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VANGOUGH

Progressive Metal • United States


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Vangough biography
VANGOUGH is an American progressive metal band originating from Oklahoma City. They are led by multi-instrumentalist Clay Withrow, who composed all of the music on their debut, as well as handling the vocals, guitars, bass, and keyboards. He was joined by Brandon Lopez on drums to create their 2009 debut album, Manikin Parade.

When listening to the debut, some obvious comparisons are PAIN OF SALVATION and DREAM THEATER. VANGOUGH has their own sound, though, and should appeal to most fans of traditional progressive metal.

In 2010 VANGOUGH released their second album, Game On! - one that is radically different than their debut. Gone is most of the prog metal, and in replacement is a tribute to video game music. This shows how diverse of a band they really are.

Discography: Manikin Parade (2009) Game On! (2010) Kingdom Of Ruin (2011) Acoustic Scars (EP, 2012)

Biography written by J-Man

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Manikin ParadeManikin Parade
Dissonance Rising Publishing 2009
Audio CD$6.76
$7.99 (used)
Between the MadnessBetween the Madness
CD Baby 2013
Audio CD$7.32
$9.21 (used)
Kingdom of RuinKingdom of Ruin
Nightmare Records 2011
Audio CD$7.26
$7.75 (used)
Game On!Game On!
Dissonance Rising Publishing 2010
Audio CD$39.74
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VANGOUGH discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

VANGOUGH top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.49 | 45 ratings
Manikin Parade
2009
3.50 | 19 ratings
Game On!
2010
3.62 | 12 ratings
Kingdom of Ruin
2011
3.99 | 40 ratings
Between The Madness
2013

VANGOUGH Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

VANGOUGH Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

VANGOUGH Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

VANGOUGH Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.49 | 3 ratings
Acoustic Scars
2012

VANGOUGH Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Between The Madness by VANGOUGH album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.99 | 40 ratings

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Between The Madness
Vangough Progressive Metal

Review by lucas
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Vangough are a prog metal band that play energetic music with twisted rhythms and an alternance of soft and harsh vocals. On 'Between the madness', they broaden their canvas by spare use of Rhodes, Hammond, acoustic guitar and violin, laidback percussions, and strings. Their influences in the heavy metal realm are varied and as you can read in this track-by-track review, but this album was also the opportunity for Vangough's mastermind, Clay Withrow, to highlight his eclectism, and break away from the myriad of prog metal bands that sound more or less like Dream Theater.

In "Afterfall", drum assaults and nervous vocals blend unexpectedly with upbeat layers of Hammond organ. A pause in the frenzy is brought by a passage with percussions, mesmerizing acoustic guitar, soft floating voice and slow violin, all in an oriental vibe.

A sad spanish guitar with melancholic violin opens "Alone". Fast-paced drums and aggressive guitars mark the transition to a sunny upbeat passage with Queen-like choir. Sadness returns with veiled pleading voice. Then anger is accentuated by passionate vocals and insisting drums. A meditative guitar accompanied by rhodes and strings soothen the atmosphere before the anger takes over and the sunny passage returns.

With "Separation", the band turns to funk-metal with passionate chorus. Strong Pain of Salvation and Faith No More influence transpires, in the vocals (passionate shouts in the chorus, angry chant, "rapped" voice, and high-pitch) but also in the use of funky rhythms in an overall heavy metal context. Some incantatory backing vocals add some mystery to the song. For the sake of diversity, a Hammond organ can be heard at times, and an orchestral passage sounds akin to the romantic era of classical music.

"Infestation" is a slow elegiac song with oboe and strings in the overture and a Metallica-inflected chorus (strong James Hetfield accents in the voice). A tango-like instrumental passage comes with frenetic drums and virtuosic guitars.

In "Schizophrenia", catchy passages with straightforward drums, and cheerful guitars alternate with more dubious passages with pensive acoustic guitar, drums searching their way, Hammond and violin. One interlude with rhodes, and another one with orchestra help catching breath.

The title track, "Between the Madness" is all instrumental, in a sunny, classical mood, with expressive violin and solar acoustic guitar in an overall pastoral mood. A cello adds a touch of melancholy.

In "Vaudeville Nation", prudent move of the band alternate with energy release. Hammond accompanies the opening and the closing sections, while theatrical voices deliver the chorus with harsh accents.

"O Sister" is a balad where mellow passages with delicate velvet voice alternate with harsher passages with pleading angry voice. The instrumental bridge presents with tribal drums and guitars crying as if they were lost and calling for help.

"Thy Flesh Consumed" is another instrumental track but in a darker, metal mood this time. Dark- ambient passages with mourning keyboards / agonizing guitars alternate with slow gothic-metal sonic assaults, like in early Tiamat works.

In "Useless", processed vocals reminiscent of Marilyn Mason with programmed beat provide an electro/industrial feel to the overture. Funky guitar with Mike Patton's almost-rapped vocals follow. Drum madness with harsh vocals then contrast with soft voice and strings. A tear-jerking guitar pops up suddenly and morphs into meditative bluesy guitar before passionate lead vocals join and some engaged backing vocals enliven the atmosphere, soon followed by pounding drums and shouting vocals. A sinister doomy passage with mesmerizing guitar concludes the track after the soft violin/mellow voice section.

"Depths of Blighttown" is a short orchestral cinematic piece with plucked strings, like scoring a scene of a Tex Avery cartoon movie where the wolf is marching on tip-toe. The ending is an a threatening mood, with obsessive repetitive strings as if scoring a scene with imminent catastrophe.

"Corporatocracy" has an upbeat folky overture with sunny guitar and percussions. Syncopated drums that follow are accompanied by obsessive guitars. Vocals wander in different territories, harsh at times, high-pitched, passionate, incantatory, or even scared at others. The sung passages alternate with softer ones, retaining a traditional/folk feel with percussions or violin.

The closing track, "The Abyss", is another instrumental track, dark with rock intrumentation. It starts with alerting guitars and slow gloomy drums, rolling like in the recent incarnation of Celtic Frost or Paradise Lost's very first album. When the alarm stops, the whole sounds like a jam session where drums move prudently forward. Splashy keyboards come to enliven the sad atmosphere. Then, all of a sudden, a dark ambient mood settles. The gloomy passage with slow drums returns after a King Crimson-like transition, and the track ends with threatening electronic samples like dark clouds covering the sky little by little.

Although prog metal in essence, Vangough prove with 'Between the madness' that they are able to break the codes by cleverly alterning harsh and normal chant, and by incorporating elements of folk/traditional music, classical music, movie soundtracks, and ambient music. Without the shadow of a doubt, Vangough play technical and challenging music, but at the same time they never lose sight of keeping it melodic. The album is very long and is not easy to listen to in a row, but it stands as an impressive body of work, crafted with love and passion.

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 Between The Madness by VANGOUGH album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.99 | 40 ratings

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Between The Madness
Vangough Progressive Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 'Between the Madness' - Vangough (6/10)

I have followed Vangough since the release of their debut, Manikin Parade in 2009. Even if I may have interpreted them as something of a Pain of Salvation clone from the start, they were one of the best acolytes Pain of Salvation could have hoped for. Where Vangough hadn't erupted with a fresh new sound, they made up for it in part with solid songwriting and incredible musicianship on par with any of their prog metal contemporaries. Between then and the release of Between the Madness, Vangough came out with a decent second album, and a compilation of video game covers that basked in nostalgia like the world was ending. Comparing this latest record to Vangough's past oeuvre, it feels very much a child of 2011's Kingdom of Ruin, where they placed an emphasis on strictly melodic songwriting. Thought I still miss the proggier sound of Manikin Parade and indeed prefer it over the more song- oriented path the band have taken, Between the Madness is a fine addition to the band's catalogue, revisiting much of the same territory they explored on Kingdom of Ruin and improving upon it.

It's not at all common for a progressive metal band to be a threepiece, but Vangough deliver a full-fleshed sound as a trio, to the point where more members might have made it a crowd. Even in a genre like progressive metal, where musical virtuosity and skill with technique are nearly ubiquitous and to be expected, the band still manages to impress me. From Manikin Parade onward, Vangough have had no trouble expressing their apparent skill in their music without resorting to the sort of superfluous noodling that has made the genre slightly infamous to begin with. For all of their skill, Vangough stick to the fundaments of their songwriting. This sense of tasteful restraint has metastasized further on Between the Madness. Compared to Kingdom of Ruin, an album that sadly didn't hold my interest for long, Vangough have refined their tact with songwriting and melody making. "Afterfall" is one of the most skilfully arranged pieces Vangough have ever penned, a surprisingly dark and personal song about loss and a miscarried pregnancy. "Between the Madness" is a gorgeous interlude that also stands out, particularly for a cinematic violin guest performance from Justus Johnston. The album's arguable highlight comes in the form of a rare instrumental however; "Thy Flesh Consumed" is a moody miniature epic reminiscent of Metallica's "Orion", a composition that dares to dwell on motifs and instrumental ideas that other songs on the album may have only had time to touch upon.

Between the Madness enjoys a few tracks where Vangough flirt with brilliance, both on a level of performance and songwriting. The decision to pursue a more melodic and concise form of progressive metal has resulted in a pretty consistent collection of songs, but for the most part, the writing does not feel particularly exciting. Vangough have trimmed the fat from their sound, but in doing so, they have lost some of the distinct, independently interesting moments that made their debut so interesting. At worst, the songwriting is predictable, and doesn't offer much in the way of shock or surprise once you've grown accustomed to the structured formula. I don't think the matured approach to composition is a total loss (and "Afterfall" proves that they can make it work to passionate effect) but Between the Madness never really seems to sweep my imagination away the way I would hope to hear from such a talented cast of musicians. If anything really disappoints me, it's the knowledge and faith that Vangough could be impressing me much more. The few moments where the band really decides to let loose are proof of this; one of the album's brightest moments, "The Abyss", was strangely left as a bonus selection, but develops upon the instrumental potential I first heard on "Thy Flesh Consumed". When Vangough harken back to proggier days, the effect is promising.

Although Vangough's debt to Pain of Salvation is less overt here than before, the influence is still vividly apparent. While Manikin Parade may have taken more after The Perfect Element and Remedy Lane" era Pain of Salvation, Between the Madness often echoes Scarsick, an album that has long split listeners for its roots in nu-metal aesthetics. Vangough thankfully keep the rapping to a relative minimum, but the music's dark, rhythmic direction and its scathing criticism of modern society feel largely drawn from Pain of Salvation. This is especially evident in the case of "Useless" and "Corporatocracy", the former of which features Clay Withrow rapping in a manner incredibly close to Gildenlow's performance on the songs Scarsick and "Spitfall". In the case of "Corporatocracy", the instrumentation draws in an Oriental tinge and twangy guitars that sound a bit too close to Scarsick to be mere coincidence, not to mention the song title itself bears a stunning resemblance to "Idiocracy", a song from, yes, Scarsick. Withrow and company have never tried to hide the major influence Pain of Salvation have had on their sound, and while I still feel that this dedication to another band's legacy isn't doing Vangough any favours, the tribute and influence is sincere and well-intended.

Between the Madness has not seen Vangough emerge from their shell of influences, but their execution and standard of performance remains excellent. In spite of some of my negative criticisms of the band and their work thus far, Clay Withrow is an exceptional vocalist, with a delivery that marries power and emotional sensitivity in perfectly blended matrimony. Even in such a competitive genre like prog metal, Clay still manages to wow me with his vocals. While Daniel Gildenlow seems to be his likely model with regards to singing (and to a lesser extent, James Hetfield), there are times here where I feel like his talents are able to come out and take a life of their own. This sentiment can be applied to the rest of Vangough; the full extent of their potential remains hidden under the shadow of their influences. If Vangough could just break through this shell and find a stronger sense of personal identity to call their own, I have high hopes they could amaze me and knock out the competition. Between the Madness is a solid album by all accounts, but does not amaze me in the way I know they're capable of.

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 Between The Madness by VANGOUGH album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.99 | 40 ratings

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Between The Madness
Vangough Progressive Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars Although it isn't that unusual for me to review an album more than once, normally years pass between the two. Yet here I am totally rewriting a review that I only completed yesterday. When I listened to the CD I was distracted by the mix, which I believed not to be correct, and said so in the review. But, what I wasn't aware of was that the band also felt that the mix wasn't as good as it could have been, so pulled the complete run of CDs, remixed it, and then put new CDs in the digipaks. It was just those that had been sent out as promo's that weren't replaced. Clay then provided me with the new mix as a download and I have been playing it all day (when not in meetings ? why does the work I get paid for get in the way of the work I actually want to do?). What I am now listening to is far more balanced, which has allowed me to get past my initial views and instead listen to the album as I should have in the first place.

Now, I have been a fan of Clay Withrow's music since I first heard 'Manikin Parade', and I have been lucky enough to hear everything they have released since, so when I became aware that a fourth full-length album was coming out I was suitably excited. Jeren Martin was again working with Clay on bass, while they had a new drummer in Kyle Haws plus a few guests on additional guitar and strings (the additional guitarist, Jay Gleason, plays with Jeren in a death metal band!), Clay of course provides everything else. Here is an album that has seen the band grow, both in musical style and in stature. The harmony vocals are bang on, and the restrained use of falsetto here and there provides an additional edge, much as Roger Taylor used to do with Queen. There is music that rocks and belts along, or music that is way more gentle and refined, with a control that is breathtaking. Clay provides some breathtaking solos and runs, or crunching riffs, or acoustic, whatever is right for the song itself while Jeren seems to instinctively know what is required to lift the piece itself, either providing the bedrock, or additional back up melodies, or even not playing at all and allowing the space created to be used by others. Although it will be viewed by many as progressive metal, there are passages and even complete songs that are far more crossover in aspect than one would expect from the genre, and the result is something that has incredible depth and breadth.

This is music that refuses to be pigeonholed, with the band at times firing as a metallic monster (with Clay doing some wonderful James Hetfield style vocals) while at others it is way more restrained and thoughtful. There is a wonderfully delicate string section in "Separation" which really accents the guitar on either side, while the title track demonstrates a very different side of the band with Clay on acoustic guitar, supported by some wonderful violin and cello. From that we go into "Vaudeville Nation" which is as hard hitting a prog metal monster as one would wish, with some great interplay.

I gave their debut 5 *'s, and sine then each release has had 4 (not too shabby), but I am pleased to say that this is back to top marks. It is easily the best that they have done, and all power to the guys for pulling the original release and making this available. www.officialvangough.com

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 Acoustic Scars by VANGOUGH album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2012
3.49 | 3 ratings

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Acoustic Scars
Vangough Progressive Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars Even before putting this on the player one knows that it is going to be looking back at previous works as it combines the crow from 'Manikin Parade' with the rabbit from 'Kingdom Of Ruin' but what is somewhat unusual for a prog band is that this is fully acoustic, and also that all of the proceeds are going to charity (Heartland Rabbit Rescue in Oklahoma where band leader Clay adopted two rabbits from himself). This has been put out there as a Vangough release, but only singer/guitarist Clay and bassist Jeren Martin are there from the last album, with Corey Mast (keys) and Brandon Lopez (drums) absent but that may well be due to the structure of this album as while there is a percussionist (Kyle Haws) the other musicians are Justus Johnston (violin) and Jose Palacios (cello).

The gentle introduction of 'Leaving Bricolage' with the strings combining with the sounds of crows and a storm leads us into 'A Song For Crows' and a nod back to the debut. This is a wonderful acoustic combination where Clay sings both emotionally and powerfully yet with control and restraint. It is easily one of the best songs they have ever done, just proving that numbers don't have to be bombastic to be effective. I have read that 'Throne of Rusty' contains an acoustic version of a game song, but as with all of the songs on their second album I was too busy playing music to play video games so don't know any of the originals. What I do know is that here they have allowed the violin to take the lead in a wonderfully evocative number that to me always feels like the perfect music to put alongside galloping horses. Then we move into 'The Rabbit Chronicles' which is of course linked to the last album, where yet again Clay allows the strings to take centre stage. I particularly like the way that this one switches emphasis and moves around. The final 'The Road To Blighttown' brings back the crows and the storm as everything winds down.

This is only an EP, but shows just how much the band have expanded their musical outlook in a very short period of time and I look forward to the next album with interest. www.vangough.com

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 Manikin Parade by VANGOUGH album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.49 | 45 ratings

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Manikin Parade
Vangough Progressive Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars I originally wrote this review in 2009 and have just realised that I hadn't posted it here.

Well, like many other progheads, one of the many prog sites that I visit fairly regularly is Sea of Tranquility. While I may not always agree with everything that they write it gives me an additional insight into the scene, and I know that they are not prone to hysterical outbursts. But when they start an interview with the comment "Vangough is probably the best Progressive Metal band you'll discover in 2009" one has to wonder on what basis do they make that comment? Well, I am currently listening again to the evidence and in all fairness I have to agree with them. This is prog metal of the highest quality; it certainly doesn't sound like a debut as this is melody, musicianship and class all rolled into one ? the end result of which the only thing that the listener can do when it finishes is to hit the play button yet again.

Only one song can remotely be said to be lengthy, and that is not even ten minutes so in terms of the genre what we have here is short and punchy. The vocals are strong and the production clean with the music twisting and melding its' way through gentle piano balladry and harmonies while they can suddenly go into full on metal with the guitar riffing and the band in full flight. I have had this CD for a while and each time I play it I find something new here to enjoy. It is of no surprise to me that it is rated so extremely highly by sites such as Amazon, yet this isn't the latest release from ProgRock Records or InsideOut, but rather is an independent release. Singer and guitarist Clay Withrow has a strong vision that drives the band far beyond one would normally expect from a debut. They claim that they "spit fiery madness by drenching your ears with a purple sunrise of melodic cocaine and a not-so-subtle approach to reading you the story behind today's headlines."

And do you know what? They do all that and more. If you enjoy prog metal then you need to have this CD. Nuff said

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 Acoustic Scars by VANGOUGH album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2012
3.49 | 3 ratings

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Acoustic Scars
Vangough Progressive Metal

Review by Rune2000
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars How do you make a retrospective album without turning it into a best-of release? Just follow this blueprint set by Vangough; release an acoustic EP featuring creative new takes on the albums in your discography!

Ever since the release of their 2009 debut album, Vangough have been releasing a new album every year. After the release of their third album, Kingdom Of Ruin (2011), the band seemed to take 2012 off but right at the end of year came a five track EP. The intro and outro tracks are just that, what this EP is actually about are the three songs in between. A Song For Crows is clearly a tribute to the band's debut album and it's easily the most beautiful track that they've released to date! The acoustic sound of the instruments and Clay Withrow's passionate vocals clearly recall the sound of the Pain Of Salvation classic album 12:5, which unfortunately makes this composition slightly fade in comparison. Still, it's rare treat even by Pain Of Salvation standards, so enjoy this passionate moment while it lasts!

Throne Of Rust is clearly suppose to be a tribute to the band's second album Game On!, featuring an interesting acoustic take on the classic Mega Man tune from Dr. Wily Stage. The Rabbit Chronicles chronicles the band's Kingdom Of Ruin-era with some fun acoustic instrumental intro leading to a somewhat unbalanced mishmash throughout the remaining 5 minutes. The Rabbit Chronicles is unfortunately not as enjoyable for me as the reminder of the album, luckily it doesn't ruin the overall quality of the record as such.

If you're new to Vangough then by all means, give this record a shot! It might not be as passionate as Manikin Parade, playful as Game On! or ambitious as Kingdom Of Ruin, instead it tries to fuse these three qualities into one 25 minute bite size experience!

**** star songs: A Song For Crows (10:24) Throne Of Rust (3:28) Road To Blighttown (2:02)

*** star songs: Leaving Bricolage (1:40) The Rabbit Chronicles (8:24)

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 Kingdom of Ruin by VANGOUGH album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.62 | 12 ratings

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Kingdom of Ruin
Vangough Progressive Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars The more I hear of Vangough, the more I am incredibly impressed. These guys just refuse to be pigeonholed into any one genre and if anyone deserves to be called 'progressive' in the truest sense it is this quartet from Oklahoma. Some would liken them to Dream Theater, and while that is true in certain passages, there are times when they can be as gentle as they can bombastic, as simple as they can be complex, always melodic and bringing together a wealth of influences from bands as diverse as Muse, Porcupine Tree and even Coldplay (and the record label even references Pantera ' I don't think they are quite that heavy, but I can understand where they are coming from). This is Clay Withrow's band in that he writes all of the music and lyrics, provides vocals, guitar and keyboards but the rest are far from being bit players. Brandon Lopez has an incredibly deft touch at the back, and provides straightforward rock drumming when required to drive the music along but is more than happy to provide fills and nuances that Nick D'Virgilio or Mike Portnoy would recognize. Fully locked in is bassist Jeren Martin while Corey Mast has a wealth of styles and sounds at his fingertips.

For their third album the band decided to provide a simple set of songs in 4/4 time with lyrics about boy meets girls relationships. Okay, so I lied. To tie in with the prog/metal/acoustic/rock music it would only be right and fitting to have grandiose lyrics. What could be better than a concept album telling the story of a Rabbit Kingdom, by a man who is stepping through the veil of two realities. Through the course of the story he begins to realize his link to this other world and has to come to a difficult decision regarding his role in it. Yep - must be prog after all.

This is a band that sound at home whether it is with acoustic guitars and piano, soaring prog or crunching the riffs. Well produced, and with a story that contains bunnies, surely this will get them even greater attention! Indispensible. www.nightmarerecords.com

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 Kingdom of Ruin by VANGOUGH album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.62 | 12 ratings

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Kingdom of Ruin
Vangough Progressive Metal

Review by memowakeman
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars In the past couple of years the name of Vangough has been mentioned in several places and occasions, here in ProgArchives I read some reviews and got interested, though I actually did not look up for their music. Now, fortunately, thanks to Freeman Promotions I could have the chance of listening to their latest album, which gives me an idea of their music, though I am not really sure if in the sound here is the same as in their previous works, since I've not listened to them.

However, I have found myself comfortable while listening to this 2011 release entitled "Kingdom of Ruin", an album that contains fifteen songs that make a total time of 75 minutes (it is a long album indeed). The music here is oriented to progressive metal, with some variations. It powerfully kicks off with "Disloyal", with some screams since the very first seconds, later keyboards and guitar begin to create the structure, and open the gates to what Vangough will offer here. This song is a nice opener, with a cool guitar riff at the end, and with good (though not my favorite) vocals.

"Choke Faint Drown" has again a powerful beginning, but a minute later it slows down and creates a subtle sound that puts a charming mood. Little by little the song is progressing, with keyboards, emotional vocals and metalish guitars. "Abandon me" has a very alike sound, it totally follows the same style. The fact is that here we begin to realize that their style does not necessarily fit under the prog metal realm (they are, without a doubt, but they truly touch the boundaries).

"Drained" continues with that mixture of heavy and mellow metal, here the voice is what really changes the direction, in spite of the music, so for the band it is undeniable that Withrow's vocals are really important, whether you we like it or not. What I like of Vangough is that in songs relatively short, they put several elements and changes of time and mood. "Kingdom of Ruin" starts with a delicate piano, and then the heavier sound appears, with nice keyboards as background, cool drums and once again good changes in mood and tempo.

"Frailty" has a soft sound with piano, mellow vocals and guitar chords. As you can imagine, a minute later it changes and becomes a bit heavier, without being really heavy. There is a moment of tranquility, when even acoustic guitar appear, but later it explodes again. I am not sure if my review is being a bit repetitive, but well, I believe Vangough's style is well defined. "The Transformation" is the shortest track, with a night ambience, with some crickets as background while the piano sounds.

That short piece leads to "The Rabbit Kingdom" which has a happier and hopeful feel, and happens to be one of my favorite tracks of the album. Here I like how the music and the voice contrasts, while the first are creating a heavy or dark mood, the second puts a truly mellow atmosphere. This song is also the closest one to symphonic prog (or symph metal, whatever you want to call it). "Stay" has acoustic guitars at first, and then a rockier and cooler sound which had not been shown earlier in the album. Then the music notably slows down and that mellow voice appears again. And the structure is repeated.

"Sounds of Wonder" is another of my favorite tracks due to its different sound, far from metal and with even some friendly percussion. During the whole track we will listen to a gentle track, which as I said, I like, but I am afraid Vangough's die-hard fans may not love. "A Father's Love" shows what the title suggests and what one can imagine with such name. Piano, mellow music, sentimental sound.

With "Requiem For A Fallen King" the band returns to, let's say their original sound, the one I've been describing in previous tracks; I like the inclusion of keyboards because they put different nuances and sometimes they create the mood, the last part of this song is a good example. "An Empire Shattered" may be the funniest track (with due respect), the vocals and the rhythm are pretty catchy and sounds like music for youngsters. A parenthesis, I also found here a song that grotesquely reminds me of A.C.T.'s Last Epic, surely Vangough are aware of that.

"Alice" is the last of the shorter tracks, and here they use again their mellowest side with piano and vocals. After this song, the album finishes with the epic entitled "The Garden Time Forgot" , whose 14 minutes show a cool blend of melodic, heavy, melancholic, emotional, etc., music. This song is an example of Vangough's compositional skills, and an example of the quality of their members, though I don't dare saying they are the most virtuosos, they truly made a communion with their ideas and put a very good epic track. A highlight, when a flute appears.

After all, I am not really impressed with the album, I enjoy some of the songs but I don't love it at all. I believe this was not my best introduction to Vangough's music, but I wanted to click with it, but after five or so listens, I couldn't. So for me this is a decent albums, good but not essential, three stars.

Enjoy it!

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 Game On! by VANGOUGH album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.50 | 19 ratings

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Game On!
Vangough Progressive Metal

Review by Rune2000
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

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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 Manikin Parade by VANGOUGH album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.49 | 45 ratings

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Manikin Parade
Vangough Progressive Metal

Review by Rune2000
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars Let's talk a little bit about Vangough!

Well, to tell you the truth I know very little about this band outside what little I could get from their biography on the artist page. I know that they're from Oklahoma and are fronted by Clay Withrow who is a multi-intrumentalist, vocalist and songwriter for the band. What I do know is that I've had Manikin Parade in my music collection for almost two years and I honestly have no memory of how I got this album. Another thing that I clearly remember is that completely dismissed the band for being a Pain Of Salvation clone, at a time when Daniel Gildenlöw had already started to drift away from the approach that's so prominently is featured on this album's title track, Estranger and Paradise For The Lost.

Manikin Parade can be dismissed for many number of reasons. The compositions and performance are far from original, featuring emotional progressive metal style that has been done to death by 2009, but the biggest problem for me is the album's 75 minute length. It's honorable for a band to release such an ambitious album, but I just can't help but think that this ambition is getting in the way of making the final product a worthy experience.

Some of these compositions could have easily been removed while most others could have been shortened down by a whole minute or two. Unfortunately even some of the album's strongest moments lose some of their momentum for sounding too much like tributes to other artist and not as original piece that could stand on their own. Outside the obvious Pain Of Salvation references, Gabrielle also features an entire section the sounds like Pink Floyd's Brain Damage and a few instances that make me think of '80s albums by Saga!

All in all, Manikin Parade is a very ambitious debut album from Vangough that clearly shows that this band, especially Clay Withrow, have some really great things ahead of them. Unfortunately, this album is only the beginning of this journey, but I will make sure to keep an eye on this band from now on since they clearly have a potential of making it big in the progressive rock genre!

**** star songs: Estranger (6:13) Manikin Parade (7:57) Handful Of Dreams (5:37) Disorder Quotient (4:42) Bricolage Theater (1:24) Paradise For The Lost (The Twilight Part I: Deception) (9:21) Gabrielle (The Twilight Part II: Love) (6:19) One Dark Birthday (6:59) Halcyon Days (1:46) The Cosmic Bus Stop (2:44)

*** star songs: Christmas Scars (7:37) Dance Of The Summer Mind (5:41) Etude Of Sorrow (The Twilight Part III: Oblivion) (8:44)

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