Vanden Plas - The Ghost Xperiment:Awakening,
25 years from the 1994 debut ‘Colour Temple’ and the same five guys are back with their ninth studio album, which is the first of a two-part concept project, with the second album to be released later in 2020. Apparently, it is based on a documented paranormal experiment, with the main character in the story, Gideon Grace, having to fight constantly for his life against the relentless shadows of the ‘House of Rain’ as he wanders through France. He expands his knowledge and discovers there are ways he can fight against the creatures of darkness. However, when it comes to the first showdown, rather than finding peace, it does not go well.
I first came across Vanden Plas back in the Nineties, and have heard a few albums since then, and this follows the same melodic rock stylings. They are very similar in many ways to Savatage and Angra, yet without the cut through which has made those bands so important within the genre. They rarely hit all the peaks and height, and for me it always seems as if something is missing although I many not always be able to put it into words (which is poor for a reviewer, I know). They first formed the band when they were working in music in theatre productions, and they are all solid musicians with a great singer in Andy Kuntz. But I find my attention wandering while I am playing this and as soon as it is over, I have totally forgotten what it was like. The guitars are tight on each other, but instead of being a benefit it is a constraint. There are certain passages, such as during “Fall From The Skies”, where everything works and is incredibly impressive, but this few and far between. Over the years they have built a large number of fans, but this is another solid middle of the road album from Vanden Plas without ever having the sparks to make it truly inspirational and essential.