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")