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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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4 stars German band VANDEN PLAS has a history that goes back more than 30 years, and even if they didn't release their debut album until 1994 they merits to be reckoned among the veteran bands in the European metal scene, and coming rather close to merit a description as elder statesmen fairly soon too I'd imagine. If you count in their 1996 release "AcCult" they have 8 studio productions to their name as of March 2015. "Chronicles of the Immortals - Netherworld (Path 1) " is the most recent of these, and was released through Italian label Frontiers Records in early 2014.

Vanden Plas has earned themselves a name as a quality progressive metal band, and especially early in their careers they were often compared to the likes of Dream Theater. While I'm not overly familiar with their earlier material, comparisons of that nature doesn't come easy with this latest production of theirs, and I presume that the fairly soon to be released continuation of this disc will be rather similar in nature to this one as far as that detail goes, as this conceptual CD is the first of a series that will include at least one additional chapter. The music is still quite clearly one that resides within the progressive metal realm, but one that orients itself much closer to a different territory altogether.

Rock opera is a description that have grown fairly popular in the last couple of decades, and a growing number of metal bands have approached productions of that kind in fairly different manners. The conceptual story is a key element shared between them, but apart from that you have everything from metal bands doing what they have always done, but with a storyline and often multiple vocals roles, to the ones that take it all out and develop multiple person stories with an extensive use of vocalists to have lead vocal roles and unfolding more or less grandiose stories, of which the greater part have a foundation in fantasy and science fiction.

Vanden Plas approach to the rock opera is a different one. There's a narratoir in place for the opening part, there's a female guest vocalist given a few leads, but more often used as a backing vocalist and as a supplement to the powerful, melodic lead vocals of Andy Kuntz. There is a story told here, but mainly from a lead person point of view from what I can grasp, and the opera part of the rock opera is in this case one that revolves around arrangements and instrumentation more than anything else.

Orchestral details and arrangements is a just about constant presence throughout here, and executed in a manner that indicates that this is a band with a true affection for classical symphonic music. Not that we're given all that many instances where the orchestral arrangements dominates through and through, but they are a constant presence, and as with traditional operas we're given a fair share of sequences that highlights the lead vocals on top of a more sparse and frail instrument backing. As this is a metal band we're also treated to a liberal amount of guitar riff driven excursions of course, if you're fond of powerful and grinding guitar riffs as standalone features and as part of majestic arrangements with keyboards and orchestral textures in multiple layered, expressive runs you'll get your fill of both of these. Occasional exotic timbres and unexpected frail piano details is also a part of the big picture here, and you get a distinct impression that this is a production written and planned for a stage performance with full symphony orchestra and old fashioned opera vocalists as this creation unfolds.

I suspect this aspect of this production is the main drawback here. On an album with material impeccably performed that has been mixed and produced to just about perfection, the lacking magical extra ingredient is the power this material would have if performed with a full symphonic orchestra in a theater. That power is difficult to capture on a studio production. Still, if a band that blends progressive metal inside a framework built with heavy inspiration from classical music in general and classical opera in particular sounds intriguing, and you fancy such material performed by quality metal vocalists rather than traditional opera singers, then Vanden Plas have made an album you should enjoy through and through.

Windhawk | 4/5 |


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