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Vangough's Watershed Album - 87%

CreatorOfCobwebs, March 18th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, Digital, Independent (Amazon)

Warpaint is an album that took me by surprise. I had been a big fan of their previous full length Between the Madness for a few years now, and found out about this album while scrolling through the new releases on the 17th. This is an album that seems calculated. It's the kind of work where the influences are obvious (Pain of Salvation is the usual suspect for them, but I have a feeling their lineup has also been listening to a lot of Leprous and Opeth, with a hint of Alice in Chains showing up in the vocal harmonies) at the same time, it sounds distinctly like them. It is a concept album, but in a looser sense. This is an album about facing the death of a dream, with some healthy frustration about the state of society mixed in. Clay Withrow, Vangough's primary songwriter has stated in an interview recently he was frustrated by the poor performance of the last album, and his music career in general. Since Between the Madness he has taken on a corporate job and feels as though he has to let go of his desire to make it.

These emotions are well represented in the music. At times frantically, and others at a sludgy pace. The pace of the album is well represented by the opening track, where a glittery (but rather familiar) arpeggio over a creeping bassline gives way to a syncopated breakdown. Vocal delivery throughout this album switches between frustrated and gritty upper register belting, to more somber soft laments, to more traditional fully harmonized choruses, and yes, to death growls rarely. The feel of this album is at once completely dejected and triumphantly defiant. The music, when heavy has a good mix of simple chords over a rhythm and nasty guitar riffs. Nothing is particularly standout in terms of skill. This is not a virtuoso album, and really it wouldn't fit. Guitar solos aim toward simpler and bluesier than shreddy. There are chops, but that isn't what grabs you. There is a lot of melody in this album. Each song is packed with singable (but not in a cheesy way) parts across all instruments. The drumming is at times simpler, but will surprise you with some interesting fills just when you start to get bored. The dynamics are very interesting, across tracks there is clearly a good amount of different ideas coming to the forefront, but they all feel cohesive. Track transitions are not very noticeable, it tends to feel like one piece.

It isn't all rainbows. The mix at times gets a little muddy. Some of the solos are really low in the mix, which frustrated me. Some of the songs overuse sections (but on the flip side of that, there are prominent themes that are well variated). This is a moody and at times sappy album. If that isn't something you enjoy, this album might not be for you. It isn't a perfect album, but if you're a fan of their influences you're sure to love this offering. Altogether whether you've heard them before, or this is your first time listening, give Vangough's Warpaint a shot if you like groovy progressive rock with clean vocals that decided to get lost in the mud of metal.