Review Summary: Vanden Plas strike the perfect balance in their sound to create one of the best prog metal albums yet
Vanden Plas is an enormously consistent band. Ever since their debut they’ve written very enjoyable, catchy progressive metal. With each album they’ve been getting more progressive, and with Beyond Daylight
the theater and musical influences started to shine through in their music. Following a four-year hiatus full of theater and musical-productions, their fifth album Christ 0
continues on this trend. Beyond Daylight
was a huge success musically, but it was still lacking in enough aspects not to be considered a prog metal classic. How does Christ 0
fill in its predecessors shoes"
This is a concept album based on the novel of Monte Christo
. I haven’t dug into the concept, so I won’t be covering it. I’m awful at poetry anyway, so my interpretations wouldn’t be of much use even if I did try to understand it lol. Feel free to delve into them though. Kuntz’s imagery is very vivid and rewarding. I’ll be focusing on the music instead.
This album is all about balance. Where Far Off Grace
may have felt a little bit standard and The Seraphic Clockwork
and the Netherworld
albums have felt overly bloated and theatrical, Christ 0
manages to strike the perfect balance between the two worlds. It has the grandeur of the new albums, but also has the fun, carefree attitude of their early works. The title track opener immediately shows this nature. It starts with a grand choir, but following it is a myriad of killer riffs, mood changes, vocal melodies and a solo passage that rivals Dream Theater
at their peak. It sounds grand and majestic, but at the same time it’s just a killer song you can headbang to.
What’s also astounding about this album is the lack of filler songs. Opposed to their later albums, none of these songs feel like they’re here just to further the concept. Except for maybe Lost in Silence
(more on that later), all songs are great to listen to by themselves. Vanden Plas have always been great at writing actual songs, but here they kicked it up a notch. Every song is dynamic, catchy and memorable in their own distinct way. There are the straightforward rockers like the opener and Postcard to God, longer prog bangers like Wish You Were Here
and grand, majestic arrangements in the beautiful ballad of Fireroses Dance
and the gut-wrenching epic January Sun
. Then following all that prog metal madness the mellow Lost in Silence
is just like nice cuddling after sex. A welcome breather. But then just when you think it’s over there’s an absolutely astounding rearrangement of Gethsemane
from Jesus Christ Superstar at the end. Though vocally it's not as good as the original (still great though), the magnificent musical improvements more than make up for it.
The flow between the songs is also excellent on this album. The expert track placement makes sure that the best parts are naturally emphasized, causing the already superb songs sounding even better. Thanks to this, despite its lengthy duration of 67 minutes, the album doesn’t become tiring for one minute. The music is grand and majestic, but also allows itself to breathe when it’s necessary. But it’s not just those two aspects, as the album goes to a plethora of different moods. There are the “regular” riffy metal parts, dark introverted softer breaks, grand symphonic soundscapes, gentle melodies, mind blowing solos, operatic ballads, and much more.
All in all, Christ 0
is truly an amazing musical journey. This is where Vanden Plas took all elements of their sound, and molded it into one, brilliant slap of music. As far as progressive metal goes, it just doesn’t get much better than this. I’d even say this album is accessible to “regular” metalheads, as it’s not wanky by any means and their transitions sound completely natural. You’ll hear no million notes transitions here to take you out of the song. Christ 0
is a bonafide progressive metal classic. Hugely recommended.