Released: 2011, Nightmare Records
Vangough (one word) is the brain child of prog-metal oddity Clay Withrow, a guy whose first album release was actually a solo album. Released to much critical praise, it marked merely the beginning as Withrow moved on to form Vangough as the outlet for his musical ideas. To date, Vangough has released two previous well-regarded albums, one a video games music covers disc, something that is becoming surprisingly common in metal these days.
KINGDOM OF RUIN is a strange concept album based on the trials of man torn between two realities in an Alice In Wonderland-type world. It’s strange to say the least, and without the benefit of a lyrics sheet, I admit to being a little lost on the particulars; however it’s certainly a subject that fits in well with the ethereal progressive metal that Vangough conjure. Indeed, the musical tapestry woven by these guys is complex, powerful, and artful, bringing to mind the best elements of Dream Theater (of course), Pain of Salvation, and Rush – bands with slightly more esoteric styles. As you may expect, the music weaves from very heavy to pure balladry and back, but it all coalesces into a captivating whole. Despite the changing nature of the music, Withrow’s vocals provide the hooks the listener can hold onto, his being a simultaneously powerful and sensitive style that, while not having the range of say, LaBrie or Halford, conveys just as much energy and passion.
Suffice it to say that, to my ears, KINGDOM OF RUIN is a progressive feast that will have few equals this year. It’s the rare album that is completely engrossing and requires that you pay attention, something that you’ll gladly do. Excellence.