Vanden Plas - _Chronicles of the Immortals: Path One (Netherworld)_
(Frontiers Records, 2014)
by: Aly Hassab El Naby (7 out of 10)
In a world that is rife with an irrational thirst for maximum speed, brutality and everything being 'extreme', a measured hand is a welcome one. Germany's long-running progressive metal quintet Vanden Plas continues to exist in relative obscurity as its seventh studio album _Chronicles of the Immortals: Netherworld (Path One)_ sees the light of day. Vanden Plas is indeed a band that writes very detailed music yet maintains a fairly measured hand in doing so. On this record, there is no ungodly growling from the underworld, no high-speed-low-octave chugging and continuous senseless drumming. This is a heavy metal album focused on the sense and sensibility of song writing.

Most tracks have a reasonable structure and include just enough repetition to leave some subtle hooks. The ten visions comprising this fifty six minute record kick off with the rather theatrical "Vision 1ne", which then hands over rather neatly to "Vision 2wo - The Black Knight". From then on, the album continues to evolve like a story unfolding. The intensity of music undulates and more somber sections come and go. "Vision 4our - Misery Affection Prelude" and the accompanying "Vision 8ight - Misery Affection" largely encapsulate that somber feeling and they actually sound quite similar to later era Anathema. On the other side of the spectrum lie "Vision 6ix - New Vampyre" and "Vision 9ine - Soul Alliance". Those two tracks highlight a heavier and technically capable Vanden Plas.

Despite some rather impressive bits, _Chronicles of the Immortals_ is not a revolutionary album by any stretch of the imagination. It is however a very good, very well put together heavy metal album with links to the progressive side of the genre. Comparisons to the American act of similar age Dream Theater may seem logical to some, but the fact that Vanden Plas don't overly complicate things for no other reason than just because they can would void such comparisons. It's almost impossible to see Vanden Plas, a band with the same line-up since 1986, bursting onto the heavy metal mainstream, yet the finest music is almost never found there. _Chronicles of the Immortals_ is a decent reminder that heavy metal can indeed provide an engaging listen without excessive embellishment.


(article published 2/4/2014)

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