Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals – Netherworld (Path One)
Reviewed by Arno Callens
“It’s a type of car. Something Jaguar I believe.”
You can’t really begin to explain to anybody not already familiar with the progressive metal scene that you’re listening to a band called “Vanden Plas”. Yet explaining the music itself is an even more difficult feat. These Germans’ brand of prog is so idiosyncratic that throwing names like “Dream Theater” or “Symphony X” at the wall is not just terribly cliché, but also terribly beside the point.
Perhaps it started out that way, but such no longer holds true. Ever since Beyond Daylight, Vanden Plas has been growing and evolving, hitting a high with Christ 0 (and a low in alphanumerical logic), and topping it with the even more ambitious and sprawling The Seraphic Clockwork. The sky was a limit for losers and the band simultaneously broke out into the world of theater as some sort of cross-arts metal curiosity.
Today the theatrical circle is in full swing with the dawning release of Chronicles Of The Immortals – Netherworld (Path One), or in whatever order you’re supposed to write that mouthful of a name. First it was a book by Wolfgang Hohlbein, then a musical (Bloodnight) starring lead singer Andy Kuntz, and now it’s part one of a diptych album so that uncultured barbarians with long hair can enjoy it as well.
Netherworld – Chronicles Of The Immortals (Path One) (just covering the bases here) also continues the band’s evolution into streamlined, accessible prog. Fans of long wanky instrumental passages can pack for more mathematical pastures, as this is possibly the most straightforward Vanden Plas has ever been. At times, it reminds me of modern Kamelot’s mélange of easy-listening melodies and musical intricacy, albeit with the typical serene and evocative touch unique to their German colleagues.
Which is not to say this is a bunch of ballads. The album has its share, with the wonderful “Misery Affection” leading the tow and providing a worthy successor to “Scarlet Flower Fields”, “Fireroses Dance”, and “Quicksilver”. Riffage aplenty abounds however, with such memorable openings as on “The Black Knight”, featuring a dreamy laid-back chorus, “New Vampyre”, which is dark and twisted like Kamelot’s Poetry For The Poisoned-era, and the compact epic “The King And The Children Of Lost World”.
At ten tracks – including one spoken-word intro and an interlude to “Misery Affection” – the scale may seem to tip towards “money” instead of “value”, but this is not like Wintersun’s Stalling For Time. Not one song feels like filler: video-single “Godmaker” has a mesmerizing refrain, “Soul Alliance” boasts simple but effective melodies, and “Inside” is such a good closer that it seems to have memorized Alec Baldwin’s speech from Glengarry Glen Ross (a film that was also a play, before I’m being accused of random referencing).
Chronicles Of The Immortals – Path One: Netherworld (I’m so sorry) is the next logical step in Vanden Plas’ career: it further simplifies their sound without sacrificing any of their trademarks, it embodies the wide interests the music is influenced by, and proves the Jaguar is far from out of fuel. May the hot streak continue into 2015, when Path Two is supposed to come out, by which time I may have learned to restrain myself from joking about the title and the band name. If Vanden Plas can grow, so can I, right?
4.5 // 5