Released: 2010, Frontiers Records
Vanden Plas have long been a highly respected institution in prog-metal circles. The Germans’ series of albums, beginning with 1994’s COLOUR TEMPLE and up to 2006’s CHRIST.0 are all considered works of incredible quality and admiration. In recent years the band members have involved themselves in the German theatre scene, working on productions of Hair and musicals of their own creation. Amazingly, despite my love of prog-metal, I’ve never had the chance to cross paths with any of the band’s work. After listening to this album on repeat for the better part of a month, I now realize that this is a problem I need to fix!
Quite simply, THE SERAPHIC CLOCKWORK is quite likely going to be the prog-metal album of the year. While I can’t compare it to any of the band’s previous work, I can definitely say that it’s a heavy, melodic, sweeping work of genius with very few flaws. The trio of songs that close the album (not including the bonus track) are among the best 30 minutes of music I’ve heard so far in 2010. From “Quicksilver’s” uplifting and soaring balladry, through the rising power of “Rush of Silence”, and finishing with the epic, crushing masterpiece of “On My Way to Jerusalem” is both harrowing and inspiring.
Although those three songs are the highlights, the rest of the album certainly lives up to their standard. Throughout THE SERAPHIC CLOCKWORK the band shines. Andy Kuntz’ vocals are powerful and clear throughout, leading the band through the centuries-spanning storyline (yep, it’s a concept album). Musically, everyone else in the band gets their moments of glory with Gunter Werno’s keyboard work often standing out. But rest easy prog haters – the band stays with song more often than not. Of course there are moments of wankery – this IS prog-metal – but for the most part Vanden Plas plays for the song, not for the musician.
THE SERAPHIC CLOCKWORK is a stunning album. It’s may not be quite perfect, but I highly doubt we’ll hear a better prog-metal album this year. Mandatory.