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Vangough - Between The Madness CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.96 | 56 ratings

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4 stars US band VANGOUGH is a trio established by composer and musician Clay Withrow a few years ago, following an initial solo album he released back in 2007. Vangough released their debut album "Manikin Parade" in 2009, and "Between the Madness" from 2013 is their fourth studio production, and also their most recent at the time of writing.

Progressive metal is the name of the game as far as general style is concerned here, and a rather well conceived one at that. This is a band that has a go at that style in a rather sophisticated manner, rarely if never relying on merely the time tested arrangements and theme constructions in an effort to create safe material with a predictable reach. They don't really stretch any stylistic borders either, there's nothing here that really breaks any new ground, but if you'd like to explore a production that shies away from the most commonly explored sounds and effects of classic progressive metal then this is a band you should take note of.

Just about all the compositions revolves around the use of contrasting sections, sporting frail, tranquil and often light toned sections paired off against one or more sequences of dark, guitar riff dominated excursions. Traditional organ and guitar riff constellations do appear from time to time, but also beefier sections with more of a grunge or doom metal sound to them, relying more on groove, as well as compact quirky riff excursions and the occasional use of bombastic riff cascades and compact, chugging riff constructions.

The compositions are solid affairs, made to create and maintain tension through the use of contrasting themes, gentle interludes adding a tinge of sophistication and unpredictability, allowing plenty of room for violin and cello, especially in the calmer sequences, and even adding a full fledged symphonic creation, Depths of Blighttown, to the mix. With success I might add, this sole stylistic exception is a solid, dark and well made affair that does have some distinct soundtrack qualities to it, and then in the most positive manner of that description. There's also an additional instrumental of note, Thy Flesh Consumed, that I really thought would be my favorite track with it's alteration between menacing, tranquil sections of cinematic laden sounds and the dark, twisted guitar riff attacks that alternate with them. That impression lasted until the final track of the album came. Corporatocracy concludes this disc in a brilliant manner. There are folk music inspired details here and a sound that may be just a tad too close to comfort for fans of Pain of Salvation, but the composition itself is a glorious affair anyhow. Not a compositions that will find favor among Republicans in the US I guess, at least that is the impression I get from the lyrics, but a monster of a song anyhow.

What elevates this album into the realm of a high quality production with a lasting appeal rather than merely being a pleasant one are the lead vocals. A few exceptions aside I don't find Vangough to be a band that have managed to conjure those magnificent pieces of musical magic that sends shivers up your spine on a constant basis, but the vocals of Clay Withrow certainly elevates the total experience quite a bit. He's got a good range, manage to use his voice in fairly wide variety of ways, and always in total control too. Those fond of high quality vocals should find this album to be a real treat due to this aspect.

All in all I have a favorable impression of this production. The compositions are of a general high quality throughout, and if not quite meriting a description as innovative then at least they explore parts of the progressive metal realm not thoroughly explored by every other band out there. With a versatile, high quality lead vocalist as a bonus feature. A production easy to recommend, to those that favor classic era progressive metal in general and in particular to those with a certain affection for music of this kind that hovers in on moods and atmospheres that tend to be placed on the dark side of the border.

Windhawk | 4/5 |


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