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Vanden Plas - The Seraphic Clockwork CD (album) cover

THE SERAPHIC CLOCKWORK

Vanden Plas

Progressive Metal


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4 stars Vanden Plas' best album, if you ask me.

This band is sometimes called Germany's Dream Theater. Of course there is a certain similarity with the American band, but while DT'S star is sinking, Vanden Plas get better and better with every album. A special feature about Vanden Plas' music I always found to be the almost incredible balance - between the instruments , between hard and softer compositions, between the prog and the more commercial stuff.

With this album you get what you expect from a Vanden Plas album: hard riffs, many melodies, tasteful arrangements, a good singer, and very strong chorus melodies. It's all there, and somehow it's more of everything than usual. Some songs you will dig at first or second try, others will keep you busy for a while till you know what the composer Stefan Lill was after. What you will notice when you are a fan of this band is that this album contains their hardest music. The whole album is a concept story about a man from the Medieval Age, making a journey through time to Galilee in 33 BC. Trust me, the music is far better than the story...

A special mention should be made to the bonus track 'Eleyson' you will find on the SE. It's an excerpt from one of the plays Vanden Plas wrote the music to - the band would not exist anymore if they didn't compose soundtracks to stage-plays. This bonus track is a live version, starting soft and mellow to finally end in a wonderful climax. One of the best pieces on the disc.

4 well- earned stars.

Favourite tracks: Frequency, Holes in the Sky, Scar of an Angel, Sound of Blood, The Final Murder, Quicksilver, Eleyson

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Send comments to strayfromatlantis (BETA) | Report this review (#295887)
Posted Monday, August 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Despite releasing their first album as far back as 1994 The Seraphic Clockwork is the first album I've bought by German prog metallers Vanden Plas. I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to be honest as when I'm in the mood for a bit of prog metal this is the sort of stuff I usually like. I.e. melody taking precedence over unimaginative tuneless riffs and no death metal vocals.

The melodic nature of the material here is to a large part thanks to vocalist Andy Kuntz who's a fine singer in the more traditional metal vein yet doesn't go for unnecessary histrionics. He can't take all the credit however as guitarist Stephan Lill also has an ear for a tuneful riff that doesn't sacrifice power for sugary coated sweetness. Liberal doses of Günter Werno's keyboards also contribute to the overall harmonious feel.

It doesn't get any better than opener Frequency which while offering nothing ground- breaking pleases with an overall impressive performance, a killer riff and a hook that gets right under your skin. It's not downhill from here though as there's other highlights throughout including the dynamic Scar Of An Angel which makes good use of some light and shade elements against the powerhouse riffs. Even better is The Final Murder with a kind of Kashmir feel on the verse but they don't overdo it as it shifts through a number of impressive phases over its ten minutes. Quicksilver is the obligatory ballad and they save the longest until last with On My Way To Jerusalem. It took a few plays for this to sink in as I found it a bit ordinary at first but with a bit of perseverance, which is usually required with more complex pieces, it turned out to be an excellent closer.

The Seraphic Clockwork won't win any awards for originality, you've heard this all before from the typical metal rhythm section with rolling double kick drums liberally used and staccato riffing but I find myself drawn in due to the strong band performance and memorable musical qualities. Fans of the more melodic end of prog metal such as Shadow Gallery will find much to enjoy here.

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Send comments to Nightfly (BETA) | Report this review (#300238)
Posted Thursday, September 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Solid sixth effort from Vanden Plas, gifted progressive metal band from Germany. The Seraphic Clockwork is a concept album based on a science fiction story written by singer Andy Kuntz about a man travelling back in time from 16th century Rome to 33AD Jerusalem to face his ineluctable fate.

All songs are a well-balanced mix of power, melody and technical prowess. The execution is spotless, and the production is professional and powerful. Stephan Lill's sharp guitars provide strong riffs throughout the album and are the absolute protagonist in shaping the structure of the songs. Keyboardist Günter Werno also deserves a special mention: his synth and keyboard textures work as an indispensable contrast to the heavier guitar sections and help keep the songs fresh and engaging (check out his excellent work on the ballad 'Quicksilver' or in the heavier and darker 'Rush of Silence'). Andy Kuntz is a gifted and technical vocalist and 'The Seraphic Clockwork' is in fact a very vocal-centered album which lives its best moments when the vocal melodies really shine, like in the powerful 'Holes in the Sky' or in the variegated and more complex 'On My Way to Jersulam'. Similarly, when the vocal melodies are less inspired (like in the rather ordinary 'Sound of Blood') the songs fall flat and remain forgettable.

The biggest limit of the material is - in my opinion - its lack of originality, as all riffs and melodies share similarities with those proposed by other successful prog-metal acts such as Evergrey, Dream Theatre, Seventh Wonder or Shadow Gallery. But, all in all, this is a strong effort and an excellent exercise in (heavy) progressive metal music, and if you are a fan of any of the bands mentioned above you'll certainly enjoy this as well.

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Send comments to lukretio (BETA) | Report this review (#328060)
Posted Sunday, November 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars From the beginning I want to say that I had great expectations about this new VANDEN PLAS album!After the sensational previous one,this SERAPHIC CLOCKWORK must have been something like a new beginning for the Germans with a new record label behind,this time the Italian melodic label FRONTIERS RECORDS!I was afraid that Andy and the boys will turn a little more melodic or even more comercial being signed now to this melodic label-an independent giant,but with a lot of melodic names signed!!I was-fortunatelly-so wrong! SERAPHIC CLOCKWORK is the best VANDEN PLAS album so far!It's simply breathtaking and,definitelly the most mature,elaborated and complex album released by the Germans!It has everything to deserve this status,especially something magical in terms of perfectionism under all aspects!The keyboars sound is blazing and this time Gunter Werno had more space to express his tremendeous talent,and the guy was very,very inspired on this album!Andreas is fantastic in his solos and the sound of his guitar is realy heavy and powerful!Pure prog metal riffs and great diversity of the album!Technically,the guys are beyond perfection and on this album they are 100 % inspired and in full form,on top of their musical maturity and artistic expressionBeing an album of more then 70 minutes it exists the temptation to judge it to be diluted or loaded with boring tracks-NO WAY!All the album is solid as a monolith and all the tracks are fantastic!One of the major albums of the last years in prog metal and the deffinitive offering from VANDEN PLAS that they are a sure value of the genre!All our deepest respect to a band without compromise and with an unbelieveble musical integrity!5 STARS for a fantastic album!

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Send comments to Ovidiu (BETA) | Report this review (#356042)
Posted Friday, December 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Seraphic Clockwork is an excellent follow-up to the exceptional Christ 0. Considering that it has been 4 years in the making (longer than any of the previous albums), I had very high expectations and I'm happy to say TSC lives up to them admirably.

Starting off with the powerful riffs "Frequency", we morph smoothly into "Holes in the Sky" with its catchy chorus. "Scar of an Angel" has a mesmerizing punch-line with the backing female vocals adding an exotic touch. Then we have a sequence of 3 songs, getting progressively better with more strong riffing in "Sound of Blood", the haunting "The Final Murder" and the beautiful ballad-y "Quicksilver" with the one of the most lingering riffs from Stephan Lill from about 4:00...

"Rush of Silence" is typical (but somehow not at all repetitive) Vanden Plas - long winding instrumentation that you can lose yourself in.

The 12-min + closer "On My Way To Jerusalem" is one the the highlights of the album, along with "Quicksilver" and "The Final Murder". It has an amazing vocal melody, espcially when Andy Kuntz goes into the chorus with "Hey You..."...haunting!

A lot of folks compare them to Dream Theater or Shadow Gallery. While I'm also a big fan of these 2 bands and love their music, I think they always struggle to make an album without a really bad song or two. In my opinion, Dream Theater and Shadow Gallery at their best are better than Vanden Plas but Vanden Plas scores one over them for being very consistent and are almost equally brilliant (maybe having the same 5 guys who formed the band still together after 16+ years and so many albums helps!)

Can't wait for the next one from the guys from Kaiserslautern...just hope they dont take another 4 years!

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Send comments to sv_godspeed (BETA) | Report this review (#361867)
Posted Thursday, December 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Quicksilver

Vanden Plas is one of the superior progressive metal groups in Germany - which is certainly saying a lot when considering all of the German prog metal bands out there. Although Vanden Plas has never been recognized as much their American brethren such as Symphony X, Dream Theater, or Fates Warning, The Seraphic Clockwork further confirms that Vanden Plas deserve to be regarded as one of the best groups in the melodic prog metal genre. This isn't an album that's going to blow you away with a highly original approac, but it succeeds tremendously with its intention - and that's creating excellent prog metal that proves the genre is far from dead. If you're someone who's tired of the style of music that Vanden Plas plays, I'd still recommend giving it a shot - it's that good. Every song is spectacular in its own way, and when you put it all together you have a brilliant gem of an album. Fans of Vanden Plas and progressive metal in general should definitely check out The Seraphic Clockwork!

The music here is unquestionably Vanden Plas. They play progressive metal in the style of Dream Theater, but with less of an emphasis on soloing and more of a focus on melody. There's still some terrific guitar and keyboard duals, but don't expect a whole lot of noodling on The Seraphic Clockwork. A lot of the music is focused around the terrific vocals from Andy Kuntz and melodic instrumentation. Just listen to a tune like the ballad-ish "Quicksilver" or the epic "On My Way to Jerusalem", and it's obvious that Vanden Plas isn't entirely engulfed in attempts to play at the speed of light. All 9 songs here are absolutely wonderful progressive metal tracks, so it's difficult to pick a favorite. However, it'd be criminal to not mention "On My Way to Jerusalem" as a standout track, considering that is one of the best progressive metal songs in all of 2010. The instrumental section towards the end of "Rush of Silence" is also noteworthy. Even though much of this album is focused on melody, this complex instrumental section proves how excellent these guys can also be from a technical standpoint. Of course, another great thing about Vanden Plas is the group of musicians that make up the band. They're a tight playing unit that still puts feeling and emotion into their playing. There's not much more you could ask from a progressive metal band!

The production is great. It's nothing too special in the modern prog metal scene (a lot of albums have a similar production), but that's not necessarily a bad thing, is it? The transitions between heavy and atmospheric sections sound great and certainly get the job done.

Conclusion:

Vanden Plas is one of the best bands in prog metal, and they've once again proved that with The Seraphic Clockwork. Although this isn't going to satisfy somebody who's craving a revolutionary album, it's an essential purchase for any fan of melodic progressive metal. There isn't a single weak track on the entire album, which is saying something when we're talking about a 72 minute album. This is 4.5 stars well-earned - one of the best albums in its genre from 2010. After giving the album many spins, it's clear that every second of the four-year wait for The Seraphic Clockwork was worth it. Let's just hope it's not nearly that long until we hear another great album from Vanden Plas! Strongly Recommended!

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Send comments to J-Man (BETA) | Report this review (#365744)
Posted Monday, December 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars waiting for this album Like 4 years.., 4 years have gone from this great album of 2006. Christ 0 And What I can say about this great German band that has matured with the passing of the years? .. Honestly in all the great career of this band i have not found bad albums .. and if you could name .. Speaking of the new album .. I've heard it about 10 times .. I feel safe to give a review of this great album where vanden plas again makes us understand that is one of the bands with better posture in the progressive metal scene ... With this new album "Seraphic work" Vanden plas shows a strong identity, where all the music they have made over the years is reflected in this great album .. I'm happy .. to know that there are still bands with robust features that make the music taste is palatable and acceptable.

All members of Vanden Plas still playing extremely well, one thing I want to mention is that I admire the work of sound engineers do when mixing the album .. since 2002 beyond daylight the sound of vanden plas is unimaginable ..

Seraphic work is an album that from start to finish keeps you in the present, never lose track, or you never feel bored listening to this album .. the direction of the band combine metal with good melodic changes, usually the keyboard is the responsible for carrying the melody ... andy's voice is impressive, giving it a special personality to the band ... thanks for Vanden plas for maintain especial music over the years ..

highlights:

Quick silver

Scar of an angel ..

Frequency ..

4.25 stars

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Send comments to JgX 5 (BETA) | Report this review (#396963)
Posted Wednesday, February 09, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Rush of Silence

Vanden Plas had never caught my attention enough to get any of their albums. But, once "The Seraphic Clockwork" came out, I was instantly enthralled in their great sound and talent. "The Seraphic Clockwork" is a little over an hour long and it never once gets boring, sporting great riffs, choruses, and overall perfect technicality. Every thing mixes well and the musicians are absolutely superb.

The guitars are nice and heavy on this album and when mixed with the drums offer up a great sound that any metal fan will enjoy. On the track "Rush of Silence" where the guitars offer a great starting point for both the song and the vocals, this is especially apparent. The harmonies on this song play a key role in it being one of my favorite on the album. The vocals by Andy Kuntz are so crisp and clear that when they are harmonized it sounds almost as if it were on voice which adds so much to the overall great feel of the album. The bass, played by Torsten Reichert is absolutely superb and you can really here how good he is on the ballad like song "Quicksilver".

Another great thing about Vanden Plas is that they play prog metal in one of its simplest forms. Of course simple and prog metal is kind of like and oxymoron, but in this case it is true. They focus more on being technically sound than playing fast of even insanely hard things that if not played right would sound bad. Even if Vanden Plas did play any of the above, though, they would still sound excellent.

The production on this album is another high point, featuring great transitions between light and heavy, drawn out and tight. In a way it is some what similar to a lot of recent prog metal albums that I've listened to, but it is still great production.

Vanden Plas is a superb band that deserves every credit that is thrown there way. In the past, they have released some great material, and they have continued that tradition here with "The Seraphic Clockwork". It took me awhile to realize how good this album was; around 3-4 more listens than usual, but many progressive metal fans will be able to tell how good this album is with in the first couple of listens. For a great release Vanden Plas gets 4 stars.

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Send comments to The Block (BETA) | Report this review (#403457)
Posted Saturday, February 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Like telling one Olsen sister from another

Come to think of it, I probably would have felt pretty fine about this release, if I had stopped listening to it after just one song. These men are no rookies - years full of touring, exhausting studio hours and heaps of albums is what I imagine while absorbing the decibels that The Seraphic Clockwork so generously produces.

Superb technical skills - tick! Amazing co-play - tick! Enchanting concept and lyrics - tick! Solid vocals - tick! What's missing then?

To my ears, Vanden Plas's Trans-Siberian Orchestra style and constant hints to Dream Theater/Opeth riffs would not sound bad at all, if only the band would develop these internationally accepted and ever-heared soundscapes to a new level. I am sorry to say, it doesn´t happen. Instead, the result is a fat pie of textbook example prog metal with just a teaspoon of creativity and a lot of repetition (cutting the overuse of the 4/4 time signature wouldn't hurt either).

It may very well be Vanden Plas's best effort so far, but when it comes to song compositions, it's like telling one Olsen sister from another. Yes, that's correct - you don't feel the difference. And, as a result of that, it leaves the whole album one-sided and easily forgettable.

Good metal, but non-essential.

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Send comments to Oliverum (BETA) | Report this review (#423191)
Posted Saturday, March 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Vanden Plas newest album to date named The seraphic clockwork, released in 2010 and issued by already famous Frontiers records for sure doesn't desepoint at all, prog metal listners will find here plenty of good moments and enjoyble arrangements. I'm a fan of this band since 1997 when they released the excellent The god thing, since then I was with my eyes on this band and get all their releases. What I like to this band in comparation with other ptog metal bands in last 20 years is that they always have a constant quality in their music, they don't have a single album bad, they concentrate more on quality then on quantity, that's why they rleases only 6 studio albums in 20 years, and the line up is same since 1995, that is something. This latest album has that specific Vanden Plas sound, easely each piece can enter on any other previous album, not much diffrence in sound and manner of composing, that doesn't mean is bad, not at all. Solid album, catchy arrangements, good voice from Mr. Kuntz, one of the big voices of prog metal in last 15 years. Enjoyble release, if not fantastic, they repete the old formula on the previous albums and re create the atmosphere, but not bad at all, realy. The album stars very well with Frequency, cruchy guitars, great bass line and good vocal parts, Vanden Plas at best, the album continue in same manner with Sound of Blood and the last tune On My Way to Jerusalem is a real killer, lenghy complex, where mellow parts interluded perfectly with the rest. I like the album, is in the same vein with Christ O, litle less intristing then their best The god thing and Far off grace but not bad at all. I can't give more then 3 stars, for sure good but nothing realy masterful. Anyway Vanden Plas remains one of the best and respected progressive metal bands in last 15 years.

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Send comments to b_olariu (BETA) | Report this review (#490674)
Posted Tuesday, July 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
Starhammer
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars "Just a kiss... a Judas kiss"

Vanden Plas return to the studio, four years after the release of their critically acclaimed concept album, Christ 0.

The Good: The Seraphic Clockwork is another solid release from the German band with consistently strong compositions and musicianship throughout. Most of the tracks are excellent and even the few weaker ones are at the very least engaging. The lengthy finale does take a while to get going but it's worth the wait as the midsection is truly angelic.

The Bad: Whilst I really like this album and would recommend it to all fans of the genre, it does also feel a bit too 'safe' and lacking in adventure.

The Verdict: Prog metal by numbers.

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Send comments to Starhammer (BETA) | Report this review (#499124)
Posted Sunday, August 07, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars The more conceptual Vanden Plas become, the harder they are to penetrate. More often than not story-driven concept albums tend to consist of shorter songs-chapters. Here, after two deceptively catchy rockers (check out the 3 back-to-back widely different bridges of Frequency) songs average 9 minutes in length and include long instrumental parts. But I think that they managed to stop right at the point beyond which more would have been tough to digest.

Stylistically, this is their most eclectic album. Their brand of Dreamtheatre-esque esoteric but catchy prog metal enriched with more symphonic and classic rock (by way of rumbling organ and some folkish inserts) influences. Andy Kuntz has finally shed his early- days hair metal histrionics and developed into a more serious type of a theatrical singer. Give this a couple of spins at least.

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Send comments to Progrussia (BETA) | Report this review (#1252215)
Posted Saturday, August 16, 2014 | Review Permalink

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