Sunday, March 26, 2017

Vangough - Warpaint (2017)

I honestly do not know if the band name Vangough is just a weird homage to the Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh, or just some made up word that sounded cool. No matter what the origin of the name is, it is certain that this American trio knows their way around the prog woods, weaving through all the trees and landscapes with relative ease. It is still only a relatively young band (formed around 10 years ago), but they have already established a fairly solid discography, with especially the last two albums ("Kingdom of Ruin" and "Between The Madness") forming the band to a force to be reckoned with in the future.

"Warpaint" is album number 5 for the Oklahoma based group, and it is a more laid back record when compared to its predecessor. Instead of aggression and Leprous-like influences, the band is taking more of a Opeth route here, creating longer riffs, slowing down the tempo, and establishing an atmosphere that should make you think and wonder. It is quite impressive that Vangough can shape shift like a chameleon, changing tones from album to album while still keeping the core sound that makes Vangough.

One of the big reasons to why this change works so well is that the band performs with delicacy, taking good care of every melody and rhythm. Clay Withrow knows exactly which buttons he needs to push with his vocals, when he needs to go soft or rough, all to deliver the message through the listener. His band mates does a swell job too, Jeren Martin's bass creates a fuller landscape, while Kyle Haws and his drums turns up the intensity when it is needed, creating a more dynamic record. This trio has been together since 2011, and it does become more obvious by the album that they have a really good chemistry going.

While the band really does their best work to make everything as perfect as can be, I can only feel sorry that the song material is not some of the band's best. Do not get me wrong, the 7 songs that are featured on "Warpaint" are definitely good, just not brilliant in any way or form. The problem might be that the songs can easily be seen as a poor man's copy of any work made by any of the prog giants. Pain of Salvation, Tool, Opeth, yeah most legends have obviously been an inspiration to Vangough, but it is almost too obvious in the music at times. It is something that is really hard to ignore once you realize it.

The songs, while still enjoyable, are not too memorable either. I have listened to "Warpaint" around ten times or so, but I still have a hard time separating the songs apart. This of course makes a bigger picture, an album that is coherent throughout its run time, but it would have been nice to at least have one song that stands out a little more, besides from being much longer than the rest (looking at you "Black Rabbit"). This does not take away too much away from the album though, it is still a nice piece of music when listened from start to finish, and I honestly think that is the band's intention all along, not creating stand out "hits", just great music that works together in a time span of around 50 minutes, and in that sense, I think they have succeeded.

"Warpaint" is still a competent record though, and it should be appreciated as a good prog release, a solid creation that holds up well from start to finish. Yes, it might have some originality issues, but in the grand scheme of things, it is still a good effort by these guys. Sure, it is not by any means a shoe in for the top of the year list, but it is an enjoyable record that goes down relatively easy for a prog record. Besides, it has rabbits on the cover, and not only is it timely with Easter coming up, they are also bad ass (just ask the wizard known as Tim). So they may have some way to go before getting to the top, but they are doing so in a good pace right now, hopefully reaching their goal soon enough.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Suffering, Till Nothing's Left, Black Rabbit

Rating: 7/10 Morphines

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