Thursday, March 16, 2017

Album Review: Vangough - Warpaint

The world of progressive metal is weird right now. The big names on the scene have been releasing albums that I find completely boring, at best, and the underground isn't coming up with a string of great new bands to take their place. Between Dream Theater writing the most childish concept album in recent memory, and bands like Leprous and Haken making albums that are cold and melodically devoid, progressive metal is in a dark place. It seems there is no alternative other than writing mechanical music that sounds like it would appeal more to machines than people. I don't know what is causing that, but it does make me nervous whenever progressive metal is now in the on-deck circle.

Vangough is a band that flies under the radar often. I did review their previous album when it came out, and I heard in that enough promise to make it a point to see how they have evolved.

"Morphine" gets us off to that kind of mechanical start, with two minutes of music that cycles through rhythmic exercises, which are the kinds of riffs that I have never believed can carry a song. That style of guitar playing requires a highly melodic and memorable vocal performance, since it's hard to memorize and hum a rhythm. The vocal sections of the song don't do that, though, as the delivery for the first two minutes is slow and flat. The slow and heavy riff that then serves to anchor the screaming is fine, but it doesn't work as the main hook of a song. It fits in with the popularity of a band like Gojira, but since I've never understood their appeal, I don't get it here either.

What's frustrating to me about Vangough is that there is obvious talent in the band, but they don't seem to ever hone in on a style that is their own. At times, they try to play a technical style of progressive metal, then they switch to the more modern chunky rhythm style, and at other times they try to be the slow and emotional band that Pain Of Salvation uses as an excuse for their lackluster songwriting. There never seems to be any heart to these songs, no reason for them to exist. If you asked me why Vangough made this record, I couldn't tell you.

Often, I think progressive bands think that just because they don't want to adhere to the conventions, they don't have to write compelling songs. The technicality, or the scope, are supposed to be entertaining enough on their own.

They aren't.

"Warpaint" proves this through each of its songs. In this amalgamation of modern progressive metal styles, we get a little taste of why each one is mediocre on its own. Combined, it makes for an album that has nothing at all memorable about it. The riffs fade away, the melodies were never there, and even the muted colors on the album cover are soon to be but a memory. "Warpaint" isn't squandered opportunity; it's an album that never had a chance.

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