You do wonder if their name might have held Germany’s Vanden Plas back. Back in the 1970s and 80s it was British Leyland’s badge for the top-end models of their memorably terrible cars from the worst days of the British motor industry. It’s like calling a band “Skoda” or “Edsel”.
Their eighth studio album “Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II”, is as the title suggests, the second part of a saga, the first half of which came out in 2014. It’s an epic involving dark godmakers and cursed blades based on the fantasy series of the same name by author Wolfgang Hohlbein.
The music fits the theme, a cinematic record combining the big choruses and showboating solos of power-metal with the ambitious song structures of progressive metal and the epic production and pomp of symphonic metal, with a bit of musical theatre thrown in for good measure. There are big soaring power-ballads, hard-rocking guitar and keyboard solo wig-outs and sprawling epics where razor-sharp riffs alternate with tinkling piano interludes. The songwriting and arrangements sound like a band who have been perfecting their craft for a long time, and the whole thing has a big rich wall of sound production. Vanden Plas don’t do anything in half-measures, finishing in gloriously over-the-top style with the choir and orchestra of “Circle of the Devil”.
This is an album that may be too bombastic and overblown for those who prefer more straightforward rock’n'roll; and sometimes the effect can be similar to an over-rich dessert when there’s only so much you can eat at once. But Vanden Plas do what they do extremely well, and fans of anyone from Threshold to Ayreon ought to find a lot to like about this record.