VANDEN PLAS – The Ghost Experiment: Illumination

VANDEN PLAS - The Ghost Experiment: Illumination
  • 8/10
    VANDEN PLAS - The Ghost Experiment: Illumination - 8/10


Frontiers Music
Release date: December 4, 2020

User Review
7.5/10 (1 vote)

Restraint and control are the hallmarks of Vanden Plas on their new album The Ghost Experiment: Illumination. The first volume of The Ghost Experiment, Awakenings, came out in 2019; Illumination picks up the narrative and musical threads. Vanden Plas’s mindset and high level of musicianship makes them an easy RIYL association with fellow progsters Dream Theater; the long compositions and cerebral fantasy-tinged lyrics here are unlikely to untether them from such comparisons. Sporting song titles like “The Lonely Psychogon” and “The Ouroboros”, the narrative appeal of The Ghost ExperimentIllumination is an esoteric one, reserved for aficionados or practitioners of alchemy, mythology, and mysticism.

Listeners who are willing to wade through the dense lyrical content will be rewarded with some excellent Progressive Metal performances, however. Andy Kuntz is one of those vocalists who makes hitting those high, sustained notes effortless, without any sign of stretch or strain. Kuntz’s crack band make very complex passages appear equally effortless. Günter Werno on keyboards is especially adept on this volume of The Ghost Experiment, dropping swirling keyboard runs and solos complementing Stephan Lill’s equally incendiary guitar solos. Lill’s brother Andreas anchors the sound with a very precise, full-kit approach; bassist Torsten Reichert shifts equally well in syncing with either Lill brother depending on the desired goals of the songs.

Lead single “When The World Is Falling Down” is perhaps the most approachable of the cuts on the album, with a multiple guitar solos to feast on in between the soaring, catchy choruses. The song is also one of Andreas Lill’s finest percussive performances of the album. The song is a great start, but the rapid-fire quick pace is somewhat misleading considering the songs that follow, most of which start of with a slower, melancholic tone. “Under The Horizon” begins this way, eventually bringing a low heat that flickers but never quite bursts into flame. “Black Waltz Death” treads similar sonic ground. The song like its predecessor is a great vehicle for Kuntz, who delivers a typically great vocal against an added string section. The band sits on the sidelines for a full five minutes of the song until Stephan Lill and Günter take short solos.

A failing–or a strength, depending on how far along the Progressive continuum one’s aesthetics lie–of the album is that the long songs, with their multiple changes and well-ordered construction, tend to bleed into each other without real distinction. The vocals, musicianship, and production are all great, but with the exception of “When The World Is Falling Down” the individual tunes don’t rise out of the otherwise highly pleasing aural stew.


  • Daniel Waters

    Daniel was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. Iron Maiden’s Piece Of Mind wasn’t the first Metal album he owned, but it was the one that lifted the lid off his soul when he received the record as a gift on his 15th birthday. He's been a Metal fan ever since. He's probably best known as the author of various Young Adult novels such as the Generation Dead series and the ghost story Break My Heart 1,000 Times, now also a major motion picture entitled I Still See You, starring Bella Thorne. Writing and music, especially Heavy Metal music, has always been inextricably linked in his mind and career. His first paid gig doing any type of writing was for Cemetery Dance, where he wrote a horror-themed music column called Dead Beats, and when he was writing the first Generation Dead novel he had a ritual where he started his writing day with a Metal playlist that kicked off with “Crushing Belial” by Shadows Fall.

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