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Van Canto - Dawn of the Brave

Van Canto - CD Review
Dawn of the Brave

Van Canto

CD Info
Napalm Records
13 tracks
English Lyrics

Sometimes panned as being gimmicky, yet at other times praised for being innovative, metal fans who know Van Canto seem to have strong opinions one way or the other about this a capella metal outfit from Germany. For those of you unfamiliar with this band, “a capella metal” might not register with you right away and it might take some time to wrap your head around the concept. The only instrument in the band is the drums; all other metals sounds are replicated using human vocals. Sure, there's a lot to adjust to here, lots of “rakkatakka” and sounds like that (you have to listen to it to really get what I'm saying here) to get used to, but I am a firm believer that this is a band worth listening and appreciating because of their creativity, uniqueness, and innovation.

Dawn of the Brave is Van Canto's fifth album, and it is now my favourite and in my opinion their best. With it, they no longer need fight for legitimacy on the metal scene – although appearances at Wacken and signing to a major label like Napalm Records should indicate legitimacy enough. This album is a pure power metal bonanza, and it shows how this band has matured and evolved over the years with its songwriting.

But one thing that Van Canto is also known for is its a capella covers of other well-known songs, metal and otherwise. In fact, the first song I ever heard from them was their cover of Nightwish's “Wishmaster”, which kind of knocked me off my feet. This album contains no fewer than four covers of pretty well-known tunes.

Let's cover the covers first. The first one on the album is of Europe's “The Final Countdown”, which if you were a sentient being in the 1980s you're sure to know. I know it well! The Van Canto version of it is not their best cover effort, I have to say; it fell a bit flat for me and lacked the energy and sense of drama the original has. The intro is a little underwhelming, too, and that was disappointing because the intro is the best part of the song. The second cover required me to do a Google search. It was so familiar to me, but I couldn't place it, but it turns out it's a Bonnie Tyler tune called “Holding Out For A Hero.” This is some great stuff. Lyrically, it fits in with the band's overarching themes of hero worship, epic battles, and stuff like that. Female lead, Inga Scharf has a throaty aggression in her voice at times. It's always cool to me to see 80s stuff turned into power metal, and Van Canto did a great job with this one.

Track 12 is a newer song, sort of, a cover of Annie Lennox's Lord of the Rings ballad, “Into the West.” It's very lovely, and I have to hand it to the band for recreating the atmosphere of the original so well. Finally, “Paranoid” wraps up the album and the list of covers. This is a really fun song, and not being an Ozzy fan and only having memories of Ozzy whining his way through this one, I have to say, the Van Canto version is much more pleasing to my ears.

Van Canto's covers are what show off their creativity and innovation the best, but the original songs on this album do not disappoint at all, either. “To The Mountains” is as good a power metal track as you'll ever hear. It's got an epic, catchy chorus and is one of my favourites on the album. “Badaboom”, which is the first singe off the album and for which there is a nifty music video, is also a fantastic piece of power metal, very anthemic, and very punchy.

Another standout for me on Dawn of the Brave was “Steelbreaker”. This song has a different feel to it than others on the album, probably due to the chorus, which in addition to having a great hook, kind of evokes for me something of the 80s hair bands I used to listen to.

One of the pluses of having so many human vocals comprising the instrumentation for the band is the opportunity for lots of vocal harmonization, and this is something Van Canto does extremely well and something that is integral to their sound. This is one element that makes Dawn Of The Brave so good because I think it's done better here than on previous albums. This group has the ability to evoke goosebumps with the swell and power of their combined voices as a full choir.

Van Canto totally hits it home with this release. I know some people simply won't be convinced that this is metal, but I urge metal fans who believe that to really open their minds and give this a chance. Think out of the box. And if you can reconcile it in your mind that this is metal, try to appreciate Van Canto for what they are capable of: producing excellent, unique music that perhaps needs no label at all.

9 / 10