Album Review – Vanden Plas / Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld II (2015)

If you loved Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld, this second and ultimate part of one of the most remarkable concept albums in the history of heavy music will certainly blow your mind.

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vanden plas_chronicles of the immortals netherworld 2Any strong narrative demands a proper conclusion, one that will make your heart beat faster and give you some welcome goosebumps, leaving you stunned by its climatic upshot and completely eager for more of it. What German Progressive Metal virtuosi Vanden Plas offer in Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld II, the second and ultimate part of their brilliant concept double-album Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld, goes beyond that in terms of quality and excitement, and you’ll have a blast following those talented metallers on their journey through the dark and admirable realms of the netherworld.

As aforementioned, the album is a sequel to their superb 2014 release Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld, once again based on Die Chronik Der Unsterblichen, by author Wolfgang Hohlbein. Featuring another beautiful artwork by French artist Stan Decker (even more awesome than the one from the previous album, in my humble opinion) and a magnificent choir supporting the music played by Vanden Plas, there’s nothing in Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld II that doesn’t look or sound spectacular, elevating it together with the first part to the status of one of the most remarkable concept albums in the history of heavy music.

I highly recommend you take a listen at the first part before moving on to this album, because Vision 11even – In My Universe is a precise continuation to “Vision 10n – Inside” in terms of its musicality and the development of the storyline. I just find it more symphonic and progressive than most songs from the first album, which in this case is exactly what the album demands, with Andy Kuntz continuing his vocal lecture for lovers of his type of voice. In Vision 12elve – Godmaker’s Temptation, we have an eerie start to another solid tune, a heavy and progressive ballad full of emotions with a huge focus on its atmosphere and especially on its powerful chorus, while Vision 13teen – Stone Roses Edge proves how incredible Vanden Plas can sound when they speed up their rhythm and beats. This is for me the best of all songs from both albums, with the electricity provided by the keyboards by Günter Werno and the guitar riffs and solos by Stephan Lill being truly outstanding, not to mention another  flawless performance by Andy.

And get ready for Vision 14teen – Blood of Eden, a fantastic 13-minute composition divided in three distinct parts that complement each other magically. Its first piece, entitled “All Love Must Die”, presents for the first time in the album the gentle female vocals by German singer Julia Steingass, who was also a guest musician in Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld; then the second piece named “The Rite” gets more theatrical and fiery, therefore becoming a lesson in Progressive Metal by Andy and his crew; before “This Is the Night” concludes this epic song in a classy and thrilling way. The following tune, Vision 15teen – Monster, showcases another guest vocalist, Falk Leidemer from German band Tentacle Attack, who is responsible for the guttural vocals in this very cohesive and symphonic composition, with highlights to the always growing level of passion and darkness during the whole song.

vanden plasPerhaps Vision 16teen – Diabolica Comedia can be considered one of the most complex and unusual songs of their career, with its orchestrations blending perfectly with the band’s heavy notes. Moreover, Günter once again takes the spotlight with his precise keyboard notes and undeniable talent. After such a freakish trek, it’s time to relax to the pleasant heavy ballad Vision 17teen – Where Have the Children Gone, where the strong performances by all band members provide the song what it needs to captivate the listener from start to finish.

In the excellent Vision 18teen – The Last Fight, Vanden Plas deliver a mix of Progressive Metal and traditional Heavy Metal, with its keyboards setting fire to the musicality and the excitement brought forth by the instrumental pieces and the choir truly boosting the overall quality of the music. Put differently, simply savor the experience of closing your eyes and letting this unique musical madness take you away to a different world. And finally, with the choir guiding the music to its climax (and consequently the whole album and story), the symphonic and theatrical Vision 19teen – Circle of the Devil presents the stunning Julia back to help Andy close the album majestically, working pretty much as a sequel to “Vision 14teen – Blood of Eden”. In the end, I bet several fans will cry tears of joy when the last notes of the song fade away.

To sum up, as I said already, there isn’t anything in Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld II that doesn’t surpass the boundaries of awesomeness, from its consistent and fully developed storyline to the outstanding music skills by all musicians involved. The only unanswered question from the entire album is that if Vanden Plas will be capable of delivering anything better or at least at the same level of quality as both Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld albums, but let’s leave it for their future releases. For now, we should simply relish the full-bodied music contained in this music saga, joining this amazing Progressive Metal band in their quest for conquering not only the netherworld depicted in the albums, but the entire world we live in.

Best moments of the album: Vision 13teen – Stone Roses Edge, Vision 14teen – Blood of Eden and Vision 18teen – The Last Fight.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2015 Frontiers Records

Track listing
1. Vision 11even – In My Universe 6:25
2. Vision 12elve – Godmaker’s Temptation 5:05
3. Vision 13teen – Stone Roses Edge 6:38
4. Vision 14teen – Blood of Eden (I. All Love Must Die / II. The Rite / III. This Is the Night) 13:17
5. Vision 15teen – Monster 7:40
6. Vision 16teen – Diabolica Comedia 6:37
7. Vision 17teen – Where Have the Children Gone 4:42
8. Vision 18teen – The Last Fight 7:33
9. Vision 19teen – Circle of the Devil 7:59

Band members
Andy Kuntz – vocals
Stephan Lill – guitars
Günter Werno – keyboards
Torsten Reichert – bass
Andreas Lill – drums

Guest musicians
Julia Steingass – female vocals on “Vision 14teen – Blood of Eden” and “Vision 19teen – Circle of the Devil”
Falk Leidemer – harsh vocals on “Vision 15teen – Monster”
Christian Köbler, Manuel Lothschütz – backing vocals, choir
Sarah Bohnert, Heike Dechert, Julia Hach, Stephan Hugo, Lisana Hunsinger, Jutta Mitschke, Ines Pawlowski, Charlotte Seeger, Johannes Zimnol – choir

Album Review – Vanden Plas / Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld (2014)

Get ready for an amazing journey through the worlds of literature and music in the new Rock Opera Album by these German Progressive Metal icons.

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vandenplas_chroniclesIf you’re a fan of Heavy Metal and love reading a good book, you have to listen to the new concept album by German Progressive Metal band Vanden Plas, the seventh full-length album in their career, called Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld. The album is based on the novel Die Chronik Der Unsterblichen, by author Wolfgang Hohlbein, who, with 43 million books sold worldwide, is not only Germany’s biggest-selling author but also a fan of Vanden Plas. The novel, and consequently the album, narrate the adventures of vampire Andrej Delãny and his comrade Abu Dun, who search for the secret of their origin through Europe in recent centuries, always meeting new threats and thereby witnessing several significant events in European history. It portrays a variety of ideas about vampires and other mythical creatures, including also the modern myth of the Highlander.

Do not expect to find lots of insane guitar solos, drums as fast as possible, or any guitar shredding: the music found in Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld is 100% progressive, focused on the atmosphere created especially by the voice of singer Andy Kuntz and keyboards by Günter Werno. There’s a lot of melody in this album, which can already be noticed in the opening track, the intro Vision 1ne, with its beautiful narration (perfect for any movie) and piano, and Vision 2wo – The Black Knight, a very progressive track just like Vanden Plas and Dream Theater love to do with an eerie intro and calm passages.

The following tracks (or “visions”) are Vision 3hree – Godmaker, a lot heavier than the previous song with great keyboards and riffs, and Andy Kuntz doing a superb job on vocals, making it one of the best of the whole album;  Vision 4our – Misery Affection Prelude, which is just an intro/bridge to the next song, the ballad Vision 5ive – A Ghosts Requiem, with a very delicate piano and amazing choir; and Vision 6ix – New Vampyre, with great riffs, keyboards, and nice guitar solos.

vandenplasHowever, it’s the next two tracks that really stand out to our ears and souls. The first is Vision 7even – The King and the Children of Lost World, a song that has the full package: its strong riffs, beautiful lyrics and excellent solos at the end make it the perfect representation of what Progressive Metal really is. And then the second one, Vision 8ight – Misery Affection, is the perfect ballad with a smooth intro, pleasant piano, and gorgeous female vocals (who’s the owner of that mesmerizing voice?) in an astonishing duo with Kuntz. In my humble opinion, it’s the best track of the album and one of the best Vanden Plas have ever produced.

The last part of the album begins with the strong bass lines by Torsten Reichert in the song Vision 9ine – Soul Alliance, followed by Vision 10n – Inside, the last track of the album, which continues with the same level of energy from its predecessor and leaves us wanting more of this awesome progressive heavy music, even after almost one hour of complexity and intensity not easy for regular people to digest.

In summary, the whole album would the perfect soundtrack for a Chronicles of the Immortals movie. It’s a very cohesive work done by this band of terrific musicians, with extraordinary melody and, of course, an amazing storyline. Not only that, the whole production is extremely professional, from the audio mixing to the album art, which by the way looks like the front cover of one of Mr. Hohlbein’s books. Maybe that was one of the main ideas behind the whole album: creating a unique album which wanders between the worlds of literature and music, and so offering the fans of the band and of Mr. Hohlbein’s work a totally new experience in the world of heavy music.

Best moments of the album: Vision 3hree – Godmaker, Vision 7even – The King and the Children of Lost World and Vision 8ight – Misery Affection.

Worst moments of the album: Vision 5ive – A Ghosts Requiem and Vision 6ix – New Vampyre.

Released in 2014 Frontiers Records

Track listing
1. Vision 1ne 3:52
2. Vision 2wo – The Black Knight 8:29
3. Vision 3hree – Godmaker 5:24
4. Vision 4our – Misery Affection Prelude 1:39
5. Vision 5ive – A Ghosts Requiem 3:56
6. Vision 6ix – New Vampyre 6:16
7. Vision 7even – The King and the Children of Lost World 7:53
8. Vision 8ight – Misery Affection 5:08
9. Vision 9ine – Soul Alliance 6:39
10. Vision 10n – Inside 6:42

Band members
Andy Kuntz – vocals
Stephan Lill – guitars
Günter Werno – keyboards
Torsten Reichert – bass
Andreas Lill – drums