Spirit Of Live

Vanden Plas

Inside Out Records, 2000


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's not unusual for me to first hear about a band when a package arrives in my mailbox. It's not unusual for me to utter the phrase, "Who the hell are these guys?" about three times a day - and that's after I've read through their bios.

One other thing you'll hear coming from the Pierce Memoral Archives - albeit not as often - is me saying, " Why haven't I heard these guys before?" That was my reaction when listening to Spirit Of Live, the first live album from German prog-metallers Vanden Plas. Reminiscent of what the Scorpions might sound like if they were to start their careers in the late '90s, vocalist Andy Kuntz and crew create a disc which is almost immediately accessible for all listeners. You don't have to be familiar with this group's discography to enjoy these songs - though you'll undoubtedly be left wanting to hear more by the end.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

European listeners are given a special treat - a rendition of Dokken's "Kiss Of Death," complete with vocals from Don Dokken himself. Regrettably, this track isn't available on the U.S. release (though the substitute "bonus" track "You Fly" is quite good). The European version also includes "I Don't Miss You" - though I'll admit I miss not having these tracks here in America. (And people wonder why Napster was so popular...)

The band - Kuntz, guitarist Stephan Lill, keyboardist Günter Werno, bassist Torsten Reichert and drummer Andreas Lill - magically captures the spirit of progressive rock without making things sound overtly technical in the song structures or the performances. From the opening number "I Can See," Vanden Plas tries to distinguish themselves from the swarm of groups that have followed this vein of metal in recent years. They indeed accomplish this with a combination of powerful tempered performances and well-structured songwriting. If some label had given Vanden Plas a chance in the United States some years ago, they'd be superstars right now.

Tracks such as "Into The Sun," "How Many Tears," "Rainmaker" (featuring Patrick Rondat) and "Soul Survives" not only win over the Parisian audience, but also the listener sitting at home in front of their stereos. It's nearly impossible not to become infected with the joy of this music, and Spirit Of Live is a great effort.

If there is any moment of energy sagging, it would be during the instrumental "segues" "Journey To Paris" and "Spirit Of Life," though each of these is a full-length song. While they're still solid examples of what Vanden Plas is capable of, it does tend to break the spirit of the moment by switching musical gears. Fortunately, the energy rises back up one track later with "Iodic Rain".

Spirit Of Live is a wonderful introduction to the music of Vanden Plas - or it's a nice way to sum up the band's career to this point. Whichever way you look at it, this is an album you won't want to miss out on.

Rating: A-

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Inside Out Records, and is used for informational purposes only.