Thursday, February 27, 2014

VANDEN PLAS: "Chronicles Of The Immortals - Netherworld"

Rating: RRR
Label: Frontiers 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Get yourself a war horse and paint it red with the blood of your enemies at the local battle field. Don't forget your trusty old broad sword and shield as Vanden Plas bring the book series of the 'Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld' by Wolfgang Hohlbein (43 million books sold worldwide and Germany's biggest selling author) to life with their latest offering to the Gods of dungeons and dragons.

It's fantasy war gaming at its extreme and the collaboration between Vanden Plas and Hohlbein (simply do a google of his work if needed) started with the rock opera, libretto, 'Blutnacht' (Bloodnight) written and composed for the stage production with vocalist Kuntz in the lead role and the rest of the band in the orchestra pit. 25 sold-out performances in the 2012 and 2013 seasons made them think about adapting the stage version to album format. And here's the result. Mr. Hohlbein appears as the storyteller, but also embodies the roles of the other protagonists. It's about immortality or rather the quest for it as the main character find himself between the two worlds.

It's just a vivid story and all the sorcerers, vampires and demons are fighting to become Gods? Ghosts, Netherworld (not to be confused with the Netherlands), shadows, warriors, children of the lost world (not the corn). The eternal war raging between heaven and eternal darkness, Asgård, and what not really. It's frankly just a blur of all the ancient sagas and stories. All this could still not put me off if the album came with great compositions.

Sadly they are not quite as great as the grand concept since they may just lack killer hooks and epic chorus parts. The orchestral accompaniment may work on stage while on record it's just a tad too pompous without any main thread, direction, plot, nor binding material. Nothing sticks out or grabs you by the throat. It goes on like a sturdy tractor and at its sudden halt, you still don't recall that many parts or main riffs. Two thumbs up for the bombastic tracks such as "The Black Knight" and "Godmaker", plus the overall good production and sonic display of rock opera. You obviously need to spin this several times to get the hang of the situation and it did improve with each spin up to a certain point of course.

Now, you may all think I'm not a fan of fantasy? Nothing could be further from the truth. J.R.R. Tolkien is the king and I never miss the episode of Dragontits (Game of Thrones). It's Star Wars and Star Trek I can't stand. Vanden Plas' most ambitious work up to date and unfortunately not quite their best material.

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