This blog's favorites VANGOUGH are back with their brand new album titled "Warpaint", as usual, once again wholly self-produced and released.
On the heels of their previous studio album (featured on this site) they've toured with prog monsters Pain Of Salvation and Fates Warning over two years, respectively. On the former tour Vangough founder, songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist Clay Withrow played guitar for Pain Of Salvation. After these events, they dropped a live album, aptly titled, Living Madness.
Spending over a year in production, "Warpaint" represents the delicate inculcation of restraint, self-doubt and introspection that was afforded as a result of their recent touring efforts.
When it comes to Vangough, especially if you've followed their 10 year career with some interest, you pretty much know what's ahead in a new album: "Warpaint" is dark and heavy, introspective and foreboding progressive rock with a metal edge yet not restricted to one single genre.
Heavy and monstrous riffage are reinforced by an equally deep and brooding rhythm section. After these things, come Withrow's soaring to shrieking guitar solos. And that in turn might also describe his continuing vocal style.
Withrow has some range, but it's not so much musical, like octaves, but rather in emotional vocal presentation. He can go from subtle and smooth to deep raging to raw, and the song arrangements seem to favor his vocal nuances.
But these things are not to diminish bass or drum performances. The former is instantly clear, driving both rhythm and groove. With the latter, Kyle Haws adds the same, but can be raging and bombastic.
"Warpaint" is immediately attention-grabbing from the first seconds of 'Morphine' with a mysterious bass line and intertwining guitar melodies. When the vocals come out, there's a strong emotion behind the clean singing going from a smooth croon on lines like “tell me all your deepest fears” to a dirtier, grittier sound with “bury all this seething hate.”
Shifting gears repeatedly during individual songs is what “Warpaint” is all about, leap frogging back and forth between styles while being held together by the vocal work.
You'll hear transitions like humming over blast beats (a crazy juxtaposition all its own) changing to a sudden NHOWBM guitar solo on “The Suffering”, a song also propelled by fury drumming. The opening to 'Till Nothing's Left' is very somber, which suddenly veers in a very atmospheric direction at the two minute mark. “Gravity” meanwhile opens with dymanic, colorful progressive tone and then morphs into an acoustic tune.
The rest of the album is a little less heavy, with the slow moving 'Knell', and lengthier 11 minute closing track 'Black Rabbit' which is the signature Vangough piece here. It likely tells the tale of Watership Down's Black Rabbit of Inle, the grim reaper of the rabbit world. Ideally, if you know the story, the tale is perfect fodder for Withrow's musical imagination. The arrangements sways between gritty and heavy riffage and moments of strange calm.
"Warpaint" is consistent and constant Vangough, delivering their version of heavy, dark, but at the same time clean and polished progressive music.
Vangough is one of the avant-garde rock acts from the new American scene, they're always trying something different, and their music never bores you for sure.
1 - Morphine
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
BUY IT !