Album Review: VAN CANTO Dawn of the Brave
The genres of heavy metal have been splintering ever since Iommi hit those first chords forty four years ago. Pseudo industrial hardcore christian dubstep might have become a predictable outcome in 2014, but no one would have guessed where a group like Van Canto would take metal. If someone would have said a cappella power metal was even possible you would have been thought insane less than a decade ago. The voice being the oldest instrument know to human beings, singing without an orchestra, band or otherwise has only been mastered by Gregorian Monks and Barbershop Quartets, and thinking something ‘heavy metal’ could come out of it: that’s just crazy.
Then in 2006 in a little known European country called Germany, Van Canto melded the oldest form of music with the most extreme and the combination worked. At times it sounded like those sounds you used to make in the shower singing along with Kirk Hammett solos in the 80s, but somehow less campy, maybe because they have some serious skills in controlling the sound of their voices. The five members of the vocal portion and a drummer quickly were picked up by a label and swept up for their cover of Metallica’s “Battery,” now sitting at over two and a half million views on youtube.
Van Canto became known for their cover versions of Metallica, Grave Digger, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, and their original material always taking a backseat with the audience. Now on their fifth full length album they have and probably always will struggle to find a niche with people who appreciate their compositions and for that matter their overall approach to their music. Heroic power metal is a fairly narrow genre already, but the novelty of what they do wears thin with people who are not already fans of a cappella music.
On Dawn of the Brave, you find exactly the same thing you have heard on the other four albums, cover versions or Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” Europe’s “The Final Countdown” and even Annie Lennox’s song from Lord of the Rings while the originals seem to fade into the background. Van Canto entertain like no other band, but trouble to find something other than a small base of fans and other curious onlookers who want to hear another cover…which is severely disappointing.
Their vocal talent and ear for harmonies and blending is impeccable. There has never been a more interesting approach to what we call metal; it is unique and inspiring. The way they mix their layers on this record are more intricate and the female lead Inga Scharf has a more prominent role, while the vocal guitar solos and the rakkatakka vocals feel less noticeable and more instrumental than previous albums. If you are a fan like I am, this is just another mark on the bedpost, but newcomers will at least get a good Bonnie Tyler cover, because everyone is “Holding Out for a Hero.“