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Vangough - Manikin Parade - 70%

ConorFynes, April 11th, 2011

The brainchild of American musician Clay Withrow, progressive metal band Vangough's debut album 'Manikin Parade' is certainly one that begs to be listened to by fans of the genre. As professional a recording as any other you're likely to find in progressive metal, the album was released independently by Withrow, and it is clear from the first track onwards that the creation of this album was made with blood and sweat. While by all means a very good progressive metal album however, each song makes it quite clear that Vangough is plagued by a lack of originality in their music that detracts from the enjoyment of the music. Had I never listened to Pain of Salvation before though, I have no doubt that I would love this album dearly.

Passing the seventy-five minute mark, 'Manikin Parade' is a very complex first album, filled with leitmotifs and themes that recur throughout the course of the album. It does feel as if some of the ideas drag on long past their prime, but the songwriting is generally very good on its own. Dark guitar lines, synthesized ambiance and powerful vocal melodies are the order of the day, although 'Manikin' is certain to throw a couple of less heavy tracks in for good measure. The album begins with what is possibly my favourite offering on the record; 'Estranger'. A non-conventional time signature leads a surprisingly melodic foray into the world of Vangough, led by the ever-powerful vocals of Withrow. Everything here is played with precision and a degree of emotional power to it, but Clay's vocals here are arguably the best part of the sound here. A singer who can effortlessly switch between a dark lower register to showcasing a falsetto wail is great to have in a progressive metal band's arsenal.

Where the issues in 'Manikin Parade' start arising is that while listening, I never feel as if I'm listening to a fresh new band. Instead (and perhaps to Vangough's credit), it feels as if I'm listening to an unreleased Pain of Salvation album, maybe circa their 'Remedy Lane' period. Everything from the vocals to the melodic guitars and even slight nu-metal rap moments gives me the impression from 'Estranger' onwards that Vangough seeks to be little more than a Pain of Salvation clone. While the band is certainly not alone in the genre infamous for having legions of groups trying to recreate the magic of a few giants, the Pain of Salvation tribute runs deep through everything the band does, to the point where I wonder if Withrow was consciously trying to do this.

Don't get the wrong impression; 'Manikin Parade' is a great album. Although a bit long for its own good, Vangough creates a very dynamic and engaging piece of material here, that may have been a contender for consideration as a masterpiece, were it not so derivative. Based on their artistic potential, I can only hope that Withrow takes the talent that he so evidently has, and crafts something more distinctive with the next album.