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Vangough - "Between The Madness" (CD)

Vangough - "Between The Madness" CD cover image

"Between The Madness" track listing:

1. Afterfall
2. Alone
3. Separation
4. Infestation
5. Schizophrenia
6. Between The Madness
7. Vaudeville Nation
8. O Sister
9. Thy Flesh Consumed
10. Useless
11. Depths of Blighttown
12. Corporatocracy

Reviewed by on October 16, 2013

"'Into the dark I take you,' Withrow jabs at us. Make sure your seatbelts are securely fastened."

Over the last two full-length albums leading up to this, the band’s most important release, one thing is strikingly clear: Vangough has been eating their Wheaties. Whereas the last album couldn't find its center of gravity despite merits and high replay value, "Between The Madness" bridges the gap between Vangough's left brain and right brain. Moreover, the band feels much more balanced with the addition of drummer Kyle Haws. Further, it sounds like mastermind Clay Withrow had pushed himself beyond his limits to expand the Vangough tone palate.

On the “Acoustic Scars” EP, Withrow developed a vocal technique that finds full maturation on "Between The Madness:” the rage-sing. Almost a yell, but neither a scream nor a simple vocal fry and free of any pitch interference, Withrow's rage-sing makes the lyrical intent as clear as it can be. The album offers bile to many parties, lyrically, and puts the listener behind a sometimes uncomfortable but necessary first-person perspective: any other perspective simply would not do justice to the intent. Vangough has always been more effective at conveying feelings than telling stories, but never before had the songs had such a natural novel-like flow to them. All the while, Withrow peppers his versatile clean singing with elaborate layers of harmony and polyphony, making for subtly different listening experiences each time.

The overall sound hasn't drastically changed, and even shows some musical nods to prior songs. In "Vaudeville Nation," a scathing condemnation of a track, a clever link is established with "Mannikin Parade" around 4:28. The main melody of the latter is re-introduced on guitars in a straight-played manner. Later in the song, a similar "Mannikin Parade" vocal melody emerges in the line "...and burn the circus to the ground," and up through the yell following it. Further, continuing the storyline started with "Road To Blighttown" on the “Acoustic Scars” EP, "Depths of Blighttown" adds a fitting dark and ominous chapter to the story.

The added input from Haws and bassist Jeren Martin have made the songs seem more logical, acting as balancing forces. The drumming style of Haws is noticeably organized, nuanced, and thought-out and could be accurately categorized as a blend of the styles of Lamb of God's Chris Adler, Opeth-era Martin Lopez, and Pain of Salvation-era Johan Langell. The mixing job by Sterling Winfield is a stunning step forward for the band as well, and the drum sound is particularly remarkable for its bright, punchy, but balanced character. Lead guitarist Jay Gleason makes several shred-tastic appearances to accentuate the technicality of Vangough's instrumentation, while Justus Johnston and Jose Palacios make appearances on strings to further amplify the feeling of the songs and add a superb creep factor touching on Resident Evil levels at times.

No song feels out of place or unessential, with "Infestation," "Schizophrenia," "Vaudeville Nation," "Useless," and "Corporatocracy" as highlights. The dynamic growth between “Kingdom of Ruin” and “Between The Madness” makes this album out to be Vangough's “Blackwater Park,” what many will no doubt cite as the band’s seminal record. Put simply, there has never been a better time to jump off of whatever progressive metal train you've been on and ride with Vangough. "Into the dark I take you," Withrow jabs at us. Make sure your seatbelts are securely fastened.

Highs: The album feels like a perfect fulfillment of all of its goals, with no hiccups from start to finish.

Lows: The Blighttown story isn't made clear, though it is developed in name and musical themes.

Bottom line: A nuanced and twisted progressive metal journey through fragility and contempt.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 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)