Oklahoma City based powerhouse Vangough may be named after a post-impressionistic artist, come from a conservative bastion of the U.S. and draw inspiration from heavy guitar driven prog metal bands like Dream Theater; yet driven by the explosive, cutting edge vision of guitarist and lead vocalist Clay Withrow, the band’s incisive and infectious songs—15 of which appear on Vangough’s highly anticipated new album Kingdom of Ruin—and intense energy requires adjectives far beyond words that describe mainstream artists. So here’s an opening attempt: committed to drawing listeners into their melodies before totally upending the tea table, they spit fiery madness by drenching your ears with a purple sunrise of melodic cocaine and a not-so-subtle approach to reading you the story behind today’s headlines.
Originally formed around Withrow's well-received 2007 solo debut and evolving over two incredible discs, Vangough - whose current killer lineup includes drummer Brandon Lopez, keyboardist Corey Mast and bassist Jeren Martin - combines the groovy attitude of southern metal stalwarts Pantera and the quirkiness of progressive leaders such as Dream Theater. Their vintage sound harkens back to Genesis and King Crimson, giving them a slightly classic rock feel while retaining the freshness of a forward thinking contemporary band.
If you swirled all those bands into a blender, popped them into frappe mode and could handle the blast of biting social commentary, blistering axes and sensual atmospheres, the result would sound a bit like Vangough with its Gilmouresque guitar solos, silky smooth Daniel Gildenlöw/Pain of Salvation vocals, soaring keyboard melodies and tight double bass drumming reminiscent of Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy. Metal to Infinity says it best: “You can expect nothing but awesome compositions on Manikin Parade…expect the unexpected, each song comes on strong with several forms of varied, sometimes mystical atmospheric moments.”
Admittedly, their sound is ultimately a bit expansive to be confined to the OKC rock scene, but Vangough’s developed an enthusiastic, champing at the bit loyal following to build on. After their stellar performance at a packed-out ProgPower USA in 2010, Vangough officially arrived on the progressive rock scene. The band also plays regular gigs at the local hotspots such as the Conservatory, VZD’s and The Deli, just up the road in Norman.
The singer met Lopez at the OKC Guitar Center where Lopez works as Drum Manager and told him he needed a great drummer to help take his current project to the next level. Lopez’s skinning on such tracks as “Disorder Quotient” was so powerful and raised the bar so high that it inspired Withrow to find other great local musicians to collaborate with. The band concept for Vangough gradually took shape and, after going through several drummers who played with the group live, Lopez—who founded a Christian death metal outfit called Broken Flesh-- eventually joined as a permanent performing member.
“The vibe that we developed as Vangough often leads to our being categorized as progressive metal,” says Withrow, “but we’re not quite heavy enough for metalheads and probably too heavy for everyone else below that bar. So it’s more like eclectic rock or melodic metal. Balancing the heavy guitars, I really like to emphasize the melodic nature of every song, which is more important than heaviness and complexity for their own sake. I’m always trying to write hooks that draw the listeners in and sticks with them. Each song on Manikin Parade makes its own statement and gets on its own soapbox addressing different issues. The effect musically and lyrically is a combination of endearment and elements that are bound to slightly offend people’s sensibilities. It’s cool to draw them in with the beautiful nature of the music and then abruptly shock them—but that’s rock and roll, isn’t it? Music should stand for something and always be on the edge.”
Withrow likes to call all of his songs “fun,” but that’s only if one’s definition of “fun” extends to mean “powerful and pointed.” “Christmas Scars,” which begins aggressively and angry but evolves into a graceful, spacey serenity by the end, is a much needed direct attack on our celebrity worship culture and how much time and energy we invest in these people who in the end, are just people like us. Sample lyric: “Come sit with me and together we can harp on your society of mediocrity.” The crunchy, propulsive title track “Manikin Parade” is a biting satire on our society’s encouragement and glorification of anti-intellectualism—as if intellect is a threat to family values. It’s the ultimate call to think for ourselves. Religion is another sacred cow that Vangough taps into, painting portraits of abusive Catholic priests from both the victims’ and priests’ perspectives on “Disorder Quotient” and attacking Scientology and its foibles and celebrity adherents on “Paradise For The Lost.” Tom Cruise better cover his ears!
“Because we’re not afraid to tackle these themes that are taboo for mainstream bands, Vangough is like the South Park of music, and proud of it,” says Withrow. “The best part of all this is just the opportunity to make music, to lay the foundations of a city, say, and then unleash a monster on it, watching the different elements interrelate as the songs evolve. But it’s performing live that’s the real addiction and we love nothing more than getting out there and connecting with fans. It’s a major spiritual experience and I love the sensation of getting up there and transforming into that monster that’s gonna take everyone on the journey with us.”
With their newly completed third album, the grandiose "Kingdom Of Ruin", VANGOUGH have taken their conceptual vision another step ahead. The story of The Rabbit Kingdom is about a man who is stepping through the veil of two realities. One of his human life and the other a land where rabbits rule in an idyllic forest kingdom. Through the course of the story he begins to realize his link to this other world and has to come to the difficult decision if he should stay a human or take his place as the rightful heir to the throne in this faraway kingdom.
Clay Withrow - Vocals, guitars, keyboards
Corey Mast - keyboards
Jeren Martin - Bass
Brandon Lopez - Drums
Dissonance Rising - Album - 2007
Manikin Parade - Album - 2009
Game On! - Album - 2010
Kingdom of Ruin - Album - 2011
Kingdom of Ruin Review 1 "9/10"
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Kingdom of Ruin is the third album from Oklahoma’s Vangough. What, you say you’ve never heard of V...Kingdom of Ruin is the third album from Oklahoma’s Vangough. What, you say you’ve never heard of Vangough? Well, it’s time to change that. Fans of numerous different metal and rock genres can find something to love in their sound. They combine so many elements to create such a highly unique sound that it’s hard to put into mere words. They bring together prog, metal, hard rock, and plenty of other styles into play to continuously keep things interesting. The story told on Kingdom of Ruin is just as odd and amazing as the music behind it. Vangough expertly craft the tale of a man torn between two realities. One in this world and one in which he is heir to the throne in a rabbit kingdom. This strange tale makes the already alluring music that much more compelling.
Not long into the first track, “Disloyal,” I already knew I was going to be hooked on Kingdom of Ruin. It has a quirky beginning that leads you into a surprise attack that hits you with heavy riffs, fast drumming, and a solo right off the bat. Yeah, I’m in. Strange yet perfect describes how it feels listening to this album for the first time. Well, that also describes the numerous times you’ll surely be listening to it after that as well. There is quite a bit going on yet it all flows together seamlessly. Mastermind Clay Withrow weaves the tale with his clear, soaring vocals that are just as diverse as the music. On “Abandon Me” he lapses into the madness of the moment as he conveys the protagonists inner turmoil quite well. In “An Empire Shattered” he approaches a, dare I say, “Bohemian Rhapsody” style at times. He possesses that unique story teller quality that you can only be born with. He does an excellent job of pulling you right into the story on each and every track.
The music itself is truly progressive in nature. Vangough is far from being a Dream Theater knockoff though. In fact, they are far from being an anything knockoff. While it’s clear to see where they draw some influence from they walk their own path when everything is said and done. Their music is definitely proggy yet still remains heavy and extremely melodic all at the same time. There’s plenty of of heavy riffs and tight solos to compliment the sky-high melodies, and the synth arrangements really accentuate the grandiose feel and atmosphere. Listen to “Requiem for a Fallen King” to get a taste of all of these elements combined. The excellent musicianship easily propels the story forward and fits each moment perfectly. No two songs are alike on this album.
Vangough offer the perfect balance of dark and light. When things get really dark and heavy there’s always an amazing melody right around the corner shimmering with hope. The title track, “Kingdom of Ruin” is a shining example. Everything about it is great. It highlights the perfect balance in Vangough’s sound. The soulful, infectious grooves, heavy riffing, and drumming that always fits the moment just right present everything in a nice tight package. Ken Wood is thrown into the fold on a few tracks to add some nice touches on piano and the Irish whistle. The Irish whistle really makes the last half of the massive final track, “The Garden Time Forgot.” The jazz and folk elements mixed with a little of everything Vangough have to offer makes this the perfect finale to an amazing album.
In a time where releases come and go daily, Kingdom of Ruin, has true staying power. I personally run through new releases at a pretty swift rate, and some albums get forgotten fast. This is one I just can’t let go of. The strange and highly original approach Vangough take makes this album one that sinks itself deep into your mind where it continues to grow. It’s extremely addictive in nature, but it’s one addiction you won’t mind giving into over and over again.
Kingdom of Ruin Review 2 "A"
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Combining a bevy of disparate stylistic elements into their overflowing, avant-garde mix, the Oklaho...Combining a bevy of disparate stylistic elements into their overflowing, avant-garde mix, the Oklahoman outfit known as Vangough nevertheless come out sounding very impressive here on their third album, Kingdom of Ruin.
Sounding very much like their hip, West Coast brethren in Giant Squid and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, this criminally talented quartet also seem to possess much of the knowing, high-minded progressive tendencies of a Pain of Salvation, as well, utilizing the soaring voice and inventive riffage of Clay Withrow to wondrous effect.
Indeed, Vangough definitely belong within the ‘neo-progressive’ movements of bands like Between the Buried and Me, Porcupine Tree, 3, and Opeth in that so much of their success hinges upon that unique, inimitable way in which they approach their songwriting. Although the band focuses on melody throughout much of Kingdom of Ruin, an abundant amount of heaviness and exuberance also lurks within these songs, similar to Train of Thought era Dream Theater perhaps, although the similarities between both bands really end there, otherwise.
No, Vangough definitely stands out as a true original these days; a band which manages to sound intense, intelligent and involved all at the same time, while putting forth more than enough heaviness to make them certifiable heavy hitters, once more people are graced with their noise. Kingdom of Ruin is an electric listen, so check it out!
Kingdom of Ruin Review 3 "5/5"
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Unexpected and challenging are apt words to describe the latest project, Kingdom of Ruin, from Oklah...Unexpected and challenging are apt words to describe the latest project, Kingdom of Ruin, from Oklahoma's Vangough. But that's certainly 'expected' from this talented band. It's nearly odd to say, but one might call Kingdom of Ruin 'thinking man's' prog. It certainly offers a high degree of creativity and ingenuity, yet without sacrificing immense entertainment.
Perhaps this comes from the album's curious concept. Offering, possibly, a twist on Lewis Caroll's tale of Alice as stranger in a a strange land, principal and lyricist Clay Withrow proposes a man torn between two worlds. His origins appear to be in the human world. Or are they? Via transformation and travel he finds himself a visitor and heir (apparent?) in the magical kingdom of the family Leporidae; rabbits, that is. It's the 'Night of the Lepus' in the light of progressive music.
Kingdom of Ruin is a tale of two worlds and one man in conflict. It seems that the first six songs (the absence of lyrics did not help) speak to the conflict and transient nature of his place in the human world: the songs are marked by heaviness and sometimes a dark mood. Later, the songs seem brighter, without being Splenda sweet, revealing the conclusion: our protagonist would rather live in the rabbit world, accepted and affirmed, than suffer us humans. Once more: or not?
Perhaps this comes from the musical compositions that offer interesting combinations of genres, moods, and passages. Kingdom of Ruin is both progressive metal and rock, and possibly neither after listening to portions of Choke Faint Drown and Abandon Me, where the grim vocals of alternative metal support the vocal arrangements.
If anything, the aforementioned division certainly provides contrast and, yes, the overarching motif is prog. The first half is more heavy, brooding, and conflicting progressive metal, and the latter, though not lacking heavy moments as within Stay, delivers more expected classic prog rock (or metal). Notable is Sounds of Wonder and the delightful A Father's Love. But An Empire Shattered offers some big riffs and heavy moments, but still has a crisp, even catchy, melodic rock feel. The closing opus, The Garden That Time Forgot, combines the best of both halves of the album. It's moving and inspired, but especially shows Vangough's song craftsmanship and sound musicianship. Honestly, these are good.
Frankly, like Manikin, to plumb the depths of Kingdom of Ruin requires intentional curiosity and repeated listens Why? Because It's that damn good. Strongly recommended.
Manikin Parade Review 1: Prog Archives
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Being familiar with American prog upstart Clay Withrow's previous album Dissonance Rising, it was wi...Being familiar with American prog upstart Clay Withrow's previous album Dissonance Rising, it was with high expectations that I entered into the month-long journey of reviewing this album. Long nights with lyrics and headphones, warm blankets, hot herbal tea, and a low-wattage bare bulb... It's been an adventure, for sure.
I don't know any other way to put this: buy this record. Every once in a while, a genre will produce a record that stands tall and proud in a sea of copycats and wannabes. Progressive metal has taken many shapes over the years, with quite a few standard-breaking gems. A.C.T's Last Epic comes to mind, with its schizophrenically bouncy, driven music and vocals painting a disturbing backdrop as contrast to the dark, cynical lyrics. Evergrey's Recreation Day, or Monday Morning Apocalypse. Dream Theater's Images and Words. Pain Of Salvation's Remedy Lane. Some set the standard, others break it to pieces. Add to that list: Manikin Parade.
It doesn't take long to begin to see this album's genius. Break out your best headphones, your old $4000 hi-fi you built piece by piece in the 70's, your car radio. This album is a treat to the ears, and it would be a shame to miss out experiencing everything this album offers. Like so precious few albums, great love and care was put into the production, from beginning to end. After time negotiating with The Flower Kings' Roine Stolt, Withrow finally decided upon Sterling Winfield (Pantera, Damageplan, Hellyeah) to mix the record, with Brandon Lopez, the drummer on the most recent Becoming The Archetype, filling in on percussion.
The end result is a spectacular treat to the ears. I can't stress enough how incredible this record sounds on capable audio equipment, something the majority of albums just don't do. Considering the complexity and depth of the music contained within, the beautiful production acts as a tool to serve the music, and nothing less would've been satisfactory.
The music is initially challenging in its own way. The dense layering throughout may remind some of The Flower Kings, Devin Townsend, or even Andrew WK in terms of the amount of musical elements presented, but it knows exactly when to clear the forest away and reveal something beautiful and delicate, powerful and moving. Seemingly all over the place, multiple listens find the highly-varied pieces falling into position, the hidden and subtle recurring themes revealing themselves with every new listen.
This album takes some time to fully appreciate. However, once that hurdle is cleared, a beautiful gem is revealed to the listener. The album is a non-stop roller-coaster of melodic joy, harmonic pleasure, driving, sometimes manic energy, with a sense of rhythm and flow that many established bands could certainly learn from. Even amidst the most shocking of transitions, the sense of continued groove never dies down from start to finish. The music is never overdone or out of place, yet often quite sophisticated and clever. While each instrument stands out as very well-written and well-played, it is their interactions with each other that truly drive this monster of a record. Have I mentioned that you're left wanting more? Despite a hefty 75-minute running time, nothing stagnates, and no riff, melody, or theme overstays its welcome, a common pratfall in our beloved progressive rock genre.
This versatility continues in the vocals and lyrics, with Withrow himself putting his shape-shifting, highly capable voice to use. Seemingly possessing an infinite number of voices for any need, you'll at times recall shades of some of the greats. The lyrics are well-written and just as multi-colored as the music, subtle changing styles and presentation to evoke different emotions like fear, betrayal, confidence, and naivety. Without spoiling the concept, it brilliantly takes a different approach than many, incorporating a dark, sometimes satirical metaphor that allows it to discuss some very serious and difficult topics without an air of pretention.
With many, many focused listens under my belt, I say with confidence that this album receives my highest honors. Manikin Parade is a true masterpiece of the genre, a standout record that will surely be recognized for exactly what it is, its head held high next to our other precious progressive rock records as a modern-day classic, a beautiful anomaly. Five stars.
Manikin Parade Review 2: Metal Storm
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The life of a reviewer is funny sometime. Nobody yet (but it should change soon you'll see) talks ab...The life of a reviewer is funny sometime. Nobody yet (but it should change soon you'll see) talks about Vangough but I discovered the band when its leader Clay Withrow saw my profile in the friend list of Pain Of Salvation… Clay asked me to review his fist album and voila, this is one of the reasons why Internet is so powerful and magical… But why am I saying that? Well because there is obviously an important fact in my previous words, a link between me, Vangough and a lot of you and this is Pain Of Salvation. Vangough is the spiritual son of the Swedish band, this is not a copycat but clearly plays the same kind of original emotive Prog and I have a lot of good hopes for this combo. Am I wrong or right? Let's do a bet if you want and we will talk about it in 2 - 3 years
The music on "Maninkin Parade" is clearly Prog but really deep and innovative too. A bit like POS (which is the main influence of this new combo anyway), the music of the first album of Vangough is really original. This is not blasting music but something really melodic, with ballads and piano, but also big good riffs, technical guitars soli and long songs which have a lot of different parts and passages. But what I like the most in this release and in the music is the really good vibes that it gives to the listeners. Like with Anathema or POS for example, there is something else behind the music and I'm quite sure that the one who like to listen to Metal not only to headbang will quickly understand what I mean, this is just deep and beautiful and absolutely not simple.
The only problem for me in "Maninkin Parade" is maybe that Clay Withrow tries a bit too much to sound like Daniel of POS. Clay has a unique beautiful voice but sometime his intonations, his way to sing his lyrics are a bit too similar to the ones of Gildenlöw. Don't worry this is not a clone too but Clay should try to be a bit more natural and it should be perfect (because his voice is good anyway, that's obvious). Other than that this release is really deep and will give you a lot of emotions and different feelings. The concept is well written and the music perfectly fits to the main theme. Vangough tells a real musical story with this album, this is pretty nice.
"Maninkin Parade" is a self-released album, this is not signed on any label and so what? I'm wondering if labels managers are deaf sometime or if they need a big kick in the ass to wake up, because there is nothing else to do than to organize some promotion and add a logo on the back cover of release. The sound is really good, the voice of Clay Withrow is perfect, the interpretations of the songs are professional and really well done, what do they need really? "Maninkin Parade" features thirteen really good tracks, a good general story and a really good and sensitive way to play Progressive Metal. This is clearly the kind of band that I would like to sign on my own label; the risk is equal to zero...
Vangough will maybe have to find a way to do a break with its main influence, Pain Of Salvation. But actually, it's ok because "Maninkin Parade" has its own personality too and anyway this is just a first album, a fact which leads me to the conclusion that the next release should be a lot more personal. Anyway, it's rare to find such a promising band and I really think that we're just in front of a future next sensation of the Progressive Metal scene so please don't wait anymore time to buy this album, believe me we're in front of a real masterpiece. Until today, "Manikin Parade" is the Prog revelation of the year 2009 and believe me this is just a beginning… An absolute must!
Manikin Parade Review 3: Sea of Tranquility
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At over 75 minutes, this young band from Oklahoma, USA packs an intense musical journey examining th...At over 75 minutes, this young band from Oklahoma, USA packs an intense musical journey examining the impacts of losing a loved one with incredible songmanship and splendid musical performance. The musical prowess on display here belies that this is just their debut album. The album sounds like a collection of songs written and recorded by seasoned musicians rather than people in their late-twenties.
Now onto the music. If you like Pain of Salvation circa Remedy Lane, right down to the vocals by vocal god Daniel Gildenlow, then the first couple of tracks on Manikin Parade will leave you drooling and mesmerized. Although they are far from being a clone band, the comparison to Pain of Salvation is impossible to deny. From the many-angled vocalizations to the hypnotic synth patches to the melodically enchanting guitar work and extremely variable bass and drum patterns, this album is a stunning tour-de-force.
Band leader, Clay Withrow, who sings and plays guitar, is an incredibly talented musician who has channeled tremendous amount of palpable feelings of fear, despair, betrayal, and panic into these tunes. He sounds out of this world on "Estranger" -- his diverse vocals, the fantastic drumming that lays the foundation for the other instruments, and the heart-wrenching lyrics ("I want to see truth in your eyes") set the tone and direction for the album, underscored by obvious nods to the great Pain of Salvation.
With the title track, they fully cement their sonic expanse. This is one of those songs people would define as the epitome of musical perfection. Rousing bass guitars and cracking cymbals are wrung through twisted time signatures without getting the least bit show-offy before synths and kick drums are brought into the mix effectively. The vocals are brilliant -- I can't remember the last time I was so impressed by a new band's singing. Withrow expresses despair and anger simultaneously, perfectly in sync with the music. His schizophrenic vocal technique comes from doubled vocals -- one high and one low -- spaced an octave apart. As the music tunes lower, he sings higher. The music comes to a brief halt, adding a sweet piano break to the mix. Then, Withrow emotes spoken lyrics effectively before shifting into dramatic passages that further highlight his rich baritone. A combination of shaking bass and guitars arrives out of nowhere to drive the piece into heavier territory. Despite the extreme density of the arrangement, the song somehow retains its melodic focus. Again, they transition into a solemn solo passage of throbbing bass guitar supplemented by lofty electric guitars for added atmosphere. All of a sudden, Withrow starts a wicked guitar solo punctuated by tumultuous bass which culminates in a breathtaking unison lead. As the bass retreats to its initial format, keyboards come in only to thicken the already mammoth soundscape. Finally, everything but the drums cut out and a silvery guitar solo dominates the mix inducing goose bumps all over. This is easily the best song of the year.
"Christmas Scars" is even darker in scope. It is a rich alchemy: elements of metal, rock, and pop are interwoven into each other. Gildenlow-like rapid-fire lyrics are alternated by more melodic vocalizations, with stomping bass and guitar crunch and atmospheric keyboards. Perhaps the most pivotal tune to the concept, we are now fully introduced to the theme of loss and/or separation, as the song takes on a feverish intensity dropping its ultra-soft parts and launching into an elegiac lead guitar solo followed by Withrow's tortured scream at the end. The coda of the song is musical bliss: the singer's croon will get you every time as will the synth orchestration.
"The Twilight" is broken down into a trilogy with "Part I - Deception" and "Part II - Love" rivalling the best moments of progressive rock, as they are paced more slowly, showcasing the diversity of Withrow's singing. His singing takes on a panicky edge on "Part I - Deception" atop a killer guitar theme, a slightly folk-based mid-section with beautiful piano lines. "Part II - Love," on the other hand, expands on the folky theme, conveying a sylvan atmosphere, and utilising theatrical vocal parts. The last part of the trilogy is also the heaviest, and some of the singing recalls Evergrey's Tom Englund, particularly during the a capella/piano parts.
That said, the album's highpoint has got to be "One Dark Birthday," easily the darkest and most personal song on the CD. The singing is reminiscent of The Flower Kings' terribly underrated album Adam & Eve. Think "A Vampire's View" sung by Daniel Gildenlow for a perfect example. The voice is simply heart-wrenching, and the guitar solo is the most intense ever.
In between all these tunes, there is the halcyon instrumental "Bricolage Theater" at just over a minute; the cleverly orchestrated "Handful of Dreams," weaving classically themed acoustic guitars with sounds of jazz/blues inflections, odd backing vocals, majestic synth elements; or the longer instrumental cut "Dance of the Summer Mind" which sets strummed acoustic guitars against gargantuan bass work with cinematic passages and textured guitar themes.
Actually, each song stands a sonic monument on its own. Most bands would have crafted two full albums with the ideas presented in one tune on this disc. But Vangough knows better. They haven't exploited a single moment here, which is the reason why Manikin Parade has become what it is.
The production is fantastic, with great sound separation and space. The kick drums sound absolutely phenomenal as does the bass guitar, and the multiple vocal parts have been mixed expertly by Sterling Winfield (Pantera, Damageplan). Everything else was done by Clay Withrow: he recorded, engineered, produced, and did all the instrumentation except for the drums which were recorded by Brandon Lopez.
Being that Manikin Parade is an independent release; the album comes housed in a neat digipack with little information on the band. There is no booklet detailing the storyline, but the band has expressed their will to reissue the album with a different packaging if there is sufficient interest.
If you're a fan progressive music and you're still not convinced, then I do not know what to say. This is the best album of the year so far. This is musical perfection.
Manikin Parade Review 4: Dangerdog
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Who would have thought: creative, compelling and majestic progressive rock from the heartland of Ame...Who would have thought: creative, compelling and majestic progressive rock from the heartland of America! Oklahoma's Vangough may be obscure now, but they should be today's Dream Theater or Porcupine Tree. Yeah, damn right, they are that good! Vangough's music is creative and compelling binding the best of rock, metal, jazz, hip hop (yes, I did say that), and much more to cleverly defy category. 'Mankin Parade' is a grand, even epic display of modern progressive rock to mystify and beguile your senses.
If I sound overwhelmed or deliberately intrigued by Vangough (and that does not happen very often), it's entirely understandable. You need to listen to this album! Everything about 'Manikin Parade' is amazing and nearly perfect (as if anything can be). But I have been captivated by Vangough to the point of speechlessness. Songs like 'Disorder Quotient,' 'Christmas Scars,' and many more are simply brilliant from composition to delivery.
Oklahoma's Vangough has left me speechless (can you believe that!): their prog rock/metal is amazing and compelling. This is the best stuff in the new millennium rivaling anything by Dream Theater, Symphony X, Porcupine Tree and many more. Wow! Highly recommended!
Dissonance Rising Review 1
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It took me a while to digest this album after I got a hold of it; this is mainly due to its length -...It took me a while to digest this album after I got a hold of it; this is mainly due to its length -- more than 70 minutes total, a Goliath next to what many musicians put out as a full-length album.
That being said, this release will not appeal to all tastes; I personally am greatly entertained by rock operas like "Tommy," "Jesus Christ Superstar" and darn it, if you must know, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Therefore when I put this album in for a quick spin, expecting to be able to listen to it once and give my impressions of it, I was surprised to note it was suddenly two hours and change later and I'd not only listened to it twice, I was fighting the urge to push "repeat all" mode on my CD player again.
It's undeniably dramatic with strong leanings toward struggle, fear and tragedy; the spirit of "Dissonance Rising" is a far cry from any kind of musical comedy.
The whole thing sounds like the soundtrack to a massive theatrical production, covering long periods of time, many characters with dark, conflicted motives and alien landscapes. A variety of elements including pipe organ, tubular bells, electric guitars, haunting piano accents and above all Withrow's Broadway-ready vocalizations (including a smattering of Japanese here and there), make a thing the equal of which I've never heard.
I don't know what kind of reception "Dissonance Rising" will get from the average rock fan. The average musical theater fan, though, finally has a new option, an artist who isn't afraid to make intense, expressive, complex creations that take the kind of headlong leaps into unknown melodic and conceptual territory few artists have dared to since a guy named Meat Loaf decided to take a few chances of his own back in the 1970s.
If you think that doesn't sound like high praise, think again. Most artists with voices that have the potential to cause the untimely and violent end of sound boards don't use them in ways that might. Not so here. Clay Withrow will perform with his band, including Narisa Suzuki on keyboards, Jason May on drums and Will Davis on bass, tonight at the University of Central Oklahoma Recital Hall in Edmond. For more on the show, again a can't-miss for diehard rock opera (or operatic rock) enthusiasts, visit www.claywithrow.com.
If you go in expecting music that makes epic visions of misunderstood villains, dark heroes and femme fatales plotting, yearning and achieving the impossible dance in your mind's eye, you'll have a great time catching an artist who doesn't sound like everything else out there cluttering up the Top 40 radio airwaves.
But I do suggest not sitting right next to the sound board. It may be safer.
Dissonance Rising Review 2
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Norman, Oklahoma is the city of origin of this multi instrumental and talented musician who's taking...Norman, Oklahoma is the city of origin of this multi instrumental and talented musician who's taking care of guitars, drums, bass, vocals and keyboards in his own band ''The Clay Withtrow Band''. When he’s able to play live and arouse the interest of the crowd, he's on stage with Narisa Suzuki on Keyboards, Jason May on Drums and Will Davis on Bass.
For this album, he entered his own recording studio, and he also mixed, produced and engineered all tracks, while mastering took place at Treelady Studios in Pittsburgh. Quite impressive to achieve all this and obtaining a considerable result; many bands did it in the past, but only few came out with a result like this! His first full length album ''Dissonance Rising'' is a concept album that follows the life of a man who deals with the loss of a wife, issues of greed and adultery. The narrative introduces us to the main character's parents when they arrive in America, during the early part of the 20th century. All songs are concerned with environmental issues like poverty and the trauma, devastation and effects of war. This impressive lyrical content will concentrate one's attention on this matter and makes you start thinking about everyday life and your own environment.
Clay Withtrow is a current graduate student at the University of Oklahoma and is a Teaching Assistant for an Intro to Film & Video Studios class. Are all these items and matters beneficially for the overall result of Dissonance Rising? Well, we took a good listen, gave the disc some extra spins and we can conclude that the musical skills of The Clay Withtrow Band are in a perfect dose of progressive, melodic and expressive metal. The songs on Dissonance Rising have a lot of variety which entertain the music fan for about 70 minutes of pure enjoyment! The total playing time is divided in 10 songs that exhale a rare musical talent, who establish to write integer, sensitive ballads, but also shredding songs that take you by the throat.
''Dissonance Rising'' opens with the track ''The Finite'' and from then on, the musical roller coaster is taking a trip through a lot of musical directions with one common thing: quality! Bands like Pink Floyd often pops up while exploring ''Dissonance Rising''. This man is gifted with a talent of unique songwriting and has the ability to become huge! Fans of Ayreon, Genesis, Pink Floyd etc... need to listen to 'Dissonance Rising'. You will be surprised about the augmentation that Clay Withrow offers! http://www.claywithrow.com/ My rating: 95/100
Dissonance Rising Review 3
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Publisher: MLWZ Author: Artur Chachlowski Translated by nuncjusz of progarchives.com Edited by C...Publisher: MLWZ
Author: Artur Chachlowski
Translated by nuncjusz of progarchives.com
Edited by Clay Withrow
“Dissonance Rising" was recorded in Clay's private studio. You can easily say, that Clay Withrow is a great individual and typical "self made man". When listening to the album, it is hard to believe that everything was recorded and sung by a single individual. A truly unique listening experience, the album comes off as a full and mature production (by Withrow himself), just as if you were hearing a one-man orchestra masterpiece. Believe me, I've heard many albums credited to many musicians, which were not even close to the richness of sounds and huge amount of musical ideas as on Withrow's solo album. It truly is a surprisingly good release. It contains a lyrical, but not quite clear to me, main theme. It tells a story of a man, whose parents came to the US at the beginning of XX century... Perhaps it is an autobiographical story?
The very dark and mysterious aesthetic of “Dissonance Rising” makes for a very unique album. Clay is perfect at building an interesting atmosphere that manages to carry the listener on the wings of his compositions, soaring through a valley of very broad stylized horizons. Musically, the album journeys from progressive rock, through melodic metal (the guitar parts are quite impressive) to ballad and even some elements of rock-opera. But don't be scared by the overwhelming tapestry amount of musical genres. It is in fact a very compact release; a perfect listen from the beginning up through the 70th minute mark. Stylistically the album shares some production elements with artists such as Root and the American group Product. Instrumentally it is similar to acts like Strangers On a Train.
If you find this review useful, I encourage you to listen to "Dissonance Rising". I don't know if it will be possible to get it even in the best music stores in Poland, but I'm sure that it is a worthy listen for everyone.
Dissonance Rising Review 4: Metal-Archives
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Written by Noktorn on August 20th, 2007 I'm going to call this 'progressive metal' for want of a...Written by Noktorn on August 20th, 2007
I'm going to call this 'progressive metal' for want of a better term, because I don't really feel that there's a genre that fits Clay Withrow. When you hear 'prog metal', you think of Dream Theater, Opeth, maybe something more esoteric such as Spastic Ink, but generally not like this. Clay Withrow has a superficial resemblance to one of those: I'd describe them as being like Dream Theater if Dream Theater were, you know, good. But I'd say that the music here is 'progressive' in a way that's much more like an artist such as As Light Dies; technical, but not overly so, and progressive in the amount of layers and contrasting rhythms and melodies that are going on at any given moment. Additionally, Clay Withrow can actually write songs, not just elaborate exercises, immediately thrusting this band to the top of the prog metal heap in one movement.
There are elements from various genres here: power metal, a bit of gothic, a pinch of industrial, plenty of prog rock/metal, but just a set of ingredients doesn't really express what the band does as a whole. A lot of the music here is quite soft and unmetallic; the general emphasis is on keyboard and vocal melodies, with guitars acting as a supporting element rather than riff factories. There are comparatively violent and aggressive parts, such as at the beginning of 'Proxima Centauri', but the tracks are generally rather mellow and gently introspective, like 'The Grinding Part One'. The melodies aren't light and fluffy, but somewhat dark and emotional in the vein of Evergrey. This is an overpoweringly melodic album: guitars, keyboards and vocals overpower everything during the heavier portions, with a drum presence that's very subdued, almost to the point of inaudibility, with only the faintest traces of bass and snare keeping rhythm for the rest of the band to build upon.
Keyboards in the form of twinkling electronic sounds or more traditional piano effects are very frequently used, combining with small, reverbed clean guitar lines for the sections that are most like Dream Theater. The more aggressive riffing is strangely distorted and seemingly raw: the sounds of hands on fretboards are left in, and the tremolo that occasionally occurs comes in flurries of low, dark chords, played almost like black metal but without the distinct melodies. Contrasting soft and heavy parts are used, but in a rather natural way, with gentle Cynic-derived melodies alternating with tumultuous, stormy displays of conflict very nicely. Clean vocals are powerful and lack any sort of doubt or awkwardness, moving from placidity to aggression in a clean and organic fashion, with emotional displays being realistic and not laced with hints of melodrama like so many other prog artists.
The album's flaws are primarily a matter of degree. Much of the album is not particularly memorable, and its lack of inherent abrasiveness allows it to fall into background noise rather easily. While the songwriting is good, it's not the best we've ever heard, though it is very strong for a debut release. Some metalheads may be turned off by the lack of percusiveness in the general sound, and of the production which doesn't have quite as severe a punch as your average DM record. People who hate Dream Theater may like this, as long as they hate that band for specifics, and not the genre. Some of the patterns of the album are a bit awkward due to the use of atypical time signatures, but for the most part they're incorporated rather naturally. The technicality of the individual instruments is above average, certainly, but nowhere near your average shred or prog album. Instead, this band relies on a more subtle manipulation of elements to entrance the listener.
For a debut, 'Dissonance Rising' is a very strong prog metal release, even to one such as myself that normally dislikes the genre greatly. This can only indicate to progheads as being even better than I state, so I'd say this release should be investigated by most of you out there. It's powerful and compelling and gets better with every listen.
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