One of my favorite bands is Tool, and for the love of all that’s good and pure put an album out already, boys! Okay, we know it isn’t happening soon, so we must clutch and grab at every band that shows up flying the Tool flag. Last year Source surprised us with a great record, loved by our own ZephyrusVangough strides forth this month with similar aspirations. Warpaint is the trio’s fourth studio album, and third overall to feature a rabbit on the cover. I mention that only because rabbit covers are weird. I mean, what normal band uses rabbits? But I digress. Let’s get to it, and see what these rabbit-lovers can pull out of their hats.

“Morphine” starts Warpaint off in a rather odd fashion, with a meandering, discordant intro leading into a fuzz-drenched, lurching riff. Is this prog metal or sludgy doom? Two minutes into the track it grinds to a halt, replaced with airy vocals and wispy guitars. Vocalist/guitarist Clay Withrow seems to be heavily influenced by Maynard James Keenan and Daniel Gildenlow, with the timbre and tone of the former and the emotion of the latter soaking into his delivery. He’s got a compelling style, which makes the odd intro even less relevant –after a dozen listens, I’m convinced “Morphine” would be a stronger song without the intro. But another odd aspect of the song is the death growls at the six-minute mark. They appear nowhere else on the album, and aren’t worth writing home about. The good thing about them is they lead into a pure Tool riff that closes out the song. All told, a puzzling, uneven, yet enticing start.

Thankfully, most other songs on this seven-song, 52-minute outing aren’t as confused about themselves. “Dust” is a moody cross (as most of Warpaint is) between Pain of Salvation and Tool. The arrangement, courtesy of Withrow and bassist Jeren Martin, keeps us engaged throughout as the vocals and music gradually intensify over Kyle Haws’ rhythmic tom rolls. Much like “Morphine,” the song ends with a jagged Tool riff with great guitar tone. “The Suffering” charges out with pummeling double-bass and a galloping riff which morphs into true heavy prog via an odd time signature before dropping into an acoustic verses, and then back to the gallop. “Knell” is a foreboding number that builds throughout its six minutes without following conventional song structure. Plenty of dynamics reside within all these cuts.

The most visible misstep on Warpaint is “Till Nothing’s Left,” which comes across as heartland rock and is so far off base compared to the rest of the album that, were it not for the overall sound, I would have sworn this was another band playing. Aside from the excellent guitar solo that closes out the song, including it was a huge mistake, and is an example for other bands not to follow: don’t include filler, even if you’re short on songs. Luckily that’s as bad as it gets: the production is thick and full of substance. Vocals are well produced and sit in the mix right where they should be. Individual instruments all have excellent sound as well, and the three musicians’ chops hold up under scrutiny. Really, Vangough have put together a great sounding record.

Vangough are definitely onto something here, and it seems a bit strange to me that they don’t have label backing yet, four albums in. Think a grittier Pain of Salvation, or earthier Tool, with songwriting just a step behind those bands, and you’ve got an idea of what they’re all about. The missteps aren’t completely awful on Warpaint, but with only seven songs they can prove costly. I can’t locate info on who produced this, but with a firmer guiding hand helping the band out with song choice and editing, I have a feeling they could produce a real gem.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Websites: vangough.bandcamp.com  | officialvangough.com | facebook.com/officialvangough/
Releases Worldwide: March 17th, 2017

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  • Having seen them live and listened to a few of their discs, they always struck me as a poor man’s Pain of Salvation. Not a bad thing, but more of an imitator than anything. This new one seems more promising, though.

  • The song doesn’t sound too bad, but the kick sound is terrible. It’s bad enough to make me not want to hear the rest of the album.

    • Choodi

      It’s like a stalk of wet celery hitting a plastic bucket.

      • METAL OTTER

        Look at the cover art! It’s probably a wet carrot.

        • Choodi

          Totally missed the album cover. I was a hare’s breath away from a great joke.

          • METAL OTTER

            There are no new jokes these days I’m afraid – everything is burrowed.

      • A Feed From Cloud Mountain

        Vegan drum pedals? You might be on to something there, could even double as a mid-set snack.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    The only Metal album featuring a rabbit on it’s cover I can think of is “Rabbit Don’t Come Easy” by Helloween. But I don’t consider them to be a normal band. There’s no way a normal band would name their album “Pink Bubbles Go Ape”.

    • Diego Molero

      Paegan Terrorism Tactics! Acid Bath certainly isn’t a normal band.

      • h_f_m

        When the Kite String Pops would probably be one of the 20 albums I brought to a deserted island.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        You nailed it in the head! Twice!

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    They should have used jackalopes instead of rabbits if only because jackalopes have antlers and it seems antlers are becoming the new standard for Metal covers.
    And by the way, let’s hope this doesn’t become Album Of The Month. It would be really lame to have the man bun replaced by some rabbit.

    • Serjien

      We are still waiting for February rotm, so there is still a chance!

      • DLobo

        Feb is taken by Son

        • DLobo

          SOEN

          • Serjien

            We will see. I feel like Black Sites might get the nod!

    • GardensTale

      You’ve seen the rain of 4.0s and 4.5s this month. This album has a snow hare’s chance in hell to become Album of the Month.

  • Ivan E. Rection

    Not even sure that song even contains an actual riff. Sure is a crappy kick drum though. This is a hare too weak for me.

    • Name’s Dalton

      So for you, this doesn’t warren a repeat listen.

  • Tom Hardy

    – 4 for the lack of a better name the band came up with. Really Van, that’s all you could think of? Which leaves us with + 2 for effort. Speaking of effort, I also did listen to their song called Morphine and chuckled every time the vocalist switched to growls *clap clap* yes, try to be brutal and give it that feeling *clap clap* it’s so bad it’s good.

    Must give props to their head-tilt coordination in the embedded band picture.

    • Huck N’ Roll

      The death growls were a bad idea. Thankfully, he didn’t try them again.

      • basenjibrian

        he growls a little bit more (but not really death growls, more a “I’ve got a chest cold” thing) in the earlier albums.
        I am liking this more than some of the commenters, though.
        But tastes differ quite a bit (Although AMG usually doesn’t steer me wrong!).
        Can’t really see, for example, all the excitement over our current Record of the Month, Black Sites. Just can’t “get it” yet. Seems like boring album oriented rock like I used to hear on Midwestern radio in 1985. Oh well

        • Tom Hardy

          Aye, I can’t agree with any of the month’s picks. Not a single album.

  • Never underestimate the power of a rabbit. Remember the great wizard known as Tim? HE TRIED TO WARN US!!!

    • GWW

      He is a fierce bunny rabbit!

    • By-tor

      Best movie of all time.

  • herrschobel

    haha….that cover is gold…nice review mate

    • Hulksteraus

      I keep thinking Bellamy has turned to the dark side…

  • hallowed

    Night of the Lepus.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    This is the worst band name since “Calm Hatchery” WTF were you thinking guys?!?!

  • GWW

    This band doesn’t sound one ounce like Tool. WTF are you babbling about!? There isn’t enough good metal just in the last year that doesn’t stop you from whining about lack of Tool, whose last album sucked snails?! And wtf is wrong with that kick drum!? I can feel it my throat, which is fucking weird.

  • Feytalist

    I dunno… that album cover reminds me of Watership Down, which is a pretty damn brutal story in itself. Perfect for a metal album, I feel.

    Plus it’s pretty. What’s not to like?

  • Tofu muncher

    their 2011 and 2015 albums have a rabbit on the cover, so I guess it’s a thing for them. This one has one with two bunnies: busy rabbit?

  • naoto

    Listened to a couple of tunes. Reminds me Pain of Salvation and A Perfect Circle. And that’s the best part of the thing. Music is quite boring, with no peaks at all.