VANGOUGH – Kingdom Of Ruin (2011)

VANGOUGH - Kingdom Of Ruin (2011)


“Kingdom Of Ruin” is the 3rd album from the Oklahoma based band Vangough.

Where I’ve been that never heard about them? If you don’t know them by now, I urge you to not miss this masterpiece.

They combine so many elements to create such a highly unique sound that it’s hard to put into mere words. Vangough bring together prog, metal, hard rock, and plenty of other styles into play to continuously keep things interesting.

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.

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.

This ambitious two-part album is designed in the typical dark/light fashion, with the first half being significantly heavier and darker. The arrangements are labyrinthine and complex, rife with crunch-filled guitar workout. Densely layered key motifs creep mistily into the mix, underscoring the songs’ most pivotal moments as well as Clay Withrow’s emotive vocals.

Some guitar sounds are truly amazing, as on opener “Disloyal” where the counterpoint with the syncopated drumming is terrific.

On some songs, the vocals seem to be deliberately mixed a little higher in order to shine more prominently, especially following the intense instrumental breakdowns. That is why the ‘choruses’ of “Choke Faint Drown” and “Abandon Me” stand out better, given the pulverizing guitar riffs dominating the entire mix.

It’s not all mindless shred and full-on aggression, though. “Drained” juxtaposes heavy passages with crystalline vocal lines, setting them against a powerful guitar arrangement and a classic rock-like guitar solo. This is the band at their creative best. The song retains its heavy and melodic focus throughout while constantly bringing in new elements, and the melodies are awesome.

The vocals in the title track “Kingdom Of Ruin” are out of this world. Withrow sings over a simple piano theme and crippling guitar crescendo, utilizing his theatrical style. The synth tone achieved here is hypnotically beautiful, too.

The other half of the album sees the band toning things down in favour of more symphonic progressive rock. Songs here are a lot slower paced, with instrumental parts bringing forth more focused melodic constructs, shifts in dynamics, and changes in tempo.

The lullaby-like singing in the intro of “The Rabbit Kingdom” is possibly Withrow’s finest moment yet. I never listened something like this before. He does go back to his ‘regular’ singing halfway into the piece, delivering a heart-wrenching finale.

“An Empire Shattered” offers some big riffs and heavy moments, but still has a crisp, even catchy, melodic rock feel with some Queen influences.

Ballads like “A Father’s Love” and the beautifully arranged “Alice” blend dark melodies with sublime pianos and acoustic guitars.

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.

I was truly hooked with Vangough’s “Kingdom Of Ruin” at first listen. It offers a high degree of creativity and complexity, yet without sacrificing immense entertainment.

Everything here is captivating, immense. The songwriting and construction of the story comes from an authentic talented artist. Buy you can simply enjoy these tremendous songs randomly.

The band’s unique style combines the best of both worlds.

There’s plenty of of heavy guitar riffs and tight solos to compliment the sky-high melodies, and the synth arrangements really accentuate the grandiose feel and atmosphere.

On the other side, there is plenty of room for sublime acoustic guitars, soaring harmonies and melodic guitar solos. Or they blend both, with insane drum parts and rapid-fire vocal attacks with a sweet Irish whistle.

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.

Highly Recommended.

01. Disloyal

02. Choke Faint Drown

03. Abandon Me

04. Drained

05. Kingdom Of Ruin

06. Frailty

07. The Transformation

08. The Rabbit Kingdom

09. Stay

10. Sounds Of Wonder

11. A Father’s Love

12. Requiem For A Fallen King

13. An Empire Shattered

14. Alice

15. The Garden Time Forgot

Clay Withrow / vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards

Brandon Lopez / drums

Corey Mast / keyboards

Jeren Martin / bass


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