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Vanden Plas: The God Thing/Far Off Grace (Reissues)

Confession time: I actually buy best-of collections even if I already own the entire catalog of the artist in question. And I'm a sucker for reissues, too. The greatest-hits fetish is another story for another review, but the two final Vanden Plas "special edition" reissues, released earlier this year by InsideOut Music, help illustrate just why I have this weakness for new versions of old music. Remastered sound, enhanced booklets with detailed song-by-song liner notes from multiple band members, cool bonus tracks and even a video make these two packages worth the upgrade.

While both Vanden Plas' second album, 1997's The God Thing, and its third disc, 1999's Far Off Grace, represent Vanden Plas' sound well, the former is more atmospheric and progressive, while the latter sounds heavier and more accessible. The God Thing opens strongly with the atmospheric instrumental "Fire Blossom" and the slow-building "Garden of Stones," fades a bit in the middle with the slow pace of "In You: I Believe" and "Crown of Thorns," but then ends strong with "Salt In My Wounds" (featuring an astonishing solo from guitarist Stephan Lill) and Kuntz's tribute to his grandfather on the epic sky-high closer "You Fly." This reissue comes with two bonus tracks: a French-language version of "How Many Tears" from Vanden Plas' debut album, Colour Temple, and (labeled rather misleadingly on the packaging) the same live version of "You Fly" that appeared on 2000's Spirit of Live. One of the highlights on The God Thing has always been the stormy "Rainmaker," which Lill writes in the liner notes became representative of the band's style: "the way we wrote the lyrics, creating the melodies or composing the instrumental parts Vanden Plas was 'Rainmaker' and 'Rainmaker' was Vanden Plas 'Rainmaker' showed us the musical direction we should follow."

Indeed, by the time the German band released its next record, Far Off Grace, Vanden Plas boasted a greater command of melody and muscle no surprise, really, considering Pink Cream 69 bassist and producer extraordinaire Dennis Ward recorded the album. The band's addictive anthems, thick with background vocals and sometimes unusually staccato riffs, come to the forefront here, and Kuntz's wide range lends credibility to heavy tracks like "Into the Sun," "Inside of Your Head" and "Iodic Rain" (this edition also includes a video clip of the song recorded live at Germany's Wacken Open-Air Festival in 2002). Meanwhile, "I Don't Miss You" remains one of the prettiest "fuck you" songs the prog-metal genre has created, and "I'm In You" features the five band members laying down vocal track after vocal track to create a huge choir for the final chorus. As if to showcase the band's diversity, bonus tracks on offer include the Dokken scorcher "Kiss of Death" and Sting's moody "Shape of My Heart."

Vanden Plas' next record, 2002's Beyond Daylight, doesn't hold together as well as Far Off Grace, and some of the songs sound too similar to each other. But for impeccable European progressive metal performed with finesse, Vanden Plas is tough to beat especially on earlier albums like The God Thing and Far Off Grace.

Track Listings
The God Thing:
1) Fire Blossom (2:55)
2) Rainmaker (6:39)
3) Garden of Stones (7:47)
4) In You: I Believe (4:29)
5) Day I Die (6:04)
6) Crown of Thorns (6:44)
7) We're Not God (7:12)
8) Salt In My Wounds (7:21)
9) You Fly (7:31)
10) Combien de Larmes (How Many Tears-French Version) (Bonus Track) (4:29)
11) You Fly (Live in France, 2000) (Bonus Track) (9:22)
Total Time: 70:33

Far Off Grace
1) I Can See (4:01)
2) Far Off Grace (7:03)
3) Into the Sun (6:32)
4) Where Is the Man (6:10)
5) Iodic Rain (6:13)
6) I Don't Miss You (3:51)
7) Inside of Your Head (6:54)
8) Fields of Hope (6:44)
9) I'm In You (6:42)
10) Kiss of Death (Bonus Track) (5:41)
11) Shape of My Heart (Bonus Track) (4:44)
Video: Iodic Rain (Live)
Total Time: 64:47

Added: October 16th 2004
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Vanden Plas Web Site
Hits: 3371
Language: english

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