A good four years since their critically acclaimed studio recording Christ O hit the charts, Vanden Plas, one of Germany’s top prog metal acts, is set to release its latest album, The Seraphic Clockwork, on June 4, 2010. Impatiently awaited by the band’s fans, what The Seraphic Clockwork has turned into is a fascinating concept album which highlights the quintet’s exceptional technical skills and demonstrates their impressive development as composers. Once again, Vanden Plas have succeeded in giving new impetus to their unmistakable style without watering down their very own unique sound. The Seraphic Clockwork sounds more multi-layered, progressive and metal-oriented than previous Vanden Plas releases: “I think that my penchant for music of the tougher persuasion shines through more than ever before on this album”, comments guitarist Stephan Lill, who – together with keyboardist Günter Werno and vocalist Andy Kuntz – make up the group’s creative triumvirate. He adds: “Hard riffs, elaborate keyboard and orchestra arrangements plus catchy hook lines come together in a perfect symbiosis which marks Vanden Plas’ characteristic style. I feel that we were much more adventurous on with The Seraphic Clockwork than ever before.”
A perfect example which substantiates this is the 13-minute track ‘On My Way To Jerusalem’, a little masterpiece within a homogeneous, self-contained album. The song takes the listener on a haunting, adventurous journey which comes full circle musically towards its end. From tender piano sounds through hard riffs and versatile arrangements to atmospheric parts, the whole range of expressive forms which the progressive metal genre has to offer are present. On the other hand, ‘Heal The World’ with its melodic intro, subsequent heavy riff and catchy chorus, which reveals the band’s affinity to theatre music and all its complexity, is classic Vanden Plas.
Speaking of music theater: in case if you’ve been wondering how Vanden Plas spent the past four years since releasing Christ O, you may be in for a surprise. Along with the production of their own musicals, ‘Abydos’ and ‘Ludus Danielis’ (both at the Pfalztheater Kaiserslautern) and Christ O (which debuted in Munich in 2008 and will be produced at the Pfalztheater Kaiserlautern this year), the group was also involved in productions of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and ‘Hair’ (both at the Pfalztheater Kaiserslautern), and ‘Der Herbst des Winterkönigs’ (Amberg). Understandably, these activities left little time for extensive tours, which explains why the band concentrated on major festivals such as Sweden Rock (2006), PP Scandinavia (2008), Bloodstock (2008) and the Roccolo Park Festival in Italy (2008).
The band’s fascination with classical history has left its mark on The Seraphic Clockwork and particularly in the lyrics: the dramatic science fiction story of the concept album was penned by vocalist Andy Kuntz and chronicles a journey in place and time from 16th century Rome to Jerusalem in the year 33 anno Domini. After an apocalyptic vision, the protagonist has come under the spell of an Old Testament prophecy and must travel back through the centuries to face his God-given destiny. “It’s about being unable to accept fate”, explains Kuntz, a master at making complex subject matter both fascinating and accessible to contemporary audiences. “Working for the theater has definitely influenced the story’s depth. When you realize your own projects on a theater stage, you learn a lot of very important things about dramaturgy.”
The musical and dramatic complexity of The Seraphic Clockwork is certainly inspiring. Vanden Plas have proved again that it is the most imaginative and diverse of German prog metal bands and justly enjoys the highest international acclaim. It can only be a matter of time before this concept album also makes it onto the stage.