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'Chronicles Of The Immortals – Netherworld'
(Frontiers Records)
Release Date: 21st February 2014

Gary 'Rockulus' Clarke

Rockulus Maximus

vanden plas

These German Progressive Rockers have an impressive back catalogue of music to explore if you have the time and inclination to do so. Their debut album was released in 1994 and went by the title of 'Colour Temple' and the momentum has carried them ever onwards on that quest of making better and better albums.

In order to fully get my head around this new album, I needed to dig deep and really listen to 'Chronicles Of The Immortals – Netherworld' as it had such depth and quite a history. 'Chronicles Of The Immortals – Netherworld' isn't merely a concept album you see, it was born from another seed.

'Chronicles Of The Immortals' is a series of books penned by Germany's biggest selling author Wolfgang Hohlbein and it was he who approached Vanden Plas about making a Rock Opera version of these books for the theatre. The name of the theatre production was 'Bloodnight', and after the success of the shows, the band tackled the story again by adapting their theatre version to the recording studio and creating 'Chronicles Of The Immortals – Netherworld'.

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I was fortunate enough to be granted an audience with guitarist Stephan Lill who explained the plot. "The theme of 'Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld' examines the essential question of human existence. Andreij Delany - the main character - is an immortal who only desires to be a human being, but he is incapable of sharing his life with mortals."

Lill continues on his quest to enlighten. "In the search for his salvation, he wanders through the centuries, not knowing that doing so threatens to put him at the mercy of powers that themselves have eternity on their side and are slowly tightening a noose around his neck. With satanic trickery, a dark shape-shifter tries to convince the immortal one to join him and storm the Pantheon of the old gods and wrestle the throne from them."

After pausing for a moment, Lill then finishes his summary. "Restless chimeras from the other side warn him against this unholy alliance. They tell him about lost love, the souls of forgotten children, and point him to a 'forbidden way' to Marius - the son he believed to be dead - and Maria, the great love of his life. Suddenly Andrej finds himself between the front lines of two worlds. He is in the middle of the eternal war raging between Heaven and eternal Darkness."

As you can see for yourself, this album is no mere walk in the park. To fully appreciate its complexities and thread, the varying textures that have been incorporated and the balance that is the result, this is one of those albums that requires complete absorption. Many albums don't wilt or suffer when a single track is plucked from the collection, but this is an album that is very much of the entire or nothing approach.

'Vision 1ne' is a narrative and the band exercising their creative musical muscles before you're thrust in to an epic eight minutes and more of 'Vision2wo: The Black Knight' which showcases their different approaches. You get the hard hitting 'Vision 3hree: Godmaker' and you're also exposed later in the album by the soft and building choral delight of 'Vision 5ive: A Ghost Requiem'. There are moments like the fragile 'Vision 8ight: Misery Affection' which adds a female lead vocal plus the ever-building triumph of closer 'Vision 10n: Inside' which taps in to some genuine drama until its climax.

It is grandiose, epic and richly rewarding once you've broken the familiarity of the arrangements and overall ebb and flow. The band themselves are gearing up for the sequel already and will be intent on making that just as accomplished as 'Chronicles Of The Immortals – Netherworld'. If you have a short attention span; then avoid. On the other side of the verdict; if you're partial to albums like '01011001' by Aryeon then this should satisfy easily.

Vision 1ne
Vision 2wo: The Black Knight
Vision 3hree: Godmaker
Vision 4our: Misery Affection Prelude
Vision 5ive: A Ghost Requiem
Vision 6ix: New Vampyre
Vision 7even: The King And The Children Of Lost World
Vision 8ight: Misery Affection
Vision 9ine: Soul Alliance
Vision 10n: Inside

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