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