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Review: Vanden Plas - The Seraphic Clockwork
Vanden Plas
The Seraphic Clockwork

Label: Frontiers Records
Year released: 2010
Duration: 72:31
Tracks: 9
Genre: Progressive Metal

Rating: 2.5/5

Review online: March 9, 2011
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
Readers Rating
The Seraphic Clockwork

Rated 4.04/5 (80.77%) (26 Votes)

This is one of those albums I would have pretended to enjoy like four years ago just because I thought there was something to get, to understand about it. But really Vanden Plas are just plugging out the same kind of dry, unoriginal Dream Theater-aping prog metal that never seems to go away, like a swarm of gnats in summer. Seraphic Clockwork is their umpteenth release in this style, and I find it pretty damn boring and pointless.

I can't give this a below-average score, because it is indeed well played and performed, but there's just no enthusiasm about this. I just can't enjoy this at all. I think one of the biggest problems is singer Andy Kuntz, who sounds like James LaBrie, Michael Erikson from Circus Maximus, Jacob Hanson from Anubis Gate, Klaus Dirks from Mob Rules and literally every other vanilla prog singer alive. He can hit every note required of him and he never misses a beat, but by GOD is he boring. I mean, you have no idea how dull this guy is. He's blander than bland – he's the uber-bland! That's quite an accomplishment.

The rest of the band is pretty much the same, with competent, flashy playing, multiple parts to every song and lots and lots of pretension. If I have to hear another stop-and-go riff pattern I will kill someone. I have to give them credit for occasionally having parts that sound like old Queensryche, but that doesn't happen enough, and soon enough they go back to the usual prog-jerking that isn't interesting in any way; slow atmospheric parts, chug riffs, odd drum fills and long, elaborate leads galore. How can music with so many parts to it somehow be doing so little at the same time? It's like the band's idea of songwriting is molded around a treadmill – a lot of work, but in the end they're still standing in the same place. Very frustrating.

I just don't see any reason for most of the choices the band makes here. Take "The Final Murder," for instance...slow, acoustic strumming, nasal warbling and a build up to more industrial-styled chug riffs. Rinse and repeat – prog by numbers. It isn't really progressive if I can predict everything that's going to happen. And it all just sounds so trite, so played-out. None of the music on Seraphic Clockwork is truly captivating, and that is because of the usual inherent need to try and sound ‘smart.' Which means dialing down every excess, every over the top notion they might have had. Every song here pretty much sticks to the same notes and tempo, resulting in an incredibly flat, one-dimensional listen. There's no emotional crest to ride. Every song is a flat-lining of feeling and passion, and while I imagine the people who created it were really into it (they wouldn't have finished it if they weren't), it just doesn't show in the music.

Did I mention that every song is over six minutes long? Half of the album is over eight minutes long! That's enough to give me indigestion. These songs are just not good enough to be that long. This album somehow escapes the old prog stigma of having songs that are really just a bunch of disconnected parts, as the tracks here generally do flow like real songs. However, it still sounds like music from a processing plant, and that makes it incredibly draining to listen to. I shouldn't ever feel this exhausted after listening to only half of an album, and it is indubitably annoying to look at the screen and see that I still have three 9+ minute songs to slog through. Yergh. If you really want more of this kind of moribund, played-out early Dream Theater worship, well, this album might float your boat. But for those of you who want more interesting, insightful and meaningful music...look elsewhere. This band just isn't that good.

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