Vanden Plas – Chronicles of the Immortals: Netherworld, Path II (2015)

VandenPlas_Chronicles24.5 out of 5 Stars!

Back in 2006, I became aware of this German group for the first time when (on a lark) I purchased the album Christ O, and I instantly fell in love with it. Immediately afterward, I hunted down all five of the band’s previous studio albums I had sadly missed upon their original release and found myself reveling for hours and hours in the glorious and symphonic Progressive Metal the band had unleashed on the world, with each magnificently talented musician performing his heart out and the extraordinarily gifted singer Andy Kuntz adding his recognizable voice to each track.

Well, since those exciting days of discovery, Vanden Plas has released three additional studio albums, this one being the most recent.

And let me tell you, I have never once been disappointed, since each new collection wound up delivering some of the most stunning, most dramatic, most well-written, well-performed, well-orchestrated, and well-produced Prog-Metal on the planet.

And Chronicles of the Immortals: Netherworld, Path II is no exception. Like the previous ten-track …Netherworld, Path I album (the opening salvo in the band’s grand Prog-Metal “Rock Opera”), this release offers nine additional tunes (or “visions” within the opera), awesome and often soul-stirring compositions such as “Diabolica Comedia,” “Godmaker’s Temptation,” “Circle of the Devil,” “Monster,” “Where Have the Children Gone,” and the epic “Blood of Eden,” with each and every track providing myriad moods, luscious melodies, and killer instrumentation, some of the finest in the band’s ever-growing catalogue.

For me, Vanden Plas is beyond amazing, the epitome of professionalism, and easily one of the best, most consistent bands in the Prog-Metal genre, a leader among many. May the band live on forever!

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Waken Eyes – Exodus (2015)

WakenEyes_Exodus4 out of 5 Stars!

Although several websites state that Waken Eyes is a Canadian band, the group is indeed comprised of international musicians, including in-high-demand German drummer Marco Minnemann, killer New Jersey bassist Mike LePond (Symphony X), and Swedish vocal powerhouse Henrik Bath (Harmony/Darkwater), which leads me to believe that skillful guitarist/keyboardist Tom Frelek is the actual Canadian native.

Regardless, the band’s wealth of experience and craftsmanship clearly shows on its debut album, especially on sundry tracks such as “Cognition,” “Cornerstone Away,” “Deafening Thoughts,” “Across the Horizon,” and “Palisades.” Aside from the seemingly flawless musical performances and often-complex instrumentation, and the clear yet punchy production quality, Exodus includes everything fans of Progressive Metal typically require—melodic songs that periodically shift and spiral through a wide variety of influences, a splendid balance of laid-back, mid-tempo, and energetic moments, with the diverse extremes of stark/moody and bombastic/orchestrated passages providing welcome contrasts, along with the often cinematic-sounding epic title track exceeding the eighteen-minute mark.

In short, Waken Eyes is a promising band, and Exodus is an impressive debut!

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