Album Review: Vanden Plas – Chronicles of the Immortals: Netherworld II

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A complete audio odyssey.  Dense. Atmospheric and intelligent.  Soaring vocals and amazing melodies.  Great guitars evoking Asia and parts of British progsters like IQ or Pallas.  These are the elements that make Vanden Plas stand out. Wolfgang Hohlbein is the German fantasy and sci-fi author with 43 million book sales to his credit. He also is a fan of Vaden Plas, the progressive metal titans who have recorded this ambitious second album in the Chronicles of the Immortals and contributed to the piece about (I believe) vampires and the afterlife. Formed in the mid-80’s, Vanden Plas have produced several well-received discs and are established in the German metal/prog scene.  The band consists of Andy Kuntz (Vocals), Stephan Lill (Guitars), Günter Werno (Keyboards), Torsten Reichert (Bass) and Andreas Lill (Drums) and has been together since the mid-1980’s.

The German progressive band is an enigma.  The second part of their musical journey.  Make no mistake, this record is deeper than your usual fare and is not easy listening.

Vanden Plas LP
Vanden Plas’s latest opus

It is a daunting task to enter mid-point through this dark collection, but the music is very strong, with the vocals shining through the tonal evening mists and the exceptional keyboard work of Werno reminding this listener of Tony Banks of Genesis or Mark Kelly from Marillion.

The album opens with soft guitar and keyboard swells, then rips into great guitar and the six-minute workout of “In My Universe”, which is a showcase for the Power Metal credentials of the band. The midway addition of a children’s choir gives the track a haunting feeling as Andy Kuntz sings about “drinking blood” in Transylvania. A strong start!

The band then takes a left turn and goes all Manic Street Preachers (a great Welsh band which should be checked out) with “Godmaker’s Truth”. This is probably my favourite track as it moves on to sound like something Marillion would currently produce with its “night like this” refrain. Fantastic keyboard work completely seals the deal for me.

Stone Roses” starts out with simple piano and more whispering vocals before providing some grinding Power Metal and exceptional guitar work.  A great video of this is also available, with the band belting it out on a spooky soundstage.

I must say that I didn’t really like the soft sound of “Blood of Eden”, which passed me by with its more showtime musical matrix. “Monster” follows and is pretty good, bringing an almost “Kashmir” vibe in some of its keyboard arrangements.

Complex shards of music dart across the soundscape with “Diabolica Comedia” and more lyrical play with monsters fills the song with gusto.

The album’s relentless feeling of doom continues with “Where Have the Children Gone?” which is, unfortunately, largely not as memorable as the other songs.

Fortunately, Vanden Plas produce another rabbit out of the hat with the epic “The Last Fight”.  Brimming with muso excellence, the track is hypnotic with its bubbling keyboards, powerful guitar licks and choral breaks.

The whole album is produced to the highest quality.  Although the music is much different, the album reminds me of Meat Loaf‘s Bat Out of Hell in its ambition and imagination. Although it is good, I predict that this record will not match the success of that album…Nevermind, two out of three ain’t bad!



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