Vanden Plas
Beyond Daylight

Vanden Plas is a band I latched onto back when their second full-length The God Thing came out. At first listen, I thought it was pretty similar to Dream Theater, but different and good enough to warrant plopping down my hard earned cash. Further listens revealed a band with their own sound, their own style, their own feel and that is creating their own distinct mark on the prog metal scene. I have been hooked ever since. Their last studio effort Far Off Grace garnered them even more positive attention, while finding the band simplifying their approach just a bit. It was a little heavier, and a bit less complex arrangement-wise. Not to say that is was a bad record, it was very good and still quite enjoyable, but it was different.

However, with the release of their fourth full-length release Beyond Daylight, the band takes the heavier direction of Far Off Grace and steers it into the more progressive territory of The God Thing, thus creating their most complete work to date. This record is nothing short of stellar! From the dense, Stephan Lill’s wide rhythm and velvet acoustic guitar tones, to the mood-creating keyboards of Gunter Werno, to Andy Kuntz’s rich and powerful vocals, this is an album that screams quality. Opening cut “Nightwalker” has a slow burn verse before a strong, emotional chorus, which gives the record’s first real taste of Kuntz’s vocal skills; strong, soaring melodies. The instrumental section is proof positive that the band is back on a prog playing field and showing their abilities superbly while not firing a barrage of notes at the listener. “Free The Fire” is a straight up metal burner with headbanging tempos and lots of cool double kick-drum patterns. Lill’s soloing here is spectacular as well. The nearly 11-minute title track is yet another jewel in Vanden Plas’ crown. Beginning with beautiful piano work by Werno, it delves into a strong, syncopated riff overlaid with nice keyboard color. The verses have a good, intense feel with Kuntz’s vocals once again taking center stage in the chorus. This is a band that can take you on a journey and not have you wanting to hit the ‘skip’ button.

For me, the highlight of the record is the third track, “Scarlet Flower Fields.” Beginning with an ambient acoustic/vocal melody it builds into a deep, moody piece of melodic metal mastery. Werno’s keys add the right nuances on the breaks and transitions throughout the nearly 6-minute piece. The mood creation in this tune is among some of the best I have heard, giving the listener a sense of desperation and longing every time that impeccable chorus comes in. The instrumental section is another hot spot for the band, building, twisting and turning through catchy syncopations, grand melodies and more excellent soloing by Lill. I’ll go ahead and say it flat out, Stephan Lill is a totally underrated and unrecognized player. His soulful feel combined with his top-shelf chops make for one intimidating guitar slinger! Let’s hope this record helps bring him, and Vanden Plas, into more of a prominent place in prog metal. Beyond Daylight finds the band combining their collective and individual strengths into a record that will not only make a strong first impression, but is sure to be remembered many years from now as one of the best releases in the genre.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Shawn Pelata
January 28th, 2002


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