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Vangough - Warpaint Award winner

by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 04 May 2017, 1:24 PM

VANGOUGH is a Progressive Metal trio based out of Oklahoma, USA. Formed in 2007, the band has four previous full-length albums under their belt. “Warpaint” is the first since 2013, and contains seven tracks, and a total running time of just over 51 minutes. The genre of Progressive Metal is surely one of the most diverse genres out there these days. I have not however heard a lot coming out of the USA, much less a power trio like the founding fathers RUSH. Let’s get to the music.

“Morphine” introduces us to the album, with low, heavy and thudding riffs, bass notes and drum strikes. All the while, lead guitar notes circle around and float above, creating a deep texture. “Clay’s vocals are subdued at times and angry at others, letting the darkness take center stage. I imagine this is the ultimate effect of the namesake drug, as it slowly takes over your mind and blackens your soul. In some ways, the chord progressions and overall sound remind me of TOOL and OPETH. “Dust” is considerably shorter. The opening lyrics “we are the children of machines…among the liars and the thieves” give you some insight into the inner turmoil of their sound. Bleakness abounds as happiness is but a whisper in the wind. The various rhythms really keep you on your toes as well.

 “The Suffering” is an eight minute exercise in emotional pain. At times it is as fierce as a tiger hunting its prey, and other times it is more ambient and despondent. “Let me deep inside, a place that hides, your darkest side” is the line that sticks the point for me. The final minute and a half is a great instrumental ending. “Gravity” begins with the poignant lyric line of “I am alive in this hell I call my home.” If this doesn’t sum up the darkness of the album as a whole I don’t know what else I could tell you. Minor chords abound, and the acoustical interlude really adds a subtle depth to the piece. “Till Nothing’s Left” continues with the inner turmoil reflected in song. It a little more lively in the sense that the blackness is a little more opaque here.

“Knell” is as utterly hopeless as a song could sound. It fits perfectly, as the meaning of the title is “a bell rung solemnly, especially at a death or a funeral.” The vocal lamentations at the end cap off what is one the most sublimely depressing songs that I have heard. “Black Rabbit” is the eleven minute closer. Visually for me, I have the image of the majesty seen in the crumbling of a once great empire. It is sad to watch it fade, but remembering the stalwart peaks and spires of the sprawling castle is a memory not soon forgotten. When they talk about “after all these years, the warpaint disappears,” I think you get the culminating vision of the album.

In the vast landscape of modern Progressive Metal, there are some undeniable giants out there. But very few have managed to create this unique and diverse offering of utter torment, gut-wrenching blackness, hopelessness and despondence. VANGOUGH have captured this and so much more on “Warpaint.” The depth of character and the intelligence of their songwriting will move you to make a place for this album in your strongest Prog collection. But beware, it could stir your fears, doubts and self-loathing to a level that you have not experienced.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Morhpine
2. Dust
3. The Suffering
4. Gravity
5. Till Nothing’s Left
6. Knell
7. Black Rabbit
Clay Withrow – Guitars, Vocals, Sound Design
Kyle Haws – Drums
Jeren Martin – Bass
Record Label: Independent


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