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Vangough - "Manikin Parade" (CD)

Vangough - "Manikin Parade" CD cover image

"Manikin Parade" track listing:

1. Estranger
2. Manikin Parade
3. Christmas Scars
4. Handful of Dreams
5. Disorder Quotient
6. Bricolage Theater
7. Paradise for the Lost (The Twilight Part I: Deception)
8. Gabrielle (The Twilight Part II: Love)
9. Dance of the Summer Mind
10. One Dark Birthday
11. Etude of Sorrow (The Twilight Part III: Oblivion)
12. Halcyon Days

Reviewed by on October 18, 2009

"This extraordinary effort should be worshiped, if not for the sake of its innovation and palatable blend of feels, then for the honest and emotionally evocative nature of the compositions."

Oklahoma City’s Vangough have put out a sure winner in “Manikin Parade,” incorporating all sorts of influences and playing styles into this complex concept album. With a background in video game music, progressive music like The Flower Kings and Pain of Salvation, and even some classic music, Vangough’s lead vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Clay Withrow leads the band down a beautifully winding trail for this album, ensnaring the listener in the immediacy of the music.

Piano, synthesizer, and vocals are at the forefront of Vangough’s blend, with the most impressive element being Withrow’s vocals. With a vocal range rivaling that of metal big-wigs like Sir Russell Allen of Symphony X and Daniel Gildenlöw of Pain of Salvation, Withrow is an engaging vocal talent with an emotional range to be envied. From the near-whispered passages on songs like “Manikin Parade” to ethereal clean singing on “Handful of Dreams,” all the way to the rapid-fire rage-filled passages in “Estranger” and the rising anger of “Disorder Quotient,” Withrow’s vocal theatrics abound. The piano and synthesizers create a bright and energy-filled platform for the vocals, taking the songs from contemplative and intimate lows to mystery and upwards into fury.

The drums sound sequenced, but this doesn’t affect the feel of the album at all. Simple preference will determine if one likes it or not, but the contributions of the drums are notable. Intricately written, they drive with a feel like that of Evergrey’s Jonas Ekdahl and show off the band’s attention to rhythmic dynamics. The bass and guitar are also noteworthy, with top of the line precision and a focus on assisting rather than standing out most of the time. The bass does get brought to the forefront at times, if the feel calls for it.

Vangough have done the equivalent of stuffing a suitcase completely full with the sheer volume of melodic development and musical shifts for this album. Each song carries distinctly divided sections, though these aren’t dwelt on excessively. The range goes from luxuriously soft and delicate moments on tracks like “Dance of the Summer Mind” to the winding, heavy, and noticeably prog moments on “Christmas Scars.” The three-part suite of “The Twilight” highlights the blend of elements, being spread over three tracks – “Paradise for the Lost,” “Gabrielle,” and “Etude of Sorrow.” These are easily the most thought-out and impressive pieces, even smacking at times of the melodic theatrics of The Nightmare Before Christmas.

This extraordinary effort should be worshiped, if not for the sake of its innovation and palatable blend of feels, then for the honest and emotionally evocative nature of the compositions. There’s a sweeping grandiosity in “Manikin Parade” akin to that of a musical. If this album is any sign of what’s to come from Vangough, I’d say this is the birth of a new musical god.

Highs: Spellbinding vocal talent, consistent energy, great-sounding synths, and superb melodic development through the album.

Lows: Drum sound is occasionally lacking in life.

Bottom line: There’s something for everyone in this blend of the heavy, the melodic, the strange, and the theatric. For fans of Pain of Salvation, Dream Theater, and modern progressive metal.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

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)