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Released: 2012, Independent
One of my favorite albums from 2011 was the progressive metal feast called KINGDOM OF RUIN by Oklahoma’s Vangough. It was my #3 album of the year, so I was greatly psyched when band leader Clay Withrow contacted me about reviewing the band’s new release, ACOUSTIC SCARS.
The EP is intended as a holdover for fans until the band unleashes their next full length opus later this year. As such, the EP is a bit of a mish-mash, featuring two atmospheric intro/outros, an epic new song, an instrumental, and an epic-length medley of the high points off KINGDOM OF RUIN. Oh, and in case the title of the EP didn’t give it away, it’s all acoustic.
First things first, “Leaving Bricolage” and “Road to Blighttown” are skippable, being simple mood-setting atmospherics. However, the rest of the EP is all gold and certainly worth your time. The centrepiece is “A Song for Crows”, a 10+ minute progressive tour de force, and very much following in the sombre mood and stylistic footsteps set by KINGDOM OF RUIN. The song’s acoustic swells are matched by an excellent vocal performance by Clay Withrow and perfectly integrated violin and cello playing.
Up next is a “Throne of Rust”, which avid gamers may recognize as “Wily’s Castle” from Mega Man 2. I knew I’d heard the theme before but couldn’t place it – it drove me crazy until I finally broke down and emailed the band for an answer. Anyway, it’s an energetic piece down brilliantly, again with a focus on the violin as lead instrument. Of note, it's quite different from the band's version of the song on their GAME ON! album.
Finally we have “The Rabbit Chronicles”, which is a nicely constructed medley of the many highlights from KINGDOM OF RUIN. While not as majestic as some of the epic, "plugged in" pieces on the album, the song coheres well and is eminently enjoyable.
ACOUSTIC SCARS is the perfect EP – it whets the appetite for the upcoming full album, and is a great listen in its own right. My esteem for Vangough continues to grow.
1. Leaving Bricolage
2. A Song for Crows
3. Throne of Rust
4. The Rabbit Chronicles
5. Road to Blighttown
Clay Withrow: Vocals, Guitar
Kyle Haws – Percussion
Jeren Martin – Bass
Justus Johnston – Violin
Jose Palacios – Cello
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