"Kingdom of Ruin"

By The Sun Jester

Vangough's new album, released by Nightmare Records, is entitled "Kingdom of Ruin". In recent years, the concept album has found new allure among many other bands. Weaned on albums from progressive rock giants like Genesis, ELP, and King Crimson, Vangough's third album is an ambitious, cinematic fantasy about a man torn between the world of men and an alternate world populated and ruled by rabbits. In the wrong hands, this could be ridiculous, but Vangough weaves a compelling story.

The first song, "Disloyal", opens with an eerie intro before launching into a grinding, stuttering riff. It mixes keyboards in such a way that they provide color rather than dominating the song. As openers go, this is a fantastic choice for a number of reasons, but high among them is how it perfectly illustrates Vangough's ability to mingle a wide variety of disparate influences into a seamless whole.  "Choke Faint Drown" is a fine multi-part number with strong lyrics and musical dynamics. A simple piano motif underpins the intense, angst-ridden "Abandon Me", one of the more emotional tracks on the album. The next two songs, "Drained" and the title cut "Kingdom of Ruin", embody the band's best qualities in a dramatic way with their strong use of dynamics. "Frailty" is another superb track, but is a good illustration of how the band packs each song with musical ideas, but loses sight of simplicity and directness.

"The Transformation" is an evocative instrumental mood piece tinged with a hint of darkness. "The Rabbit Kingdom" opens with excellent drumming, keyboards, and synthesizer-laced guitar work. The lyrics  further develop the album's storyline and Clay Withrow's melodic, clear voice shines. "Stay" is one of the best songs on the album. The guitar work in the intro is note perfect and the song moves easily between its strong riffs and melodies. "Sounds of Wonder" is a soft, rhythmically intriguing song  that burrows its way into your consciousness within seconds. It is direct, uncluttered, and speaks to the listener without pretense.  "A Father's Love" is another fascinating tune, nakedly emotional,  and lyrically strong. "Requiem For A Fallen King" is another tune bursting with ambition, but the effort to cover so much musical ground costs the song focus. The melodies and harmony vocals of "An Empire Shattered" invoke Queen, but hold their own individuality. Dropping the dizzying array of musical ideas found in other songs, "Alice" is a gorgeous piano driven tune and one of the album's memorable moments. The epic final song, "The Garden Time Forgot", clocks in at nearly 14 minutes. However, the song is never dull. The extended length gives the band a chance to flex its progressive rock muscle to spectacular effect. It is with this final song that Vangough shows their true forte - lengthy musical pieces that create space for them to stretch out. Despite the rushed quality of some numbers, this is an album of rare ambition.