Van Canto – Dawn of the Brave (Napalm Records)Friday, 31st January 2014
The dearth of quality singers in our scene alone makes the prospect of an A Capella onslaught seem unlikely, so the field is wide-open for this German sextet to reign…and “rakkatakka.” Dawn of the Brave is Van Canto’s fifth full-length, parlaying their usual blend of vocal acrobatics with original compositions and popular covers, some of which would generate a degree of novelty over here in the States. Heck, one could even vouch for that tag at the present time, especially if we want to brandish these gents (and lady) up against fantasy and Tolkien-happy power metal. But, the fact of the matter is Van Canto are unique, which is about as much currency as a band could ask for.
The unaware should know drums are the only formal instrument to be found. No guitars, no bass, keyboards, etc. Instead, vocals are used as instrumentation, which is where the “rakkatakka,” comes in, which is essentially the sound created by low and high-end vocalists Ross Thompson and Stefan Schmidt. It’s quite the unique approach; vocals mimicking guitar riffs, while a plethora of vocal harmonizing takes control, most notably on “Fight For Your Life” and lead single, “Badaboom,” a song that gets the nod for being the catchiest of the lot. The effective use of voice and breath control is rather commendable, so when one hears a guitar solo hummed and contorted on a track like “Steel Breaker” or a cover of Europe’s “The Final Countdown,” it’s a more of a marvel than some comedic sideshow.
Indeed the covers are where Van Canto could make their bread, specifically with “The Final Countdown,” a song that regularly holds serve at Wacken. Sabbath’s “Paranoid” is cool, although it doesn’t have the propulsion of Bonnie Tyler’s “Hero,” which is clear-cut for the band’s design. So with the potential for cross-over, Van Canto has dug out their own trench in the heaps of metal bands parading around the underground. And while it’s unlikely not everyone will be onboard with five vocalists and one drummer, disputing the band’s uniqueness would be a poor choice.