VAN CANTO
Power Metal • Germany

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Van Canto is an a capella metal band from Germany since 2006. It is comprised of five singers and a drummer. Two of the singers, Sly (Philip Dennis Schunke) and Inga Scharf sing lead vocals, whilst Ross Thompson, Ingo Sterzinger and Stefan Schmidt use their voices to imitate the instrumentation. Such vocals are usually named as rakkatakka vocals. From a metal perspective the band can be considered as a power metal act.

In 2006, the band released its debut album, A Storm to Come, through General Schallplatten. It features seven original tracks, as well as cover versions of Metallica's Battery and Stora Rövardansen from the movie Ronja Rövardotter.

Van Canto has since gone on to release a further four studio albums, each including a mix of original songs and cover versions. Songs covered include Iron Maiden's Fear of the Dark, Nightwish's Wishmaster, Grave Digger's Rebellion, Blind Guardian's The Bard's Song: In
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Break the SilenceBreak the Silence
Napalm Records 2011
Audio CD$8.98
$14.57 (used)
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Napalm Records 2014
Audio CD$13.14
$18.25 (used)
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Napalm Records 2010
Audio CD$6.68
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Napalm Records 2010
Audio CD$8.58
$6.25 (used)
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Napalm Records 2010
Audio CD$6.10
$5.11 (used)
Capella MetalCapella Metal
Import
Imports 2011
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$35.87 (used)
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Import
Loen Ent Korea 2012
Audio CD$13.14
$24.72 (used)
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VAN CANTO Discography

VAN CANTO albums / top albums

.. Album Cover 2.87 | 4 ratings
A Storm To Come
Power Metal 2006
.. Album Cover 3.36 | 4 ratings
Hero
Power Metal 2008
.. Album Cover 3.03 | 4 ratings
Tribe Of Force
Power Metal 2010
.. Album Cover 2.14 | 4 ratings
Break the Silence
Power Metal 2011
.. Album Cover 2.67 | 2 ratings
Dawn of the Brave
Power Metal 2014

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.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Metal A Capella
Power Metal 2011

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VAN CANTO Reviews

VAN CANTO Dawn of the Brave

Album · 2014 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Gallifrey
Novelty Music, Part II

This is the first Van Canto album I have heard, and it’s likely to be the last. I found Van Canto through In Legend, a band who they have been closely involved with, even collaborating on one track, and a band who share the same novelty appeal that Van Canto have. You see, In Legend are a ‘piano metal’ band, replacing all guitars and bass with piano, whereas Van Canto do their ‘a cappella metal’ shtick, with the weird vocals and dumb ‘soloing’. But the reason I came here wasn’t because of the novelty factor, it was more because I actually thought that Dawn of the Brave might house some decent music. Ballads 'n' Bullets certainly did, and In Legend proved that it wasn’t just the ‘piano metal’ factor that made them stand out, they were legitimately talented songwriters, and the songs on that album were legitimately good. But I honestly can’t say the same about Dawn of the Brave.

But let’s compare these two bands, because I really think that In Legend have made one of the best ‘novelty’ records I’ve ever heard, and yet this is a pretty embarrassing affair. There’s obviously going to be some bias, because you can be proficient at piano and it will sound great, yet try being proficient at imitating rhythm guitar with vocals and you’ll get laughed out of the room. And I did laugh, regularly. Some of the sounds they sing to imitate guitars are just fucking hilarious, and there’s literally no way I could ever take any of it seriously. The way they intercut the ‘tense’ intro track with “bum bum bum bumabum bum” just makes me crack up. And yes, I know that Van Canto’s music is hardly to be taken seriously, but In Legend do the same style of hilarity with their ‘palm muted’ octave power chords, but at least some of the tracks on that record have soul, I’m not just laughing at them

But I completely realise that I’m barking up the wrong tree in a way – Van Canto are a joke band and they make that incredibly clear. This is not music to be taken seriously, and the band knows that and makes their music in a bit of a joke-ish way to make sure no one does. I mean, “Badaboom” (named after what the rhythm guitars are singing) is a completely laughable song, ridiculous in every way. I’m sure some people would chuckle at it, or enjoy it realising that the band had lots of fun making it (which I don’t deny), but when I hear it, I want to crawl up in a cocoon and die of embarrassment. Even worse is “Steel Breaker”, one of the most uncomfortable and cringeworthy songs I have ever heard, mostly due to the rhythm guitars’ “BREEEE DOOM A NOM NOM NOM” that comes during the intro and chorus, combined with the general tough-guy 80’s hair metal styled lead vocals. I honestly would put “Steel Breaker” down as one of the few tracks that have physically made me ill out of how embarrassed I feel for the band. And yes, cue hordes of fans saying “you’re taking it too seriously!!11!”, and they would be right. Bands are allowed to have fun, and I shouldn’t laugh at them or feel embarrassed for them because they do. But I guess all this could be forgive, if the music here was actually good.

I’m not talking about the rakkatakkas or the bum bom bum bom or the breeedooms, I’m talking about the melodies and the songwriting, the core of this music. In my review of Ballads 'n' Bullets, I talked about how that was what made In Legend such a fantastic band, because underneath all the PIANO METAL, it was actually great music. The melodies were great, the progressions were great, it would still be great music if it were done on guitars with a hurdy-gurdy in place of the bass. But here, on Dawn of the Brave, I can’t say the same at all. Replace the ‘fake’ guitars and bass with real ones and you’ve got a generic power metal album that I would likely give the same rating to. Yes, the rating here has certainly been lowered due to the horrible singing and bad covers and the fact that this has zero of the energy encased in power metal due to an empty shell production (the sole reason I sometimes enjoy power metal), but none of the original songs even have a shred of decency to them, they’re just so incredibly bland. And when they’re not being bland, they start being cringeworthy to try and make up for it.

I think the final straw of “we’re being ridiculous to make up for the fact that we can’t write music” is the cover of The Final Countdown here. I mean whose bloody idea was that, to cover one of the most infamously infuriating and overplayed songs in the English language and make a fucking rakkatakka version of it? It basically screams “LOOK WE’RE A JOKE HAHA” in every way, a last sigh of desperation in an attempt to make this album interesting. I’ll give it to them though, “The Final Countdown” is a better song than anything original on this album, and that’s really saying something. But on the flip side, the “Into The West” is actually pretty good, but if you’re going to do an a cappella cover of a song, at least pick one that had instrumental backing in the first place. The cover has more or less the same structure as the original, but with singing instead of strings. It could actually be great, if they hadn’t included the syllabic backing vocals, which completely kill the piece. The enormous hook line is glorious, but I’m really crediting the songwriters here, aren’t I, not Van Canto (although the lead vocal performance here is admirable).

This is the first Van Canto album I have heard, and it’s likely to be the last. I guess that some may argue that my distaste towards this band could stem from Dawn of the Brave being one of their less qualified and musically interesting outputs, but having given this style of music a bit of thought, I’ve really come to the conclusion that in order for a great album to come out of this style, some sort of miracle would have to happen. Van Canto themselves state that people either love or hate them, I’m not really either, I just laugh at the fact that they think this style will ever get anywhere.

3.4

Originally written for my Facebook page/blog: www.facebook.com/neoprogisbestprog

VAN CANTO Hero

Album · 2008 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
666sharon666
Van Canto of Germany may do something a little different with their take on power metal in that other than the drums their music is entirely A Cappella, but they’ve never done much for me beyond being a novelty act, and one which has now been taken just that bit too far to remain entertaining.

Hero is the band’s second album and although I think this is their best, it too has never been more than a novelty for me. I think this is best explained by saying that it’s the number of the cover songs found on the album which are the most entertaining. They deliver A Cappella takes on Nightwish’s Wishmaster, Blind Guardian’s The Bard’s Song (In the Forest) and Iron Maiden’s Fear of the Dark along with a couple of others and a bunch of original songs. I know all three of the songs I mentioned well, and love the originals, so Van Canto’s versions are somewhat interesting, but that’s where my enjoyment of Hero ends, although I will give a mention to one of their own songs, Speed of Light, as I do quite enjoy this one too.

Hero is okay in small doses but it is at most a passable album which I’ll give a spin to on occasion for that novelty value alone. If I listen to it too much though I start to get irritated by the repetitive so called rakkatakka vocals.

VAN CANTO Break the Silence

Album · 2011 · Power Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
adg211288
Break the Silence is the fourth studio album from so called a cappella power metal act Van Canto. There’s not much really to say in this introductory paragraph except to say or those who have missed this band in the past is that it’s basically five singers and a drummer, the presence of whom technically makes Van Canto not a true a cappella act, which requires the use of no instruments whatsoever. While two of the singers actually sing lead vocals, the other three imitate the typical metal instrumentation with their voices. There is actually some additional real instrumentation other than the drums on this album though, such as in the track Spelled in Waters.

Thinking about it in terms of being ‘on paper’ Van Canto sounds like a novelty or a gimmicky act right? Well in my opinion it would be true if Van Canto had done this for just the one (or maybe two at the most) albums. But Break the Silence is their fourth, which tells me that they’re actually pretty serious about this. There has never been a really great Van Canto album and this is no exception to that rule. In fact in their past three works with the exception of perhaps the odd track the only thing really interesting I found about them was the a cappella takes on classic metal tracks such as Metallica’s Battery, Nightwish’s Wishmaster or Blind Guardian’s The Bard’s Song: In The Forest. I always found their original material mostly lacking, and there is no improvement on this front on this album. It is more of the same, and more of the same would be getting beyond a joke if it was one.

Stylistically this has all the power metal style melody as a normal band would, and both the male and the female lead singer do actually have pretty great voices, but after a few tracks of the so called Rakkatakka vocals from the ‘instrumental singers’ any passing appeal that the music has goes away to be replaced by nothing but annoyance, mostly because of the fact that Break the Silence could actually be passable power metal record if they just dropped this a cappella stuff and actually found a guitarist and a bassist. It is just not entertaining anymore, sorry to say, not after four albums, and matters are made worse by the fact that what covers there are not really as of note than some of their previous, which doesn’t give the album as much interest on that front as the first three.

The only real surprises on Break the Silence are the aforementioned Spelled in Waters and also Master of the Wind. These are ballads, and are notable for not being a cappella. Spelled in Waters uses an actual guitar (played by Blind Guardian’s Marcus Siepen) as its music while Master of the Wind has some piano, but this is not enough to save the album from sounding like a boring novelty release. Additionally a cappella stuff aside this is an extremely typical power metal record that I’d even go as far to call generic, and if I want to hear this sort of thing then I’ll go for something with actual instrumentation throughout. The songs are mostly lyrically commercial as well, nothing new for power metal there really but as I said, if I want this there are countless bands who do it better with instruments and therefore might actually have some interesting riffs.

Credit where credit is due, the Rakkatakka vocals do have the metal rhythms done reasonably well, even though the release understandably lacks true heaviness, and these three guys definitely have a talent to pull this off, but try as I might, I cannot shake the image of them appearing on a reality TV show in the vein of Britain’s Got Talent.

Maybe I just don’t get them, but I see little of interest in what essentially sounds like a band that wants to play power metal but only their drummer could afford to buy his instrument. Van Canto are certainly right up there for being different but as Break the Silence proves that isn’t always a good thing. This would be entertaining were the band really not over-doing this a cappella stuff but really it’s getting rather ridiculous now as of this fourth album. There is little really to offer the more demanding listener on this album. It might give you a few smiles, but none of them will be as big as those given by the earlier releases, especially the 2008 album Hero, which at least has a stronger repertoire of covers to entertain with, as well as some pretty decent original material. Overall Break the Silence is listenable if somewhat embarrassing and its Van Canto’s weakest album yet in a run of poor to mediocre releases. It’s also a problem when the best track in the overall package, A Storm to Come, is a bonus track are therefore does not factor into the score given.

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven, scored at 2.0/10, "Very Bad")

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