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Vangough Game On! album cover
3.50 | 24 ratings | 8 reviews | 8% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 2010

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Wily's Castle (3:22)
2. Marine Fortress (3:40)
3. Simon's Revenge (9:25)
4. Your Darkest Hour (3:15)
5. The Turtle King's Lair (4:16)
6. Green Hill Terror (5:02)
7. Corneria (3:40)
8. The Killer Instinct (5:01)
9. Torvus Bog (7:14)
10. Coral Capers (5:30)

Total Time 50:22

Line-up / Musicians

- Clay Withrow / guitar, vocals, keyboards, bass, producer
- Brandon Lopez / drums

- Abe Hartley / keyboards
- Carlton Dorsey / bass, cello, violin

Releases information

Covers of a collection of video games soundtracks

Artwork: Alex Yarborough

CD Self released ‎(2010, US)

Thanks to [email protected] for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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VANGOUGH Game On! ratings distribution

(24 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(8%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(42%)
Good, but non-essential (46%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

VANGOUGH Game On! reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
3 stars A tribute to video games over the last two decades

Vangough's "Game On!" is a real curio as it is music solely based on a variety of video games. The Killer Instinct theme brought back memories and I did recognise the underwater level sequence to SNES Donkey Kong Country. These are instant highlights but the rest is background music and nothing more than that. Of course this can be a good thing for studying or reading and I have no problem with that. It's just that I was expecting a prog metal album, and it didn't deliver. I was quite disappointed with this album as I won this item and was hoping for an excellent treasure, not more instrumental background stuff.

In essence the album has some great tracks on it it beginning with the rocking 'Wily's Castle' with a scorching wah wah lead guitar break; music from Mega Man 2 that I never played on any console. It is OK to be fair at first listen but does not grow on me like a lot of music will after a time. After a while the music does slot in to that background music category that plagues prog instrumentals. 'Marine Fortress' has a cool melody with metal touches taken from one of my fave electronic games Wave Race 64.

One of the highlights is 'Simon's Revenge', the first epic with 5 songs combined into one; we have thunder and bells in the intro, followed by a plethora of musical styles. It features the melodies 'Simons Theme, Beginning, The Cave, Into The Castle and Bloody Tears'. I like the crunching metal riff in the first section in particular. The time sig changes fo rhte next section with keyboards competing with distortion. I love the lead guitar break with the harp in the mid section; wonderful music here. At times there are some creepy nuances, cathedral vamopire music and low drones with sustained choral keyboards.

'Your Darkest Hour' is taken from Punch Out! a 1980s retro theme. Quite a bit of fun really and does capture that retro 80s vibe. It is quite heavy with some inspirational guitar riffing and extended lead breaks.

'The Turtle King' is from the game Super Mario Bros, a cult game that all gamers are familiar with. A very heavy distorted guitar begins this with thrashing drums. Due to the thrashier quality this is one song that actually can be classed as definitive metal. The off kilter time sig is great too. Another highlight of the album.

'Green Hill Terror' is a medley of Sonic The Hedgehog, everyone's favourite blue speedy hedgehog. The track rocks along at a stedy tempo, with twin guitar leads and a chugging metal riff. It seems that the album picks up pace the furhter we get into it. The tracks become more metal and less keyboard driven. The lead on this is played at a fret melting speed and certainly worth a listen.

'Corneria' is another Mega Man inspired track. It has a retro flavour and is quite a boppy number with massive amounts of lead and keyboard trade offs.

'Killer Instinct' is from that game, a direct homage to the classic with tonal and rhythmic variations according to Vangough. I owened the free CD that came with the game and this is similar though with a heavier feel. The drums are incredible on this, majestic flourishes and cymbal splashes with double kick pounding rhythms.

'Torvus Bog' is from Metroid, a medley of various themes from the game. It features some of Vangough's heaviest material according to the liner notes of the album. I can believe that too listening to its heavy doomy structure. It begins with soaring lead and then a very low distorted riff gallops along with keyboard interjections.

Finally we get to Donkey Kong Country and the water level 'Coral Capers' - ah, the memories come flooding back. I spent too long on this level when I was addicted to beating that pesky game. It is a melancholy track but a good one to end the album.

I do not like to play the devil's advocate to new music out there, but this was rather an absurd idea; to write music inspired by video games. The video game music should remain with the games though I can understand how this will appeal to a niche fan base. Although I did have an affinity for video games in my youth, I am not likely to want to return to the music from those games. Perhaps the music is more designed for the youth video game target audience. Don't get me wrong, I am grateful for winning this album thanks to the generosity of the Vangough members, perhaps I should hear another album apart from this to make up my mind. 3 stars for me, as it certainly has some great riffs and some cool retro memories contained therein.

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars Wild ride through depths of game music take-ons. And pretty good ones. Indeed, you can say that these are covers, and technically yes, they are covers of 80s video games. But that's not holding Vangough from making them better (and bigger, faster, you know the saying). I personally have great relationship with game music, as it was part of my growing. Not exactly these songs, more like game music from 90s, but I can identify with these songs as well.

Obviously (as you can guess from tone of my previous paragraph), I think that Prog version of this kind of music is great idea. It indeed is, because (maybe it sounds like paradox), it makes this music more original.

Thanks Scott AtomicCrimsonRush for extensive info about each song. I'm not that skilled in console (Atari, Zx, Sega etc...) gaming and the farest place I went was my long time romance with Playstation 1. So I actually am not aware of original songs at all, but most of them I can imagine. After all, game music from this era wasn't that complex (actually very simple, MIDI based I suppose - even as we could see in form of Dune 2, Warcraft 2 & for example Wolfenstein 3d & Duke Nukem 3d, or Transport Tycoon, you can make solid music from MIDI as well).

I liked Vangough's previous album Manikin Parade and even this one is radically different, I like it as well, even I won't rate it so highly because these songs are after all just tribute.

4(-), but not less from me. Prog & Games can go together and this album is perfect example.

It's bold move and I don't think that there will be major revolutions and all will go crazy about finding Prog elements in Video Game music, but moves like this, like "Game On" are those that helps. It's one of many directions music makings can take and for me personally also very interesting one. I even wasn't alive when these games were released, but I admire them a lot. Combine this admiration with Prog music (reduced Prog Metal), reduce it all by sobriety and this rating is what you'll get.

It's not masterpiece of Prog and we all know it. I suppose that members of Vangough grew up on these games and planned this album as a little bit of "fun-to-themselves". But other people can gain from it as well. You know, like fans for example.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars First of all, let me thank Clay Withrow for offering this CD (and t-shirt, which my son wore this weekend) as a prize for the PA giveaway.

The album is a set of songs based on the music from a number of classic video games. I'm not much of a game player, and when I play I don't often listen too closely to the music, so I can't say I recognize that much of the music. But my son could tell where most of the songs came from (What does that say about him?)

Like the prvious album, "Mannekin", Clay Withrow played the majority of the instruments, with Brandon Lopez on drums. Unlike the previous album, Withrow gets some assistance on keyboards (Abe Hartley) and bass (Carlton Dorsey). The result is a much more finished sounding album. The songs are all very full sounding, as if they were played by a band that was interacting with each other. I am especially impressed by Lopez' tight complex drumming. This album put him high up there with some of the best prog drummers I've heard.

The songs, being based on game music, rarely ventures outside of the 4/4 box, but Withrow, being an adept guitarist and composer, manages to put in quite a few twists and turns. While on the surface, this is very much a Satriani-like album, there is an undercurrent of symphonic styling that makes this an interesting listen.

3.5 stars, rounded up.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars Before I even gave this cd a spin I read the liner notes and wondered what I had gotten myself into.This is a video game-inspired recording that pays tribute to the music of some of those classic video games from the last 25 years. I must admit this idea seemed lame to me but then again i've never been into video games except for Pac Man and Space Invaders in the early eighties (haha).Yeah that is sad isn't it. Anyway maybe it's a good thing that i'm not familiar with the original music to these games because to my ears this is simply energetic and upbeat instrumental music for the most part. It's very well played and heavy at times and i've quite enjoyed this disc.

"Wily's Castle" is just a feel good track with a heavy rhythm section as the guitar and synths light it up over top. "Marine Fortress" features some active and heavy drums as the guitar solos tastefully. Cool sound before 2 1/2 minutes when the synths roll in. "Simon's Revenge" opens with church bells and thunder followed by organ. It kicks in before a minute. Great sound ! The drums become prominant after 2 minutes. A calm before 4 1/2 minutes.Thunder 6 minutes in breaks the quiet. It then kicks in after 7 minutes with heavy drums and guitar. "Your Darkest Hour" opens with scorching guitar then the tempo picks up quickly.This is good. "The Turtle King's Lair" is kind of eerie to start then it turns heavy, almost doom-like quickly. Some nice heavy riffs follow. A change 2 minutes in to a lighter sound with percussion. Another change with prominant drums as the guitar grinds it out. It picks up late.Nice.

"Green Hill Terror" features heavy guitar and drums early. It lightens before 3 minutes. Nice bass here. It's heavy again late to end it. "Corneria" opens with heavy synths then it picks up quickly with guitar, drums and synths over top. A Power-Metal rhythm follows.The guitar then leads as the drums pound. It's almost spacey after 2 minutes then back to the heaviness. "The Killer Instinct" has a heavy intro then the tempo picks up. Great sound after 2 1/2 minutes. "Torvus Bog" opens with some tasteful guitar and some atmosphere. It then picks up with some heaviness.The tempo slows down 2 1/2 minutes in but it's still heavy. I like the synths 4 1/2 minutes in playing over top. Great tune. "Coral Capers" is a mellow way to end it with keys and spacey synths as the gentle guitar comes and goes.

Well the music here completely won me over regardless of the video game connection. If your into instrumental music on the heavier side you should check this cd out.

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars I'm not sure why the Vangough selected yours truly to review one of their albums, for I am not exactly a notorious progmetal fan, and their second album is certainly not going to changes things, despite a bunch of indisputable qualities, the first of which is escaping the ultra-cliché of having some kind of howling pipe belter (belcher?) damaging your eardrums without some heavy financial compensations. The group is mostly a duo consisting of multi-instrumentalist Withrow and drummer Lopez, and getting some help for bass and keys from two buddies. The album's concept (I think anyway) is a bunch of instrumental pieces that could be used for some videogames and the music is hardly noisy or offensive, but rather like what you'd expect from Satriani or some other shredder in vogue from the mid-80's until the turn of the millennium.

Indeed, all of the tracks qualify as "metal" and of "prog", but a gentle kind of alloy, not one that cuts, hurts gags, or injures any part of the brains. There are even some quieter classical music moments like the five-parts Simon's Revenge, providing some drama, but in the absence of the written-for image, it's a little lost on this confused soul. As you'll easily guess, the guitar is not just prevalent, it's totally dominant throughout the length of the album, the keyboards being limited to a "faire-valoir" role. Game On is a fairly even album, with no stand-out tracks, but no duds or stinkers either, thus rendering it difficult to know one track from the other and having to refer to the CD deck's display to know how much more you'll have to endure of it. As I pointed out above, Joe Satriani's guitars are the first thoughts that springs to my mind, and in itself, it's not that bad a thing, but I'd love to have heard something more than just that.

I'll finish this review being actually glad that it gives you the "game over" warning sign, which might be a little easy a pun, but merciful for my sanity, because the incessant bombardment and repetition of the same kind of music is insufferable, even if none of that music is untolerable. Best thing is to listen to this album in small homeopathic doses, two or three tracks at the time, to avoid overdoses. Surely not essential (even for progmetal in this reviewer's book), but not bad either, but not sure it really fully deserves the third star I'm awarding it.

Review by Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Game On!' - Vangough (5/10)

Having spent many a childhood afternoon tied to my Super Nintendo with a controller, many of the classic video games I played still bring up great memories. Finding music a greater source of joy in my life not much later on, I still occasionally find myself hooking up the old system to play through Donkey Kong Country, or Super Mario World, and find myself having the same amount of fun as I did when I was little. A band that first came to my attention with a much more serious and in-depth debut, Oklahoma rockers Vangough have decided to make their second album all about revisiting these classic games and making rock covers of their music. While all of the songs here are executed relatively well and even bring up the occasional memory however, it is almost inevitably a huge disappointment, especially coming off the heels of a first album which I found quite impressive.

Being a covers album and tribute to games that frontman Clay Withrow and company have appreciated, there are plenty of recognizable tunes here. Everything in the classic game universe from Sonic The Hedgehog to Donkey Kong and the 'castle' level of Super Mario can be heard through the lens of instrumental rock. In terms of performance here, 'Game On!' really gives the impression of being a guitar album with artists like Joe Satriani coming to mind. The only instrument here that feels very lively is the lead electric guitar, which really sings. The rest of the instruments here however do feel somewhat lackluster and by-the- numbers, leading to a relatively harmless, but uninspired execution of these songs.

Most of these songs have had the same do-over that other video game metal bands like Power Glove would have done, melodic rock that always has a bit of crunch to it, but never gets really heavy or does anything particularly exciting with it. Some songs (like the 'Underwater' Donkey Kong soundtrack that closes the album) feels scarcely different from the original at all in most parts. That being said, the music is generally enjoyable throughout. There is some great dual harmony work from the lead guitar that really seems to mesh with the existing soundtracks.

A decent, if not mediocre rendition of these video game soundtracks, Vangough's 'Game On!' does little to capture the imagination, but it is still an album that's perfect for any late- night gaming session. A pleasant project in between larger works from this American progressive metal band.

Review by kev rowland
4 stars In 2009 Oklahama based prog metal act Vangough released their debut album 'Manikin Parade' and I like many others was totally blown away by it. There was certainly great acclaim for this album, but the band didn't feel that the rime was right yet for the follow-up so instead went off on a complete tangent and recorded an homage to video games. The concept is a simple one, take all of their favourite video games and then record version of the music that is present. To make it easier for the listener they have stated where every song is from, and a little bit of information about each. Now, there's only one slight problem about this for me ' it has pointed out to me many times (by children, staff, friends etc) that I am old and I never got into video games. I have always much preferred listening to music or reading (yep, now I am starting to feel old..) as opposed to video games. All of my children are into Angry Birds and various others, but I don't even own an X Box ' in fact I have never had a games station of any kind, not even a Nintendo. So, it means that I have never heard any of these songs in their original setting whereas most of the people this album is aimed at certainly will have.

But is that a problem? Not really. It means that I can take this album for what it is ' a series of fairly short instrumental pieces that need to stand in their own right, which they definitely do. I have been able to listen to this album without unconsciously making any comparisons ' it matters not at all where the material is sourced from, it is whether it works in the current context. In a simplistic form it could be stated that this is a covers album, and every cover version has to be valid ' if a cover version sounds the same as the original what on earth is the point, and if it is very different (as it should be) then does it work without comparing to the original? 'The First Cut Is The Deepest' has been covered many times by many different singers, but many will state that Rod Stewart's is the definitive and not that of the writer, Cat Stevens, or there again should it be PP Arnold? But younger listeners may not realise that it even existed before Sheryl Crow had a hit with it in 2003.

So, does the album work as a series of instrumentals to the listener who has no idea of the originals? The answer has to be an emphatic 'Yes!' This album is a joy to listen to, with wonderful interplay between the different musicians and some very lyrical guitar that is almost Jadis-like in its clarity and tone. I have really enjoyed listening to this album, and can't wait to now hear the follow-up to 'Manikin Parade', 'Kingdom of Ruin'. This is a great band, one that all progheads need to discover. For more details visit

Review by Rune2000
3 stars Let's talk a bit more about Vangough!

Although I'm still not sure on how I got my hands on Vangough's debut release, there is really no question about their sophomore release Game On! since I got it as a part of the ProgArchives monthly gift giveaway roughly a year ago! I clearly remember my excitement related to getting this release since I did enjoy the band's debut release and was looking forward to seeing how Clay, Brandon and the new member Corey Mast would build and expand upon their existing sound.

Boy, was I setting myself up for a surprise! Not only was this album a complete deviation of the style on Manikin Parade, but it was a deviation into the world of video game music no less, a world that exists far away from progressive metal music scene! Of course, that latter statement could be considered debatable since Earthbound Papas and Metroid Metal have recently been added under the progressive metal sub-genre here on Progarchives. Still, there is no denying that this was a very unusual deviation for a band that have depicted such a strong lyrical and vocal content on their debut album and then completely abandoning it here in favor of instrumental gaming soundscapes. I mean, how often do we see a band/artist deviate this much from a winning concept in only a matter of a year?

Still, even if I find this shift to be an impressive such, especially considering the strong vocal performance by Clay Withrow on the band's debut album, there is no denying that Game On! becomes a difficult album to recommend to anyone who hasn't been an active member of the late '80s/early '90s gaming scene and the so-called war between Nintendo and Sega (just search for "console wars" on any search engine if you don't know what I'm talking about) . Yes folks, this is one of those gaming albums heavily drained in nostalgia for the console gaming of the past. Fortunately for me, I can share this passion with Clay and the guys since I got my Sega Mega Drive back in the early '90s and it's still the gaming console I hold dearest to my heart! Games like Sonic 1-3, Phantasy Star quadrilogy, Rocket Knight Adventures, Shining Force I-II are all among my all-time favorite games and I can clearly see that Vangough can share some of that retro magic with me!

The downside to an album like Game On! is that it's a neither that progressive (except for the fact that instrumental gaming music does sound like it could be progressive to the unfamiliar ear) nor too appealing to listeners who aren't invested enough in the genre. This is pretty much why my rating for this release cannot be any higher than a good, but non-essential one. Despite the fact that I really enjoy this kind of music nostalgia, there's just no way that I can lie and state that this music is applicable for a non-gaming progressive rock fan.

***** star songs: Green Hill Terror (5:02)

**** star songs: Wily's Castle (3:22) Marine Fortress (3:40) Your Darkest Hour (3:15) Corneria (3:40) The Killer Instinct (5:01) Coral Capers (5:30)

*** star songs: Simon's Revenge (9:25) The Turtle King's Lair (4:16) Torvus Bog (7:14)

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