Formed in 1990, German progressive metal band Vanden Plas combined the creativity of progressive rock with the aggression of metal and the vivid dynamism of the theater in their live performances (all of the band's members had roots in the latter). Their lineup has been consistent from the beginning. Consisting of Stephen Lill on guitars, Torsten Reichert on bass, Andreas Lill on drums, Andy Kuntz on vocals, and Günter Werno on keyboards, Vanden Plas issued a great many singles in the '90s -- in that same decade they issued three full-length albums and an EP, all of which became increasingly more adventurous and innovative and helped build their European fan base.
Their first full-length album, the self-produced Colour Temple, came out in 1994 and featured a straight-ahead metal style that highlighted Lill's guitar playing. That album would eventually be reissued by two other labels, giving the band more exposure and moderate commercial success. With their next album, the EP AcCult, they went in a completely different direction, making an entirely acoustic album that contained four fascinating covers, including Ray Charles' "Georgia on My Mind" and "Kayleigh" by Marillion. The album was a critical success and gave Vanden Plas the mandate to be even more creative with their next album, 1997's The God Thing. That album ventured off into prog-metal territory, combining Lill's great guitar arcs with heavily orchestrated sections, showing a heavy Dream Theater influence. Continuing in the same tradition was their 1999 release (on Inside Out Music America in the U.S.) Far Off Grace, which was followed in 2000 with a mid-priced live album, Spirit of Live.
Beyond Daylight was next, arriving in 2002 and showing the group growing into a more experimental and technically difficult outfit. That same year, various members of the band as well as Pink Cream 69 and Silent Force collaborated on the rock opera Missa Mercuria. In 2003, Kuntz formed a group (Abydos) to cut a solo album entitled The Little Boy's Heavy Metal Shadow Opera About the Inhabitants of His Diary, then went on to play the role of Judas in a touring musical production of Jesus Christ Superstar. In 2006, Vanden Plas released Christ 0, a concept recording based on Alexander Dumas' novel The Count of Monte Cristo. It proved to be the band's breakthrough in Europe and Japan. They toured behind the recording for a full two years, creating a performing musical out of it in 2008. In 2010 the band re-emerged with The Seraphic Clockwork on Frontiers, another concept recording. Its protagonist, who is in 16th century Rome, has a vision that binds him through a spell to an Old Testament prophecy. He is required to travel back to Jerusalem in 33 AD to face his ordained destiny.
After touring, Vanden Plas were absent from the recording scene for another four years, though they were working on something grander than anything in their previous catalog. When they returned in 2014, it was with the opening album in a multi-record cycle. Chronicles of the Immortals: Netherworld (Path 1) was based on the book series by German sci-fi and fantasy author Wolfgang Hohlbein (who also wrote some of the album's lyrics). Regarded by many European critics as one of the prog-metal albums of the year, it sought to tell the story of a vampire's search for his secret European origins. Greek, Germanic, and Norse myths and histories were its inspirations. Chronicles of the Immortals: Netherworld, Pt. 2 was released a little over a year later in the fall of 2015. ~ Stacia Proefrock