Album Review – Van Canto / Dawn of the Brave (2014)

This a capella Power Metal band from Germany proves why the human voice is the most powerful music instrument of all.

Rating5

vancanto_dotbWhen German Power Metal band Van Canto presented their a capella Heavy Metal to the world for the first time back in 2006, especially their cover version for Metallica’s Battery, I thought it was a fantastic and unique idea, but I wasn’t sure if that project was going to make it through the years. As we all know, the absence of music instruments implies many limitations to the sound a band can produce. However, here we are many years later with Van Canto’s brand new studio album, named Dawn of the Brave, the fifth in their career and another prove that the human voice is much more powerful and versatile than we think.

There’s nothing new when comparing Dawn of the Brave with their previous albums, but it’s still a lot of fun to listen to their own compositions, as well as their always much-anticipated versions for different classics from all types of artists and bands.

The intro Dawn of the Brave sounds like they’re just warming up their voices for what’s about to come, and it’s already a good sign of the overall quality of the album. One thing I really enjoy about Van Canto is their “made for battle” lyrics, mainly because they don’t let us forget that despite the absence of real guitars, they’re still a Power Metal band, and that’s exactly what happens in the heroic song Fight for Your Live, which could have easily been recorded by Manowar (“We are at your side / Day by day, and night by night / Fill your soul with pride / Reminding you to fight for your life / Fight!”). It’s one of the top moments of the album, with a great performance by all members.

To the Mountains focuses on Inga’s powerful voice, with a more melodic approach that sometimes reminds me of Within Temptation or Epica, and it will surely sound amazing when played live, while it’s impossible not to sing along with Badaboom, the first single of the album, with its strong rhythm and addictive chorus. The following track is the first cover version in Dawn of the Brave: thousands of bands have already recorded a cover version for Europe’s biggest classic of all time, The Final Countdown, but I’m pretty sure none was able to do it a capella as Van Canto, and believe me, the result is marvelous.

Dawn of the Brave goes on with Steel Breaker, an average Hard Rock song not as interesting as the previous tracks, and The Awakening, a faster and more melodic track that will surely be enjoyed by the fans of the band. Then come The Other Ones with its powerful atmosphere and strong lyrics, and the second cover song of the album, Holding Out for a Hero from Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler, another excellent heavy version for a song that’s not Heavy Metal at all.

vancantoTheir last two own compositions in the album are called Unholy, a song with good lyrics and a nice rhythm, and the sensational My Utopia, which sounds like a mix of Stratovarius and Iced Earth (without the real shredding, of course). And finally, the album ends with two excellent cover songs: Into the West, an Annie Lennox cover taken from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King soundtrack (which in my opinion is one of the best soundtracks ever), and the one and only  Paranoid, from Heavy Metal icons Black Sabbath, with Ross taking the lead on vocals. The limited mediabook edition includes interesting orchestral, acoustic and other versions for some of their own songs, while the earbook edition comes also with a bonus DVD containing some of their own songs and awesome versions for all-time classics from Nightwish, Grave Digger, Blind Guardian, Manowar and Iron Maiden.

Alright, they’re not 100% a capella: they use a full real drum kit, played by the good Bastian Emig, but that doesn’t make the final result less impressive. Sly and the beautiful brunette Inga do an amazing job on vocals, but it’s the sound of guitars and bass produced by the trio of Ross, Stefan and Ike that gives Van Canto that “it” factor, in other words, that makes them so unique when compared to all other Power Metal bands in the world. I still can’t believe those guys are able to do those fantastic guitar solos just by using their voices!

In summary, Dawn of the Brave is a very creative album that everybody who enjoys some good singing should listen to and appreciate. The band surely proves to us all that no music instrument in the world can be compared to the human voice, which is the idea of the album art, don’t you agree? It’s an instrument so powerful it can even turn calm and smooth a capella music into pure Power Metal.

Best moments of the album: Fight for Your Life, Badaboom and My Utopia. Among the cover songs, the best ones are definitely The Final Countdown and Paranoid.

Worst moments of the album: Steel Breaker and Unholy.

Released in 2014 Century Media

Track listing
1. Dawn of the Brave 1:08
2. Fight for Your Live 3:59
3. To the Mountains 4:05
4. Badaboom 3:31
5. The Final Countdown (Europe cover) 4:55
6. Steel Breaker 3:40
7. The Awakening 4:13
8. The Other Ones 4:18
9. Holding Out for a Hero (Bonnie Tyler cover) 3:51
10. Unholy 3:28
11. My Utopia 5:13
12. Into the West (Annie Lennox cover) 4:25
13. Paranoid (Black Sabbath cover) 3:04

Limited Mediabook Edition bonus tracks              
1. If I Die in Battle (Orchestral Version) 4:45
2. My Voice (Orchestral Version) 5:29
3. Take to the Sky (Orchestral Version) 4:24
4. Neuer Wind (Jovian Spin Remix) 3:48
5. Lost Forever (Acoustic Version) 5:01
6. Last Night of the Kings (Choir Version)  4:11

Band members
Dennis “Sly” Schunke – lead vocals
Inga Scharf – lead vocals
Ross Thompson – higher guitar vocals
Stefan Schmidt – lower guitar vocals, solo guitar vocals
Ingo “Ike” Sterzinger – bass vocals
Bastian Emig – drums

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