Vanden Plas - Chronicles of the Immortals - Netherworld (Path 1)

Vanden Plas Chronicles of the Immortals Netherworld (Path 1) cover
Vanden Plas
Chronicles of the Immortals - Netherworld
Frontiers Records
Mysteriously enough and some four years after the release of “The Seraphic Clockwork” the German prog metallers that have been silently chipping away at it since 1986 in fact (well on their own initially, self-releasing their works, only to be picked up by companies much later) resurface with a Rock Opera of all things, based on a stage production entitled “Bloodnight”, which in turn was made possible by their collaboration with a very successful German “Horror Fiction” Author, Wolfgang Hohlbein, who can boast some 43 million books sold, worldwide. Impressive stuff indeed!
“Bloodnight” had singer Andy Kuntz on stage assuming the lead role and the Vanden Plas musicians in the orchestra pit, leading the proceedings and it had a quite successful run with some nearly 30 performances in the past couple of years, to great acclaim, which must be something quite special, given the “scope and magnitude as well as the special nature of such a project. Allegedly all of them were met with standing ovations that never seemed to end, which must be a testament to a job well done. Driven by that success and in response to that Hohlbein prepared another novel; the story of “Bloodnight”.
The said “Opera” for which Vanden Plas composed some 19 tracks was then dissected in 2, almost equal (?) albums with the first 10 (it’s not certain if any more interludes etc. are included) surfacing on this album, which serves as the first part and act, of the “Drama”. The Second album is apparently expected to be finished and to ship by early 2015. To accommodate, the lack of the visual spectacle that a theatrical play has, Hohlbein, adapted the story, in such a way so as to allow Vanden Plas’ singer Andy Kuntz to both narrate and assume, multiple characters, with him employing slightly different “vocal approaches”. There’s a libretto, however this is not a true “operatic” work, in the vein of some attempts like Ayreon, Aina or some of the Avantasia’s where multiple singers would assume the different roles. More like an adapted, operatic piece. However there are some backing female vocals if I am not mistaken. (on “Vision 4our” for example).
The bands brand of prog is ever apparent, maybe a bit reinforced, certainly richer in texture and much grander in scope, slightly darker, probably because of the “Vampyre” theme, not that Vanden Plas’ music was ever too bright and joyous, but here it has an even more theatrical and distant. There are moments where the totally sound magnificent. You can’t put any other label than art/prog on them, but they don’t go for the 1000 notes per minute, approach. It’s one of those cases where while the musicians in a band might be quite capable they seem much more concerned with creating the right “atmosphere and mood” rather than impress with their individual abilities. That is not saying that those are not commendable.
Kuntz’s deep lyrics and deep, dark but cool and assured delivery is dominant and a decisive factor in this whole effort working. Lill’s riffs might be rather simple, but they are unmistakable and together with Werno’s keyboard parts they weave some pretty interesting melodic canvases for Kuntz to “tread upon”. Last but not least bass player Torsten Reichert and drummer Andreas Lill, provide a Swiss clock precise rhythm section and the translucent interplay between all produces this flawless, seamless, yet dark and deeply gothic and slightly “eerie” atmosphere. The story predictably is not, something that you haven’t encountered before in “Vampire Lore” but at least it’s not of the “Twilight” fodder variety, thankfully, (from some samples that I had the chance to browse, even if I am not the biggest fan of the given fiction genre.)
By all means if you’re a fan of the band, sink your teeth into this, you will not regret it. If you’re looking for something really artistic and with progressive connotations, feel free to try it. Fans of Dream Theater, eat garlic! (Ha,ha) Fans of Ayreon’s latest stuff might actually enjoy this, quite much (even with one voice). It’s really sad, that bands like this one, Rough Silk, (that might not have a direct link but where a band that took chances and dared to be different at least early on, with some amazing albums, mid-era Angeldust etc.) are not on everyone’s lips and instead we get bombarded by copy-cats, tribute bands and unoriginal pissants that really are more of a disgrace, rather than geniuses. But, yeah, don’t let me stop you promoting the “masterpieces”… that your paid “ad campaigns” sort of force you to “enforce” upon the “unsuspecting” crowds…