VANDEN PLAS – Chronicles of the Immortals: Netherworld (Path 1)
German progressive metal quintet Vanden Plas are a living testament to their craft. Never dealing with a lineup change since their inception in 1986, this seventh studio album is a part one of a two part saga based around author Wolfgang Hohlbein’s "Chronicles of the Immortals" novel series in more of a rock opera format. Ambitious, dynamic, and theatrical in execution, Vanden Plas may have recorded their heaviest full length to date. Check out the driving main riff for "Vision 3hree- Godmaker" or the space-like mid-tempo moving "Vision 9ine- Soul Alliance" and know that guitarist Stephan Lill delivers on all facets of feeling and technique.
Keyboardist Günter Werno doesn’t feel the need to be virtuoso at every chance – providing soft interludes and ulterior mood contrast for "Vision 5ive- A Ghosts Requiem" that has choir background vocals that are very spiritual in nature. One of my favorite songs "Vision 6ix – New Vampyre" opens with a swirling Evergrey-oriented riff before Andy Kuntz’s steady smooth vocal melodies take over and the song rolls back and forth between a comforting clean guitar/piano and then crunchy titanic chords – only to again be poignant during the restrained, measured lead break that contains brilliant harmony and time signature maneuvers.
What is very enjoyable about Vanden Plas is they know when it’s acceptable to be a little more technically fluid and then hold back to develop stronger ideas that differentiate themselves for retention’s sake. By the time the dramatic ending of "Vision 10n – Inside" rolls out (think Trans-Siberian Orchestra), the listener will probably be begging the band to get Path 2 out as soon as possible (I’m hearing 2015). I’ve had the good fortune of following the band’s career from their melodic "Colour Temple" debut effort through their heavier albums "Christ 0" and "The Seraphic Clockwork", and believe that most long-time fans will champion "Chronicles of the Immortals: Netherworld (Path 1)" as possibly their finest 57 minute record.