Review Summary: Is a capella power metal really a good idea?
Opinions on the band Van Canto seem to be very split. On one end, it's a comedically bad premise that is only good to listen to for the laughs. On the other end of the stick, there are people who find this a very unique and original sound that is sadly underappreciated. I am one of those people
After listening to Break the Silence, despite not being the best the band has to offer, Van Canto quickly earned my respect. They actually found a way to make a capella and heavy metal fuse into a surprisingly good discography laden with good covers, epic sounds, and stuff you can rarely find in other bands.
The album opens with very well harmonized singing from the whole band that turns into the main gimmick of the band. The "dum dum dum" vocals in the background replace instruments as the female co-lead vocalist takes over. This beautiful intro explodes into great, power metal goodness, yet they only real instrument in use is drums. At the very least they have that. I don't think beatboxing would be a good replacement for drums.
The lyrics of "If I Die in Battle" are cheesy, medeval, war song lyrics as you hear in a lot of power metal, but by the time the chorus hits, most people have decided to either leave this band behind, or continue on to see what else they have to offer.
Admittedly, "Seller of Souls" isn't one of the best songs on the album. The opening sounds kinda silly with the higher pitched "bum bums" and is. . . even more silly to try and explain now that I think about it. The cheesiness in the lyrics is also somewhat overwhelming, lead vocalist Igna Scharf's background vocals sound a bit off, and the music video for this song portrays the male lead vocalist punching what appears to be floating mounds of bubbles from a bubble bath. The chorus still manages to be catchy and fun though. Not a bad track, just somwhat ridiculous in some areas.
Adding to the large pile of covers this band has done, and the first of four on this album, "Primo Victoria" is one of the best this album has to offer. The a capella vocals combined with the tribal sounding drums comingle very well, and the adition of Joakim Broden, vocalist for Sabaton
who originally played this song, and his deep, heavily accented vocals greatly add to the vision of war this song portrays. It somewhat makes me wish Joakim was the full time vocalist for this band. He really overpowers the lead singer and overall does a better job than he ever did.
"Dangers in my Head" is probably the weakest song on the album. The lyrics aren't catchy, are very monotone at times, and the chorus doesn't even sound like it fits to the music at points. The song doesn't really pick up until the bridge, where the epic background vocals really pick up and make it much more fun to listen to. Overall, a pretty forgetable song, and the album could have lived without it.
I've personally never heard of Fading Starlight
, so I can't really compare their cover of "Black Wings of Hate" to the original. From the sound of it, it's a pretty decent cover, though it wasn't a great idea to have Inga to do the whole song. She's not a bad singer, it's just that she does a much better job in the background. The a capellas really make this song listenable though. They're dark and pretty well done. It's still worth a listen.
. . .An Alice Cooper cover?
When I saw this, I just shrugged and said "Okay." It's kinda odd for a band that does mostly covers of power metal and thrash metal songs about war and supernatural stuff to cover a song about sex from one of Alice Cooper's earlier glam metal albums.
Ignoring the fact that it's about as out of place as a southern metal song would be on a power album, the song actually sounds pretty awesome. It's at a slightly faster tempo than the original, and I think that was a good choice. Having it any slower would sound awkward. It's heavy, and pretty easy to headbang to. It's not very sexy though. That has been completely erraticated by the a capella vocals and the attempt to make it sound more epic. Unless you're making love while riding a dragon, don't put this song on, and if you ARE making love on a dragon. . .you are the coolest motherf***r alive and you deserve a medal. . .So yeah, good song.
"Spelled in Waters" has an actual guitar in it, provided by Marcus Siepen of Blind Guardian
, for those who may be getting tired of the entirely a capella sound. It's a slow, and a rather pretty sounding song. It was a very good idea to have someone actually play acoustics on this song. Having it done through voices would have ruined the mood. I find this song enjoyable. Nothing mindblowing, but a nice break from the heavier songs.
"Neuer Wind" is sung entirely in the band's native language of German. If I wasn't so bad at singing along to foreign language songs, I would be singing this in my head all the time. It's catchy and just a fun song. It's got a nice rhythm and is something you can listen to and just bob your head to and smile.
"The Higher Flight" is fast, heavy, and catchy. Another great high point to the album. The chorus can easily get in your head and stay there for a while. The bridge quiets the song a little but, but is still equally as epic as the rest of the song.
The final song is the second Manowar cover this band has done. "Master of the Wind" adds another instrument in the form of a piano. It closes the album on a slower note. Inga is on lead vocals on this song again, but she does a much better job in this song than she did on "Black Wings of Hate." I don't know what she did different, but she just sounds much more tolerable and pleasant to listen to. This cover still pales in comparison to their cover of "Kings of Metal" on their Hero album.
It feels like I complained a lot in this review, but this album really is great and continues the streak of Van Canto's creative and interesting music, but your ability to enjoy this band may vary. You may listen and be immersed into their epic sound, or maybe you'll just laugh your ass off and never listen to them again. Personally, I'm just waiting to see what one of my favorite bands is going to come up with next.