April 20, 2023

It seems that those nice boys from Vanden Plas have been very busy recently and you would perhaps have thought that having completed the epic two album concept The Ghost Xperiment then they would have retired to some tropical island to refresh and recharge their collective batteries. However, they seemingly must keep re-inventing themselves and we recently say the Vanden Plas offshoot band All My Shadows putting out the superior Eerie Monsters on which Günter Werno was conspicuously absent. Now we know why, as this most illustrious keyboard player has gone down the route that so many virtuoso musicians have in the past and produced a rock score for band and orchestra, sounds familiar? Of course, these are concepts that fans either love or hate but you most certainly cannot ignore them as so many high-profile bands have worked with some quite brilliant orchestras over the year’s most notably being Deep Purple, Procol Harum, Metallica and the Scorpions to name just a few. Now we can add the name of Günter Werno and his contribution is every bit as valid as those artists just mentioned.

Indeed, orchestras and musical theatre are something that have very much interested the musicians in Vanden Plas over the years with vocalist Andy Kuntz releasing his solo work Abydos which was then released as a musical as well as the band’s Christ O which was also turned into a stage production so perhaps it is no surprise that a symphonic album should eventually follow. To complete this Herculean task Werno brought in his band colleagues Stephan Lill (guitar), Torsten Reichert (bass) and Andreas Lill (drums) with Andy Kuntz and Astrid Vossberg providing vocals and a backing choir involving Charlotte Lisador, Lisana Werno and Ines Pawlowski with Werno himself playing piano, organ and synthesizers. To add to this is the mighty Pfalzphilharmonie Kaiserslautern orchestra and all combine sublimely to make an album that is part rock and part symphony making for one cohesive whole that sounds simply perfect.

This record may not actually come as a big surprise to long-standing Vanden Plas fans given that they had already performed Jon Lord’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra in January 2019 and it seems that the venue was looking for a similar venture from them and it fell upon the broad shoulders of Werno to deliver a new concept piece which he has done spectacularly. This is not a case of an orchestra simply backing a rock band or indeed the band shoehorning their instruments into a classical piece but more an act of synchronicity between two opposites but when put together they make for an unforgettable experience. So, there are plenty of progressive rock moments and some sublime orchestration but this is a work that is a cohesive whole that draws you magically into the world of Günter Werno and Vanden Plas.

The performance took place on 13th May 2022 and was filmed to so that you can both see and hear it in all its glory as this is a CD/DVD release with the video being a well shot affair with multiple close ups so that puts you are in amongst the action. The sound is crisp and clear although only available in 2.0 and the only extra is a 3-minute slideshow of pictures shot at the gig. A surround sound score would have been nice but the lack of it does not spoil the occasion and some sort of background documentary would also have been desirable but we have the music and, in truth, that is the most important requirement.

The release is rather intriguingly subtitled Symphonic Concert No. 1 so this may very well be the beginning of a totally new venture for Werno and the band and I’m all in favour of that. If you are adventurous and looking for something just a little bit different then you are going to love this.

Anima One

  1. Intro & Tuning (1:32)
  2. 1st Movement – Animabilis (15:44)
  3. 2nd Movement – Animosus (15:10)
  4. 3rd Movement – Animato (20:41)
  5. Bows & Encore (3:26)