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Vangough - Between The Madness CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.96 | 56 ratings

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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.

lucas | 5/5 |


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