The Seraphic Clockwork
Vanden Plas has and will always fill a very special place in my metal collection. They were both one of the earliest bands in my collection, and one of the last of those early bands for me to really delve into. “Beyond Daylight” and “Christ 0” are both very solid offerings, and grew on me very quickly, while also being the sort of albums that I must be in the right sort of mood to enjoy.
Though “The Seraphic Clockwork” begins with a jarring intro to “Frequency”, it gives way in relatively short order to the kind of sound you’ve come to expect from Vanden Plas: cleverly written melodic progressive metal with the brilliant vocals of Andy Kuntz, and occasional touches of symphonic flair. Unlike past albums, the band has taken a bolder stance (perhaps experimental) on this album with the instrumental work brought into sharper focus, but at a bit of a cost.
I speak of the former vocal and chorus stylings of the band. Gone are the long held notes of Andy Kuntz, soaring above the instrumentation. Songs like “Scarlet Flower Fields”, “Shadow I Am”, and “End of Days” are a memory. In their place are heavier, slightly more technical offerings (do not read: mechanical). In fact, I’d venture that this is Vanden Plas’s heaviest piece of work to date, and more consistently so. Another concept album, this one biblically-based (surprised? I think not), “The Seraphic Clockwork” is possibly even more dramatic overall than “Christ 0”. Despite being less symphonic to my ear, “The Seraphic Clockwork” utilizes just as many choral parts as its predecessor.
With all of the projects that Vanden Plas’s members have been working on lately, it’s really no surprise that this album is such an ambitious release. While the music is as expertly executed as always, the intent in this work is upon the story. The tracks have lengthened, surpassing both the band’s previous single longest track, and average track length overall. “The Final Murder”, “Quicksilver”, “Rush of Silence”, and the sprawling “On My Way to Jerusalem” all clock in at or over nine minutes.
While this album isn’t really any more progressive than previous efforts by the band, it will definitely swing the bands favor further in the progressive direction. Those preferring shorter song lengths and catchy, hard rocking tracks will not find too much to sink their teeth into. On the other hand, the soundscapes here are masterfully illustrated and narrated, making them a dream come true for those who delight in the story and spectacle. Alas, while I am very much a proponent of the band’s work, I have to say that I find this to be their least enjoyable of their last three albums, mostly because the past two have been so terrific.
No matter how you feel about their work, Vanden Plas has dropped a weighty, bombastic slab of progressive metal on the world this year, further establishing themselves as one of Europe’s premier modern prog-metal acts with their superb proficiency and tasteful arrangements. I recommend checking this album out very soon. It seems to have a hit-or-miss effect, which has struck a glancing but significant blow with this listener.
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The Protagonist's Rating: 7.0 out of 10