 December 2020 and announces the results of the Popular Poll for Best of 2020.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 20 December 2020 and includes Pete’s best of the year selections

Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
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Featured Albums w/c 11 January 2021 (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 UNRULY CHILD Our Glass House (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 SERGEANT STEEL Truck Tales (Boyz Tyme Records)
14:00-16:00 DAN REED Liftoff (Zero Entertainment)

Power Plays w/c 11 January 2021 (Mon-Fri)

BLACK SPIDERS – Good Times (Dark Riders Records/Cargo Records)
GRAVITY MACHINE Standing Stones (Zyse Records)
EMPIIRES Love Or Hate (TLG Entertainment/INgrooves)
RAY FENWICK Tam Tam (Singsong Music)
DEAD REYNOLDS Voices (The Fort)
LAYLA ZOE Don’t Wanna Help Anyone (indie)

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