Vanden Plas - The Ghost Xperiment:Illumination,
Mniej więcej rok temu zespół Vanden Plas przedstawił pierwszą część swojego koncepcyjnego cyklu „The Ghost Xperiment”. Akcja albumu zatytułowanego „The Ghost Xperiment - Awakening” kończy się podczas seansu spirytystycznego, gdy główny bohater opowieści, Gideon Grace, spotyka duchy, które prześladują go od dzieciństwa. Teraz nadszedł czas na ciąg dalszy, a właściwie na dokończenie historii w postaci nowego albumu zatytułowanego „The Ghost Xperiment - Illumination”.
To trzymająca w napięciu (i to nawet jeżeli nie śledzi się akcji z tekstami w ręku) kontynuacja opowieści o duchach, zainspirowanej wiarygodnie udokumentowanym ‘eksperymentem Philipa Aylesforda’ związanego z badaniem nekromancji. Na jego podstawie badacze zjawisk paranormalnych jeszcze bardziej wzmocnili przekonanie, że musi istnieć coś pomiędzy życiem na Ziemi, a wiecznością… O tym właśnie opowiada historia „The Ghost Xperiment” (zainteresowanych szczegółami odsyłam do eseju na ten temat autorstwa wokalisty Vanden Plas, Andy Kuntza, który można przeczytać na końcu niniejszego tekstu).
Literackiemu rozmachowi tego wydawnictwa pod każdym względem dorównuje też muzyka. Zespół Vanden Plas proponuje słuchaczowi solidną porcję progmetalowej stylistyki utrzymanej w, rzekłbym, bardzo organicznym duchu. Mniej jest na „Illumination” aranżacji orkiestrowych, mniej epickich klimatów, jest za to rzetelne metalowe granie, w którym dominują ostre metalowe riffy dobywające się spod palców gitarzysty Stephana Lilla. Zresztą forma całego zespołu (Stephan Lill (gitara), Günter Werno (instrumenty klawiszowe), Andreas Lill (perkusja), Torsten Reichert (bas) i Andy Kuntz (wokal)) jest bez zarzutu, a w dodatku w nagraniach wzięli udział renomowani goście, którzy przyczynili się do tego, że za wszystkie nowe kompozycje grupie Vanden Plas należą się ogromne brawa. Alea to wokalistka zespołu Saltatio Mortis i dołącza ona do Kuntza w duecie wokalnym w świetnym bonusowym utworze „Krieg kennt keine Sieger''. Wokalista grupy Snow White Blood, Ulli Perhonen, błyszczy w jednych z najlepszych na płycie utworach „Black Waltz Death” i „The Ghost Engineers'' oraz tu i ówdzie pojawia się w chórkach, w których dołączają do niego m.in Oliver Hartmann z zespołu Avantasia i Herbie Langhans z Firewind.
Ta pełna niesamowitego personalnego potencjału muzyczna moc w połączeniu z nieoczekiwanymi zwrotami muzycznej akcji, takimi jak wspomniany już świetny utwór „Black Waltz Death” czy trzynastominutowa kompozycja „The Ouroboros”, sprawia, że album „The Ghost Xperiment - Illumination” długimi chwilami jest naprawdę porywający. Wydaje się on pod względem muzycznym o wiele ciekawszy i bardziej urozmaicony niż poprzednia część cyklu. Posłuchajcie zapadającego w pamięć nagrania „When World Is Falling Down” czy prawdziwego progmetalowego hymnu w postaci utworu „Under The Horizon”, a przekonacie się, że Vanden Plas wznosi się na szczyty swoich możliwości. I nawet jeżeli swoją nową płytą niemiecki kwintet nie odkrywa żadnej Ameryki, to jednoznacznie udowadnia, że konsekwentnie podąża własną, niepowtarzalną ścieżką. Albumem „The Ghost Xperiment - Illumination” dostarczył swoim fanom kolejne ważne i godne uwagi dzieło, które dosłownie eksploduje różnorodnością, witalnością i feerią wspaniałych progmetalowych klimatów. A także mądrym, uniwersalnym przesłaniem, że żadna, rozumiana o wiele szerzej niż tylko konflikt zbrojny, ‘wojna nie ma zwycięzców’.
Jeżeli ktoś chciałby szczegółowo prześledzić opowieść, na motywach której oparta jest płytowa seria „The Ghost Xperiment” grupy Vanden Plas, poniżej zamieszczam jej angielskojęzyczną wersję:
"The Ghost Xperiment" is an imaginary tale that was inspired by the results of an actual, documented experiment in the paranormal! The story relates the long and arduous journey of Gideon Grace, whose path to self-discovery and to his greatest love is threatened by three demonic beings...
The first part of the ghost saga: "The Ghost Xperiment - Awakening"
It is the first of December -- somewhere in Time.
The mysterious, enigmatic life of Gideon Grace begins as spectacularly as it ends. Rescued as an 11-day-old foundling, he is placed in an orphanage near St. Malo, a small town stuck like a furrowed mussel on the harsh Atlantic coast and battered for centuries by the ocean's unforgiving floodwaters. “The House of Rain.” As Gideon grew older, he knew exactly why the other children were using that name for this dismal piece of earth: because it was just a place of sadness and tears for them.
Exactly 11 years later, Gideon and his little soulmate Ivy successfully escape the terrible shadow of the House of Rain. But in their desperate flight through the bitter cold land, Gideon is ultimately unable to protect his angel --- as he lovingly calls her --- from their merciless pursuers and must watch her die before his eyes. Utterly exhausted from the hardships of this odyssey, it is only in the last second that he himself finds the strength to escape. Gideon will carry the sorrow and pain of losing his greatest love forever, a constant torment that will also become the driving force for his life.
Chased throughout the savage country of France, he finally finds a refuge in the small hamlet of Prend-Toi-Gardes. However, it seems that even here he is far from a place of safety and rest. From now on, spirits from the past rattle at the door to his dreams and grasp at him, or are these completely different beings threatening him?
With time, Gideon learns more and more about the nightly phantoms that torment him and girds himself with weapons to shield him against their attacks. His knowledge is gleaned from books of secret teachings as well from parapsychological experiments conducted by faculty at a German metaphysics department. Once well equipped, he can finally face his unearthly adversaries and approach the first showdown.
After so many years of fear and uncertainty, Gideon Grace finally manages to track down his demons and shed light in the dungeon of his shadows - to ultimately illuminate the incomprehensible truth about his life from all sides. How far he had traveled, how deeply he had longed for this day - the day he would finally have knowledge.
"The truth is a cooling, pain-relieving essence," he thought he knew...but sometimes it tears a deep hole in the abyss to Hell...
After the listener of "The Ghost Xperiment - Awakening" was left in the middle of a séance in which the title hero Gideon Grace was conjuring his ghosts, here at last the long awaited 2nd part and the resolution of the story. Exhausted from years of wandering and confusion, Gideon Grace was finally ready to confront the ghosts that had haunted him since childhood.
The second part of the ghost saga: "The Ghost Xperiment – Illumination"
So he returned to the House of Rain, the place where his life once began, shrouded in dark clouds, to finally confront his tormentors, to unmask and defeat them. Gideon was seeking the truth in order to finally find peace, regardless of whether this truth led to triumphant victory or to his death. But the realization he made in the séance would shake him to his core.
The three beings he had been hiding from all is life were revealed through his necromancy to be real people, a team of researchers who had set themselves the challenge of creating a psychogon through parapsychological experiments. The thought-created Golem. One of those magical astral beings which, in extreme situations, can be rendered visible. They named him Gideon Grace.
Over and over again, when Gideon's nightmare seemed to lie in wait for him as vague eerie shapes, it was he who was the ghost being hunted, in order to be lured out of his hiding place during the nightly séances.
But how could that be? For years, Gideon had believed he heard the pulse of humanity deep within him. He loved, he mourned, he feared, felt pain -- and now his whole life was only the absurd and dreary product of three human minds. What was their plan? What did they want from him, now that they had found him? Would they simply extinguish him?
There was no doubt -- his creators had made him and were, so to speak, his gods. But he had become one of those rare magically created beings who, after years of hiding in isolation and self-reflection in the metaphysical cosmos, now possessed a consciousness of his own, a material body, and a soul. Gideon was by no means willing to simply submit to his gods.
"If one expends immense knowledge and energy to create another high form of energy, how could one seriously believe that this created form of energy could still be controlled. I think, therefore I am!" cried Spirit.
The scientists had created an uncontrollable psychogon. Gideon Grace was aware that he was alive and that made him so immensely dangerous to his creators. When he disappeared again right before their eyes, it was clear that they had conceived the most sorrowful thing in the world, and no one could know if they had created a deeply benevolent being or their own deadly avenging angel.
Andy's comments on the idea and foundation for "The Ghost Xperiment"
As a writer for the stage, I am always on the lookout for dramatic stories that are easy to explain. This sometimes collides with my own preference, which is to tell mystical tales. Writing an intriguing and suspenseful story is only one side of the coin. The other is to make the story conceivable to the audience. However, in the suspense genre, most stories are not supported with convincing evidence, and the plot usually collapses in the end. Thus for years, I've been driven by the idea of writing a ghost story that casts a different light on the genre and aspires to leave the audience with a plausible explanation at the end.
Three years ago I came across a true story, a project called the Philip Experiment. I knew immediately that I had found the basis for my story that I had been seeking for so long.
The plot for my story "The Ghost Xperiment" is essentially based on the true experiences of a research team interested in trying to create a psychogon, a kind of imaginary ghost, through the power of their combined thoughts. They did not believe in ghosts, or that the spirits of the dead exist to communicate with the living, and with their experiment expected to show that ghost phenomena are only a product of our own fantasies. With a quasi "perfectly invented ghost," they hoped to prove that ghosts are only imaginary, and not real.
Together they created the complete and uninterrupted biography for a fictitious person from the 17th century, whom they named Philip Ayelsford; hence the Philip Experiment. Invoking necromancy, the imaginary ghost was summoned to appear. The experiment worked! Just not as expected…
The imaginary ghost of Philip did not materialize before them. However, the spirit answered to the name of Philip and began to communicate with them through a host of paranormal phenomena. During many séances, Philip replied to questions about his life and times beyond what was directly in his fictional biography, almost as if he had developed his own independent existence.
Ultimately, an experiment that was intended to bring light into the darkness by proving that ghosts and metaphysical phenomena are only creations in the mind but do not actually exist resulted in the opposite. The reality of ghosts was neither proven nor disproven, but now the real question was, could spirits be created in the minds of others and then actually come alive? Rather than ending the debate, explanations for phenomena observed in the experiment made the inexplicable even more distinct and conceivable.
With their "Ghost Trial," the researchers intensified all the more the conviction that there must be something between life here and eternity.