Vanden Plas - Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld (Path 1) review


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Band: Vanden Plas
Album: Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld (Path 1)
Release date: February 2014

01. Vision 1ne
02. Vision 2wo - The Black Knight
03. Vision 3hree - Godmaker
04. Vision 4our - Misery Affection Prelude
05. Vision 5ive - A Ghosts Requiem
06. Vision 6ix - New Vampyre
07. Vision 7ven - The King And The Children Of Lost World
08. Vision 8ight - Misery Affection
09. Vision 9ine - Soul Alliance
10. Vision 10n - Inside

Fresh off reviewing Vanden Plas' newest duology, The Ghost Xperiment, and right in the middle of a Vanden Plas binge, this seemed like the perfect time to look back on Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld. Okay, first let me establish that I absolutely hate this naming convention. Look, I get it's a concept album, but having two titles like this is A) bad for marketing and B) obnoxious, making tagging my mp3 and flac files much more annoying. Oh, and on top of that, they also decided to go ahead and give each track TWO TITLES, and they did that stupid thing where they put the actual number first and then add the rest of the spelled out number? Like "7ven" for example: it's dumb and I hate it. Having gotten all my ire for the naming conventions on display, I should say that I can be very harsh on the smallest details when it comes to this band, but I promise it's out of love. Vanden Plas is one of my all time favorite bands and I wouldn't even be writing this review if they weren't.

The Seraphic Clockwork set a REALLY high bar for the band; to me, it's a perfect album and it's my #11 favorite album of all time, so when I first heard Netherworld I was disappointed. Not hugely so, but just enough. Gone were the longer compositions, replaced with shorter songs and catchier riffs: not necessarily the worst thing, but as a prog fan I usually prefer the format of Christ0 and Seraphic Clockwork. That being said, it's ironic that the longest song on this album is probably my least favorite on the album. After a long and honestly boring intro track, we get an 8-minute mid-tempo slog. Don't get me wrong, the main riff is fun and the chorus is actually really good, it's just that I find the rest of "The Black Knight" boring. The riffs here are key though; despite not particularly caring about the story being told and despite the songwriting lacking some of the panache of preceding VP albums, the riffs are what hold this album together. Vanden Plas has always had great riffs and excellent orchestration, which is something many metal fans seem to think are mutually exclusive; well, I assure you that if you want heavy guitar riffs, technical keyboard work and great symphonic elements, then Vanden Plas has all of that in spades and on the production side they have never sounded so crisp and so massive.

Finally after the slog of the intro and "The Black Knight", we finally get one of the best songs in the Vanden Plas catalogue. "Godmaker" has probably my favorite riff by them, and that is saying a lot because they have so many incredible, if a bit similar-sounding, riffs. "Godmaker" is short and concise, but it works gangbusters; the chorus is soaring and emotional, which makes for a perfect contrast with the dark and aggressive main riff. In fact, I think this might be the most aggressive song VP has ever written; looking back through their material, they've never been much of an aggressive metal band. Sure, you've got songs like TFree The Fire", and I guess "Frequency"? Like I said, most of their songs are either dark and brooding, or they're upbeat and fun, but on this album we get to see a little bit of a different side of the band. Did I say dark and brooding? Oh hello there, "Misery Affection Prelude" and "A Ghost's Requiem", didn't see you there; I promise I wasn't making fun of you. In all seriousness, I'm not a big ballad fan usually, and putting two (and a half) ballads on Path 1 of this definitely dampened my enthusiasm back in 2014. With the benefit of hindsight, this allows Netherworld II to stay away from ballads and get back to usual Vanden Plas things, while this album gets to be shorter and more accessible. Therefore, it was ultimately a good decision, and while "A Ghost's Requiem" might not be the best ballad, the slow burn really does pay off, with the last minute of the song erupting into a beautiful and heartfelt symphonic breakdown. I think pacing is probably the most problematic part of this album; "The Black Knight" is kinda slow, then "Godmaker" moves at a good clip, but then of course we get five minutes of slow-building balladry. After the ballad(s) though, we get to my favorite part of the album. "New Vampyre" and "The King And The Children Of Lost World" are pure awesomeness: "New Vampyre" has solid riffs and some interesting electronic elements that we really hadn't heard in VP's music up to this point. Of course, the real center of attention is the chorus; I swear every time I listen to this song, the chorus is stuck in my head for days, not to mention the bridge, which absolutely nails it, as most VP bridges are wont to do.

"The King And The Children Of Lost World" is to me the most complete song of the album. With other songs, I've complimented individual moments and aspects of the songs, but this song is just awesome from start to finish and really feels closer to something off of Christ0 or Seraphic Clockwork, moreso than the rest of the record. There's more keyboard work on this song, which I'm realizing now has been lacking from the whole album. I'm a keyboard player, so I'm always going to prefer more active and prominent keyboards in an album and especially in the mix; as solid as the overall production and mix are on this album, I think sometimes the keyboards get overshadowed, though I do appreciate the parts with actual grand piano lines rather than synth sounds. Anyways, Gunter Werno is an awesome keyboard player that I can always get more of, and this song has the best keyboard work on the whole album. Then we get back to balladry before we get to the last two tracks of the album. "Misery Affection" is actually a pretty solid ballad, not the best ever, but once again that climax saves the rest of the song from being underwhelming. Now, I might be in the minority on this one, but I think this is the weakest section of the album, because "Inside" and "Soul Alliance" are kind of average Vanden Plas songs. They're not bad, as the hooks are solid and there's some good riffs between them, but they almost feel incomplete and really it's because this is the end of part one of two, so they had to find a place to end it. It's unfortunate that the album doesn't end with much of a bang compared to every other album they've released, including The Ghost Xperiment - Awakening. "Soul Alliance" and "Inside" are both good, but they lack the oomph of songs like "Godmaker", "New Vampyre" and "King And The Children".

So let's recap; we've got a slow start that really picks up on tracks 3 and 5. The middle is excellent and then we have a lackluster ending. As much as this album has grown on me since its release (if you asked me how I felt about this album even like 2 years ago I would have called it a huge disappointment), I still consider it to be a minor disappointment that was saved by Netherworld II being incredible and one of the best albums Vanden Plas has written. It's the kind of album I want to like more than I do and I find myself making excuses for it at almost every turn, but I cannot deny that this album is a bit of a mess structurally and the storytelling elements are meh. This album is like the definition of a 7.5/10 for me.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 10
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 9

Written by IanYeara | 27.03.2021


Guest review disclaimer:
This is a guest review, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.

Staff review by
Dream Taster
The masters of heavy rock operas are back. Vanden Plas, from the city of Kaiserslautern, Germany, have been steadily grabbing dully deserved attention of late with their unique theatrical approach to music applied to progressive power metal. It has been 4 years already since they released the addictive concept album The Seraphic Clockwork. They took things even a notch farther in terms of theater performance by teaming up with fantasy writer Wolfgang Hohlbein to interpret his Netherworld novels on stage in the form of a rock opera for a few selected shows in Germany. With the bombastic title of Chronicles of the Immortals: Netherworld (Path I), this is the studio recording of the first half of those songs.

published 09.03.2014 | Comments (7)


Comments: 1   Visited by: 8 users
27.03.2021 - 19:53
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
There are something I like in this band, something one of rare prog bands I like.
Mussclasica maybe you can write getting into article?
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

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I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing

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