Based on an actual documented paranormal experiment 'The Ghost Xperiment – Awakening' is the first chapter of another dual release following the acclaimed two `Netherworld’ paths. The main character in the story, brought to live by singer Andy Kuntz, is Gideon Grace, constantly fighting for his life against the relentless shadows of the “House of Rain” as he wanders through France. Burdened with sorrow following the agonizing death of his beloved Ivy, Gideon's pain is also the driving force in war with his demons. He expands his knowledge with books found in the library of a German school of metaphysics and it is there that he reads about teachers and parapsychological experiments, which become an important foundation from which he can fight against the creatures of darkness. After the first showdown with these demons, rather than finding peace, the insights Gideon learns from this fight tear open a hole deep into the abyss of Hell...
There you have it: the story of the new album in a nutshell. Again an epic and illustrious story vividly brought to live by the German band that, since their debuting days, has piled surprises and high quality rock musical performances upon one another. I wonder where `The Ghost Xperiment – Awakening’ will land on my list of classics from Vanden Plas.
I cannot make it more obvious than being a fan of the band since their first album. Vanden Plas always seized to amaze me, and I can’t explain why the progressive rock world hasn’t opened themselves to the Kaiserslautern quintet like they did to Dream Theater. Sure, Andy’s wailing vocals and typical sound diversifies from LaBrie’s, but Kuntz never failed performing live.
A blunt riff from Stephan Lill takes us into the action without an ominous intro casting its elusive spell on the dark story brought to live. With the band immediately laying down their typical progressive groundwork so well known from their previous releases, we’re in for an impressive album. ,,Cold December Night” instantly warps me to the band’s debuting days rather than their more recent predecessors. Intense and sublime riffs are pulling forward with great thrive and Lill’s brother Andreas hammers his polyrhythmic beats down with intense panache. Keenly injected with subdued symphonic orchestration Günther Werner keeps a rather low profile. Suppressed dense orchestration is implemented but delicately to flower during the instrumental sections taking a more prominent spot in the mix. Defending the low regions and bridging the tiny sonic gaps between the fierce riffs and dominating drum patterns, Torsten Reichert delivers a spotless performance as always. With the immense turmoil scattered on this opening track, he manages to inject a low-end groove, pumping forward the impressive track. Taking a more dominant position on the symphonic ,,The Phantoms Of Prends-Toi-Gar”, Reichert drops pulsating interaction on Lill’s insane riffs. The song stomps forward with towering grandeur and drops an insane musical interaction upon us as it evolves. The band-specific melodies switch and morph throughout the song with Kuntz belting a star studded job. Though his wailing and somewhat vocalic presence remains very typical, Andy pushes the envelope with a performance that is captivating and gut wrecking, unloading passion and sincerity. He shifts registers frequently and ads some vim and vigour to his performance. No clean and slick edges, but full frontal punishment is laid upon us with the track unravelling its diversity in 5 minutes. Rather compact compared to the overall long spinning tunes offered it is spot on and showcases the band’s impressive skills. ,,Three Ghosts” has a serene touch opening with appealing melodies and exquisite piano sections over the low throbbing bass. Andreas adds to the poise with intrinsic percussion work covering the rolling drive underneath. He switches pace frequently and 3 minutes in picks up momentum with impressive riffs unloading an uncomfortable sub note. Hoovering keys are reminiscent to the cast-spelling soundtrack of X-Files before unloading another intense and dense instrumental section with towering allure and insanely progressive symphonic elements upholding the escalating sonic bodywork of the track. Kuntz steps up belting disgruntled anguish adding to the equilibrium of the towering track, which dies out with classic rock elements draped over the progressive drum rolls and aggravating riffs. ,,Devil’s Poetry” casts comfort with attractive keyboards added in multiple layers adding to the riff-rage of Stephan switching crunchy to delicate in poignant altitude. Interaction is again phenomenal. The song switches pace midway with riffs fired in almost thrash-metal grandeur and Werno injecting gross discomfort with swirling keys over the double bass firing. Musical notes with string arrangements and brass section are added in the serene and enchanting section following, blasting into towering pompous action. Kuntz again is delivering in spades across the entire track switching emotions with engaging and enchanting melodies. Throughout the album his ensures his listeners to be the focal point stepping into character with ebbing melancholy and towering anguish delivered at large. Delving deep when needed he evokes his beloved one on the following ,,Fall From The Skies”. The intro sends shivers down your spine and evokes bone-chilling turmoil as the anger button is pushed with both Lill-brother sparking the flame to their combustion engine. Tuning on and of in aggressive toning and complexity Stephan pulls the track forward. Werno adds the symphonic arrangements and Reichert more than ones stuns with his intelligent bass ‘riffs’ adding to the grandiose overhaul of the track. The chorus orbits, making it one of their most ravishing tracks ever with arrangements literally breathing fire.
Putting an exclamation point to the album the band delivers a short-lived magnum opus with the title track. Focussing on the band’s key ingredients is switches emotions and stumbles onto the prog field with a hail of riffs and insane drumming. Fusing staccato keys with the dynamics of Andreas’ drum shuffles it has an entrancing effect on the overall dynamics of the song. Pace goes up and unload with wonderful hooks and melodies exceeding in harmonies. Andy takes the spotlight to spit his energy before the song dies out with overwhelming power.
`Chronicles Of The Immortals’ revealed Vanden Plas’ wide varied skills as composers and performers and linked with their musical appearances more than obvious. It widened their horizons and appears to be the needed step from their classic releases in order to reset. On `The Ghost Xperiment – Awakening’ the band returns to form fusing their key elements with the specific dramatic ingredients used on their 2 predecessors. The blend of styles balances out perfectly and unloads with towering magnitude. The music and sonic journeys crafted on `The Ghost Xperiment - Awakening’ dip in the musicians’ musicals performances without meandering and delving into commencing orchestration too much. All songs, though mainly exceeding the 8-minute mark, are all spot on supporting the story and elevating with complexity, without losing their direct appeal. The melodies are simply jaw dropping and enchanting and the musical craftsmanship explodes constantly with extrovert inspiration. Cementing the storyline, Andy performs in character with sheer devotion, making the album fire on all engines!
This is, by far, Vanden Plas’ best album!