You have to love a band that doesn't really care if they're hip. As un-hip as they come, Germany's Vanden Plas is like the car they're named after: slick, loud and turbo-charged. VP waves the banner of prog rock excess proudly, applying every delicious excess of both metal and prog with panache. Andy Kuntz (vocals), Stephan Lill (guitars), Torsten Reichert (bass), Andreas Lill (drums), and Günter Werno (keyboards) have masterfully refined themselves into a musical bridge from the lost metal of the ‘80s to the present. The bombastic and overblown technical excesses of the most self-indulgent progressive rock, beautifully fleshed out and meshed with an ‘80s metal zeitgeist. Overall it creates a thick saturated mix of keys and guitars as thick as a pot of Shoney's gravy that leaves no gaps in their wall of sound. Top that with an expressive upper-register singer whose high notes can drive spiders from your house, and it's prefect package.
On top of that, they write conceptual music with concepts one might actually comprehend. Christ O is a take on Alexandre Dumas’ Count Of Monte Cristo. Unlike a lot of concept alums, it unfolds along a linear path that you can actually follow. VP has plied their craft numerous times in musical theater in their native Germany, both with their original music and with full-blown musicals such as Jesus Christ Superstar. I credit this exposure to the stage and its inherent limitations to their knack for staying concise and focused within the canvas of progressive rock. Their compositions are thick with texture and sonic flourishes without ever becoming unfocused. Avoiding the trap of becoming overly artsy, VP sticks with a formula that works. Their material is easily accessible to metalheads and hard rockers with enough proggy shenanigans going on to satisfy those who desire a little more complexity. Every song strives for anthemic glory. Each instrumental trip is tight and avoids the trap of excessive technical posturing.
My first exposure left me with a sense of something that falls between the complexity of Dream Theater and the more metal-oriented Queensryche. These guys are amazingly talented musicians and the arrangements and production are almost flawless. I happened upon this band purely by accident, and it was a happy accident that I've been enjoying since. Definitely worth a look if you like prog or metal, or a unique combination of both.