Fantasy, Science-Fiction and Horror, for many reason, are a direct influence on metal & rock and there are thousands upon thousands of us who love reading books in those genres. I have book shelves sagging under the weight of Stephen King, Stephen R. Donaldson and Arthur C. Clarke novels and it has always been a passion. In recent years, I have also noticed more bands directly involving themselves with a particular author to collaborate on an album/book idea. ‘Clockwork Angels’ by Rush could, arguably, be the best known. Superb progressive metallers Vanden Plas have done something similar with their seventh studio album, 'Chronicles of the Immortals: Netherworld (Path One)' but with a twist. They got together with Germany's bestselling author Wolfgang Holbein (who is a big fan of the band) to create a rock opera based on his series of ‘Chronicle Of The Netherworld’ novels. Together, they created nineteen songs and entitled it ‘Blutnacht’ (‘Bloodnight’). Starring Vanden Plas vocalist Andy Kuntz in the lead role and with the rest of the band in the orchestra pit they played 25 sold-out performances in Germany throughout the 2012/2013 seasons to huge critical acclaim. With Holbein's agreement, Vanden Plas then decided to adapt the opera into the basis of their next studio release with Kuntz taking on all roles as 'Storyteller' and with the songs becoming heavier to suit the band’s fanbase and an album format. '(Path One)' is the result and contains the first 10 songs of the story with the conclusion '(Path Two)' to be released in 2015.
I have been a fan of Vanden Plas for quite a few years now but this album is, quite simply, mind-blowing and the work that has gone into this and the theatre production must have been absolutely incredible. Huge melody, emotion and power along with superb song writing and ability make this, personally, the best album they have released and I really am unsure as to how '(Path Two)' is going to better it! Central to the whole album is Andy Kuntz's incredible vocal performance which is a true master class of singing and fans of James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Fabio Leone (Rhapsody), Roy Khan (formally Kamelot), Russell Allen (Symphony X), Geoff Tate (when he was good, 25 years ago) and, of course, the previous Vanden Plas albums are going to go weak at the knees when they hear this. Could somebody please tell me, though, who the fantastic female vocalist is who pops up occasionally? Her voice compliments Kuntz's superbly but her name isn't mentioned anywhere! Musically, '(Path One)' also excels. Guitarist Stephen Lill is wonderful throughout and keyboard maestro Günter Werno plays with a passion bordering on the heart wrenching. Bassist Torsten Reichert and drummer Andrea Lill are also superb; the whole band effortlessly transferring the live songs to a studio format. What helps is that Vanden Plas have had the same lineup from day one (not something that happens often these days) and they seem almost telepathically connected.
You could play songs separately because they are so well written but I would advise anyone to sit down and listen to this album fully, as it was intended. Not all concept albums are easy to follow but '(Path One)' bucks that trend. Lyrics are beautiful and, right from the start, you know exactly who is who and what is happening. Production is crystal clear and sounds huge, especially through headphones. I adore the way the tracks have been numbered and the whole thing is packaged with incredible artwork that also sets the scene for the story. I cannot do anything else but give Vanden Plas top marks for this sublime performance and album. I'm just worried I might have to go up to eleven if '(Path Two)' manages to be this good!
CHRONICLES OF THE IMMORTALS - NETHERWORLD (PATH ONE)
Review by Rick Tilley
21st Feb 2014
2) The Black Knight
4) Misery Affection
5) A Ghosts Requiem
6) New Vampyre
7) The King and the Children of Lost World
8) Miisery Affection
9) Soul Alliance
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...this album is, quite simply, mind-blowing..."