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Vangough - Warpaint CD (album) cover



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kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
5 stars

I can't remember how we first got in touch, but singer/guitarist Clay Withrow and I have been in contact since the time of their stunning debut 'Manikin Parade' some eight years ago, and I have been fortunate enough to hear all their albums, of which this new release is their fifth. The first thing I noticed is that the rabbit is back, having been on the front of their third album 'Kingdom of Ruin', and the EP 'Acoustic Scars' (where he was joined with the raven from the debut). But here he seems to be way more menacing, ready for the battle that is coming as suggested by the album title. Vangough are quite a rarity in the prog field, in that firstly they are a prog metal band without a keyboard player, but also, they are a trio. Now, that's not too uncommon in some ways, as often a trio will double up on instruments in the studio, but while Clay may have put a few guitars on the same track, all we are getting are drums (Kyle Haws), bass (Jeren Martins), guitar and vocals. Before I get into the music I must also comment on the production, which is superb. There is real separation in the music, and songs such as "The Suffering" just blow away the listener with the move from gentle acoustic notes that have been plucked and gently fade to hard riffing. It is also great to be able to clearly hear the bass and drums, and the impact they are having on the song structures. This isn't a wall of mud turned up loud, this is finesse played with skill and care.

They have been cutting their teeth in the live environment, and it comes through on this album as it is easy to imagine all those songs moving well onto a stage. After a raucous performance at the annual ProgPower USA music festival in 2014, they set out on their first North American tour with Pain of Salvation and the following year with Fates Warning. The learnings they have taken from these tours have been invaluable, and (nearly) forgives them the four years it took from 'Between the Madness' to this one. Here we have a prog metal band with technical influences that aren't afraid to shift tack quite abruptly within a song, and to be punishingly heavy when it is required or more quiet and reflective as the mood takes them.

I have been playing this album a lot since I first had the opportunity to hear it, and although I've never been a fan of a rock band fading out a song (as on the aforementioned "The Suffering"), it does lead into the very different "Gravity" which goes from gentle into a Muse-inspired belter so I think I'll forgive them. I gave their debut five stars as I was so incredibly impressed, and now is the time to do the same again. Awesome. Why not pop over to and give it a listen, I know you'll agree.

Report this review (#1704166)
Posted Wednesday, March 22, 2017 | Review Permalink
PSIKE Team & Band Submissions
4 stars This is quite an impressing new statement from the Oklahoma based VANGOUGH. Sometimes close to Fates Warning in style, though missing any keyboard input on the other hand. Clay Withrow has an unique singing voice available for sure and adds some doomy guitar riffs here as well. This will be recognized soon when starting with the song Morphine. Also subtle growls, which won't spoil the feel though, when it comes to my taste. While constantly alternating between heavy and atmospheric impressions, this additionally reminds me at the likes of Tool, Pain Of Salvation, Opeth at some point.

So the following Dust confirms at best where the influences are coming from. 'We are the children of machines' ... eh, I do not hope so, a metaphor for sure ... catchy, a nearly charming exemplar is on the run. The Suffering appears as a rather eclectic implementation then. Instruments and vocals are damn variating, for example we are faced with contrasting innocent acoustic and crashing electric guitars. Excellent one! The extended Black Rabbit always makes my day too, just a wonderful exploration into exclusive song writing heights.

Being about one year in the making 'Warpaint' represents a song collection of much thoughtfulness. Really enjoyable. Sorta melodic prog metal stuff I often came back to in recent times. Double tracked guitars are remarkable overall, as if they were a quartet actually. That means, regarding the stage appearance at least, they definitely will need a second guitarist to accomplish their objectives during their next tour, which is still in preparation. Attention, the rabbit is alive and on the run again!

Report this review (#1704281)
Posted Wednesday, March 22, 2017 | Review Permalink

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