Prog band Vanden Plas have been around for a while now - almost a decade, in fact, and that in the same line-up! "Far Off Grace" is the third album since their 1995 full-length debut, "Colour Temple".

Comparisons with other prog bands are inevitable. To me every progressive rock band is measured on "the scale of Dream Theater". Do their songs grab me? Does their drummer do weird stuff? Is their guitarist technically gifted but without showing off too overtly?

Technically, let's have it off my chest, these guys are ace. Their drummer is perhaps not altogether too freaky, but that's no problem. The production is top notch, too - a prerequisite in the genre.

"Far Off Grace" starts off at a rather average level, but as the songs progress, so does the quality. Tracks like "Inside of Your Head", "Iodic Rain" and "Fields of Hope", not to put too fine a point to it, rule. Unfortunately there's a couple of obligatory ballads. One of them, "Don't Miss You", musically just doesn't cut it for me. The second one, "I'm With You", clocking at over six and a half minutes, starts off rather boringly but then climaxes brilliantly - perhaps the climax of the album. The CD closes off with an unlisted track, possibly entitled "Kiss of Death", that may or may not be a cover. Sounds good, though.

There are plenty of prog rock bands out there that just can't reach the level needed to make them stick out from the rabble. Thankfully, Vanden Plas got what it takes.

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Written September 1999


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