Van Canto

Break The Silence

Written by: TL on 25/02/2012 15:36:32

Let's be honest here; A review of German acapella metal sixtet Van Canto pretty much writes itself, because yes, you did read that right, they're acapella metal (almost) and that in itself pretty much dictates what we're going to be talking about for most of this article. Most genres have plenty of bands that resort to some sort of gimmick to stand apart from contemporaries, but whatever you may think of that, you have to admit that Van Canto are pretty thorough with their's. "Break The Silence" marks the fourth album on which these mad Germans have delivered both original compositions and covers of metal classics using five singers, one drummer and no other instruments (save for the occasional guest guitar solo).

Fans will of course recognise Ross Thompson, Stefan Schmidt and Ingo Sterzinger going "dun dun dun" and "dan dan dan" in harmonies at various pitches, laying down the "instrumentals" at speeds that are quite literally breathtaking, but even if you've heard them before, it should still bring a mixed look of amazement and disbelief to your face, hearing the instrumentals to the likes of Manowar's "Master Of The Wind" - which closes this album - replaced entirely by vocal melodies. Even taken for a gimmick, Van Canto are pretty original and well, awesome, For one thing, doing it is pretty damn hard and it's not like you see anybody else crowding up the acapella metal genre is it?

There are a few obvious questions that beg answering when turning this concept around in your head. Firstly, doesn't metal lose some of its trademark power and weight when heavily distorted guitars are replaced with bass and baritone going "ranididun-ranididan" - And the answer is, yes, it does indeed, no question about it. Secondly, putting out albums like "Break The Silence", which offer four covers along with six original songs, can you actually consider Van Canto an actual, creative band of their own, or do they live mainly on the quaintness of their covers? This one is especially hard to answer, especially for a non metal-aficionado, who doesn't even know most of the original songs that Van Canto have covered.

If you can get onboard with the band's concept however, and don't dwell so long on such pointed questions as the above, you could probably spin "Break The Silence" and realise as I have, that it is a highly enjoyable and, unsurprisingly, singalongable album. It amuses me that even when done entirely with vocals, I still find it easy to identify Van Canto's approach on the album as sounding quite folk/battle metal, and personally I'm positively surprise to find that the band is equally catchy whether singing their own songs or those of their influences, what with tracks like "If I Die In Battle" and "Dangers In My Head" (seriously, check out the 'breakdown' towards the end here, it sounds awesome) coming across equally well as covers of Sabaton's "Primo Victoria" and Alice Cooper's "Bed Of Nails".

As I've hinted previously, I am continually astonished that the band is even able to pull this off, and while this is mostly a credit to the "instruments", remaining members Dennis Schunke, Inga Scharf and Bastian Emig - respectively on male vocals, classical female vocals and drums - also deliver quality performances. So there's really hardly any reason you shouldn't enjoy this album of theirs. Admittedly, I tend to reserve grades of 8 or higher for albums that appear as coherent artistic works, which handicaps any record that's half covers, and "Break The Silence" doesn't quite blow my mind to the point where Van Canto overcome this hurdle. Still though, I say listening to it is a good time, and isn't anything beyond that just splitting hairs?

Download: Primo Victoria, If I Die In Battle, Bed Of Nails, Dangers In My Head
For The Fans Of: highly singalongable battle metal

Release Date 23.09.2011
Napalm Records

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