Vanden Plas - Far Off Grace

Year of Release: 1999
Label: InsideOut Music America
Catalog Number: IOMACD 2002
Format: CD
Total Time: 58:31:00

Months ago I reviewed The God Thing, as did LarryD, and I said then that I would definately pick this one up when it his US shores. Well, it has and I did, and am only now getting around to reviewing it.

Far Off Grace, Vanden Plas's follow up to the highly praised The God Thing, is another slice of melodic, Dream Theater inspired progressive metal. The keys aren't mixed as up front on this release which gives it a nicer balance production wise, though the tracks themselves don't quite grab one the way The God Thing does. Make no mistake though, Vanden Plas haven't really lost anything on this, their third full release (the first was The Colour Temple).

While the keys aren't mixed up front, that isn't to suggest that they aren't there. Günter Werno plays a beautiful interlude during the title track, which is one of my favourites cuts on the album. And this album chugs along from track to track, like a train that is sure of where it's heading, and it's going to take its time to get there. Overall, there isn't much variation in tempo, and in that, each tracks sounds pretty much like the last, at least through the first 5 tracks. Here the variety comes about through the vocals of Andy Kuntz, the soloing of guitarist Stephan Lill, and the keyboard accents of Werno. But for all the power behind the heavy bass lines of Torsten Reichert and drumming of Andreas Lill, this fails to have the same kind punch as The God Thing.

Things pick up after the ballad "I Don't Miss You," which is cut from a different cloth. Werno's keys are the lead instrument here under Kuntz vocals. This is a curiously composed track lyrically - where the refain is: "I don't miss you/I don't even love you/I want you to die in my arms?" I'll admit that I might be missing something here, or Kuntz has a great sense of irony. These lines are gently phrased, lovingly phrased. If it were a punk or dark metal song, the last line would read "I want you to die." That would put a fine point on it. Instead, it said sweetly. It really is a nicely composed song musically, and I suppose it could be a different sort of irony - maybe like John Waite's "Missing You" ("I ain't missing you?" Yeh, right; then why are singing about it?). I think though, I'm just missing something.

"Inside Of Your Head" is the "commentary on our technological present/future" taking a page out of William Gibson and the whole "cyberpunk thing." With a dash of Orwell's 1984 thrown in. Oh, you won't find direct references, and really you could mention Queensryche's Operation:Mindcrime, Shadow Gallery's Tyranny and any album or novel that talks about a human race enslaved by technology. Oh, hey, didn't I just review Pain of Salvation's One Hour By The Concrete Lake which touches upon that "machine" idea, not to mention Artension's Machine? Musically, this is my second favourite track, so I'm not really slamming it.

Kuntz has a habit of using obscure or little used words in his lyrics on this album - "tercentenial," "parapoetic," "adjure" "germination"? and they aren't necessarily the best words to express his meaning. I find his lyrical style a bit awkward, but the words do flow when sung - and as he's got a great voice, I'm sure he'd make the phone book sound great (as they say).

The closer "I'm In You" is another very nice track, not really a metal track, more a prog track - closer to say Threshold, Arena, Shadowland etc., bands who fall in the middle between "neo" and "metal." Actually, it has more power as this melodic epic than if it hit you over the head with chugging guitars and bombastic percussion. Great song - okay, this is my favourite, too. Nice keys on the fade out, to boot.

This release comes with a bonus track, "Kiss Of Death," which starts off with a bite. Percussion like a terminal heart flutter, screaming guitars, grinding bass? kind a nice tune, though I'm brought to mind of many an 80s hair-band. There's more punch and less fluff than all that, but topically it very well could have been. (Okay, I peeked back at Larry's review, and ? I wasn't far off, was I? Dokken is the source - maybe not a hair-band, but certainly "big" in the 80s).

Also released by InsideOut in Europe (IOMCD042)

I Can See (4:01) / Far Off Grace (7:03) / Into The Sun (6:32) / Where Is The Man (6:10) / Iodic Rain (6:13) / I Don't Miss You (3:51) / Inside Of Your Head (6:54) / Fields Of Hope (6:44) / I'm In You (6:42) / Kiss Of Death (5:41)

Andy Kuntz - vocals
Torsten Reichert - bass
Stephan Lill - guitars
Andreas Lill - drums
G?nter Werno - keyboards

Colour Temple (1994)
Accult (1996)
The God Thing (1997)
Far Off Grace (1999)
Spirit Of Live (2000)
Beyond Daylight (2002)
Colour Temple/AcCult (special edition) (2002)
Christ 0 (2006)
The Seraphic Clockwork (2010)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin DE

Added: April 1st 2000
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1106
Language: english


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