If you'd care for a good idea of what's meant by 'progmetal', the band Vangough is a great place to start. Along the lines of Queensryche, Savatage, and Dream Theater, Clay Withrow (guitarist, writer, singer, engineer, producer) has put together a powerful quartet delivering the goods with cabaretic grace, visceral punch, and highly intelligent arrangements. Drummer Brandon Lopez is another musician who plays a huge shade away from the role of mere drummer, treading Moon / Peart paths rather than Bonham thud and blunk. Keyboardist Abe Hartly stands well as a subtle and atmospheric colorationist, and bassist/violist/cellist Carlton Dorsey understands the role of nuanced bass structures quite well indeed—like skinsman Lopez, he's not content just to keep time.
Manikin Parade is screaming social satire and critique along the lines of Queensryche's magnificent Operation Mindcrime, though the narrator operates much more causally as versus the tragedian Mindcrime's very fucked up protagonist. Withrow's more the dramatic and affective singer than, say, Dream Theater's James LaBrie, and his frequent punctuatorial asides remind one very much of Geoff Tate, Alice Cooper (a la Welcome to my Nightmare & DaDa), and Jon Oliva. Beyond that, his guitar expertise is a combination of the artfully restrained, ostinatically emphatic, and vaultingly rebellious. In terms of energy, though, when Vangough's cranked, step back.
Don't know if *Manikin*'s song cycle was meant to be an "opera" but it certainly holds that aspec. The sentiments are unapologetically and strongly Left, with freedom and the country's current conservative decadences the center of concern. Withrow takes on everything from Catholic priests to the cult of personality to Scientology (whoops, guess he won't be invited to join Return to Forever any time soon!), excoriating the hypocrisies and outrages implanted deeply within all and sundry. Each piece of this hypnotic puzzle fits together with its brothers and sisters like an exotic Faberge egg of a tapestry woven from molybdenum and blast furnaces. If you're a fan of high-art progmetal, Manikin Parade already has a space reserved in your collection—you just don't know it yet. But you will.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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