"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Vangough - "Acoustic Scars" (CD/EP)

Vangough - "Acoustic Scars" CD/EP cover image

"Acoustic Scars" track listing:

1. Leaving Bricolage
2. A Song for Crows
3. Throne of Rust
4. The Rabbit Chronicles
5. Road To Blighttown

Reviewed by on February 27, 2013

"'Acoustic Scars' proves that the band is on a roll, and stands up as a fine stripped-down portrait of the band."

Finding someone who looks great naked is about as challenging as finding songs that give the same impression when stripped to their essential acoustic parts. That being said, Vangough has stepped up and stripped down onto the pedestal in the middle of the room for a nude portrait with "Acoustic Scars." In the tradition of Pain of Salvation's "12:5" and Green Carnation's "The Acoustic Verses," Vangough does more than just switch from electric instruments to acoustic, opting to join wholly disconnected passages together and rearrange other songs to form unique new songs.

"Leaving Bricolage" is essentially a scene-setting ambient track with the added bonus of an arranged string quartet by Justus Johnston. Backing nature sounds paint a stark landscape to set the mood for "A Song for Crows," which takes from the album, "Manikin Parade" (reviewed here) and expands on it. Whereas the guitars got a spotlight on that album, percussionist Kyle Haws, cellist Jose Palacios, and violinist Justus Johnston audibly shine in this new setting, giving the feel of a Louisiana funeral dirge at times. Halfway through, the song picks up pace with a bit of a gypsy feel.

After the 10-and-a-half minute ode to "Manikin Parade," a fun breather track is necessary. "Throne of Rust" is actually the 2nd re-working that the band has recorded of the Mega Man 2 classic "Wily's Castle," which also ends up sounding like the Gerudo Valley theme from Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. For fans of both video games and straight-forward instrumental folk music, this is a win-win anyway you slice it. With the added hand percussion, it's even dance-able.

"The Rabbit Chronicles" sums up the latter part of Vangough's recent album, "Kingdom of Ruin" (reviewed here), with the merger of several songs into one cohesive tale. Bassist Jeren Martin takes a solo near the middle, as the string section and a variety of instruments move the song through what feels like chapters of a story. The strength of the musical themes on that album shows through with an amped-up re-entrance towards the end, leaving off with campfire and wolf sounds to again set the mood.

"Road to Blighttown" ends the EP with a serene natural seaside ambience that is slowly poisoned by subtle ominous piano murmurs, minor-tone string section bits, and barely audible singing in the distance. Choosing to end like this suggests that the band intended it to be an ellipsis of sorts, to be picked up on with a future release. With air-tight songs that can stand on their own and even join forces with other songs, there's no reason the band should stop now. "Acoustic Scars" proves that the band is on a roll, and stands up as a fine stripped-down portrait of the band.

Highs: The air-tight merging of themes from the band's earlier songs into completely new songs.

Lows: Those who need electric instruments can skip this release entirely.

Bottom line: Progressive metal gets naked.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)