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Vanden Plas - Chronicles Of The Immortals - Netherworld (Path One) CD (album) cover


Vanden Plas


Progressive Metal

3.74 | 134 ratings

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Second Life Syndrome
Prog Reviewer
4 stars This isn't a progressive metal album. You can argue with me about that, but I will never admit it to you. Vanden Plas, a progressive metal band, has crafted the first chapter of a two-part concept (based on a story by author Wolfgang Hohlbein) that utilizes progressive metal, classical music, dark ballads, and truly sophisticated structures to tell the theatrical story of the battle between heaven and hell through eyes of the immortals. Honestly, I don't quite understand the story completely, though I'm sure I will after I hear the second part (due out in 2015). I simply understand that it follows a young man that every one knows is different, and he seems to have bottomless understanding.

So, then, "Chronicles of the Immortals, Part 1: Netherworld" (takes breath) is no progressive metal album. This is because the metal portion of this album is rather subdued. Again and again, I kept telling myself that this might be the progressive metal album for the entirety of the prog world. While it certainly contains its fair share of dark, gigantic riffing, Vanden Plas has crafted what may be the most balanced metal album I've heard in some time. Nowadays, I expect an album of this genre to be technical throughout, focused on showboating and the number of notes per second that can be jammed into a verse. Vanden Plas, though, has changed the game.

Starting off with a narrated track (voiced impeccably by vocalist Andy Kuntz), "Chronicles of the Immortals" seems to have two things as its focus: melody and anticipation. The latter is the first impression I got of the album. Again and again, the band would play a track that never quite climaxed, but you could feel something was coming soon. The first couple tracks are especially this way: They instill an excitement in the listener. This anticipatory songwriting also helps this album swerve away from the standardized sound of many modern progressive metal releases.

The music is constructed using hefty riffs, piercing synth lines, delicate piano passages, and a deep, throbbing heart of mystery. Andy is incredible on vocals, as his unmistakable voice is always there, emoting furiously. However, he is joined by female vocals and a haunting children's choir to tell the story. Indeed, the vocal performances on this album are some of the best I've heard this year so far; memorable and spine-tingling.

However, the musical structures are pure gold. The album seems to use metallic riffing only as a framework for melody and emotion. Again and again, the band utilizes metal to accent the portions of a song that contains none at all. Therefore, much of this album is made up of smooth vocals, piano, and atmosphere. That's it, but somehow it's elating and completely realized. On top of this, the album also features a large amount of ballads. I'm not sure "ballad" is the correct word, as it feels more like a theatrical interlude featuring the interplay of the different vocalists; a setting for dialogue and beauty and further anticipation.

By far, my favorite tracks are "The Black Knight" with its synth lines, the "Misery Affection" couplet with their delicacy, and "The King and the Children of the Lost World" with its catchy chorus. All of the tracks, though, are necessary and truly great.

Vanden Plas, then, has crafted an album that defies the norm in progressive metal. They have surely composed masterful riffs and heavy portions, but they have also shown their expertise in creating atmosphere, gorgeous melodies, and odd structures that belay themselves against criticism. From the anticipation of "Vision 1ne" to the melody of "Misery Affection" to the metal of "Soul Alliance", part one of "Chronicles of the Immortals" is an album that should be heard by all in the progressive world this year, a progressive metal album for the entirety of the prog world. Its fathoms of mystery, firm grasp on the story, and perfect execution all combine to form a truly special production.

Second Life Syndrome | 4/5 |


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