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Even without the stupid gimmick it would suck - 0%

RageW, September 24th, 2013

Van Canto weren't content with just releasing an album full of their own terrible songs, so they had to go ahead and ruin a bunch of other songs by other innocent bands (or not so innocent, in the case of Nightwish, anyway). Believe, I truly, truly believe ruining the musical works of Nightwish is a positive thing that everybody should strive to do at some point in their lives, but what this band does here almost makes me feel bad for them. When you make me feel pity for what you're doing to a Nightwish song, you've officially taken more than a couple of steps towards the nadir of everything ever done in the history of humanity.

Oh my. I let myself go there. Okay, time to take a while to breathe in.

I'm mostly fine now. Kind of. So back on the subject of what Van Canto do, it should be seen as two separate entities: What they try to do, and what they actually do. Mind you, both entities are terrible, but for the sake of analysis, let's take a look at them. What they try to accomplish is some sort of modern power metal with voice riffs instead of, you know, guitar riffs. Now then, modern power metal, for the most part, is usually pretty bad in the first place; and the original songs to be found here would benefit in no way from actual guitar playing. The 'riffs' would then be down-tuned stop-start chugs, down-tuned gallops, and other sorts of riffs that bands like Sonata Artica use. The lead vocals themselves are pretty good at times, but usually just downright outright annoying (especially that "Kings of Metal" cover, but more on that later). So, in short, this album would be a pretty forgettable EP (only 5 original songs!) had it been done by some other modern power metal band.

But it's done by Van Canto. And that is the problem. What the album ultimately ends up sounding like with the voice riffs is, I'm not exaggerating here, like a bunch of run-giga-duns and run-diggi-runs and what have you. It sounds out of place, even if all the singers involved are extremely talented at the singing part - but then again, so is Celine Dion. Thanks to this, Van Canto have managed to create The Most Annoying Guitar Tone ever, which does not help their takes on songs from other bands. Their take on "The Bard's Song" is probably my least favourite simply because the original is the one I like the most, but be assured, all of them are silly and terrible and dumb and gimmicky.

Don't listen to this album. Don't listen to this band. There is no reason why anybody should have to listen to this ever after listening to a few of their covers on YouTube. It doesn't work with the gimmick, and it certainly wouldn't work without it. It's a bad idea performed by a band with no real songwriting capabilities. Listen to Scatman John instead - now that's a real artist.

Musically surprising! - 90%

paranj, April 19th, 2010

Woah! This is something I have never experienced before. No rhythm guitar or bass guitar yet such heaviness. This album is full of astounding musical surprises. Van Canto have surely created a very unique musical masterpiece in what they call 'A Capella' metal. Have no doubts my friends, Van Canto kicks more ass with no guitars then a hell lot of bands with shitty guitar riffs. Hero is definitely something which enlightened me of a new musical genre which I had never experienced before.

So how do this guys create rhythms and 'riffs' ? Yeah, this question crossed my mind when I first saw them here on the Archives after being reccoed by a friend of mine. Well what they essentially do is mix a lot of different range of vocals and create a 'sphere' of musical divinity! The low range vocals act as rhythm guitars and bass guitar while the processed high range vocals in the background act as synth and there are two lead vocalists, one male and a female.

The songs are progressive, heavy and catchy too! Their original songs are very well done with good song-writing and dynamic structures. The songs flow very well together and believe me, you won't even miss the guitars after a couple of tracks! The songs though not very simple are catchy and will have you singing with them after only a single listen. The lyrics are a little on the cheesy side (I am talking about their original songs) but nothing too bad (atleast not as bad as the Manowar cover). The drumming on this song can be best described as energetic because that's what the whole album generally sounds like. The drumming is tight and rythmic. You won't find super-technical drum fills in alienish time signatures but well, that's not even the point of the drums on this album. They are merely there to help all the vocalists to keep rythm and it serves it purpose very well.

Ah the covers! Lot's of them on this one and oh my sweet donkeys! They are very innovatively re-incarnated and will amaze you (if you have heard the original songs that is). The Bard Song and Fear of the Dark were the best covers on here. On a side note, the Fear of the Dark cover sounds much faster than the original song which is kick ass! The Manowar cover was a little funny but that's due to Manowar's extra cheesy lyrics. Speaking of the production and mixing, it's nicely done. No vocal range over-powers the other except ofcourse the lead vocals which are projected at the fore-front. The drums are well balanced too!

So after a couple of listens, I am sitting here thinking to listen to it again because I love the interwoven vocals of Van Canto as well as respect them for taking something so innovative and actually making it sound this good. I swear, you will be loving the 'dun dun dun' vocals in the background after even a single listen of the album. It's just so damn catchy! Definitely worth buying material!

A much more complete album - 90%

kapitankraut, November 7th, 2008

Van Canto's "Hero" is a considerable improvement over their debut album. For those who came in late, the idea here is that we have two lead vocalists (one male, one female), three backing vocalists (variously simulating lead guitar, rhythm guitar and bass) and real drums. Yes, that's right, the drums are the only other instruments bar the human voice here - although I'm at a loss to work out how some of these sounds can be made by the human voice.

The improvement here can be put down to the fact that all the band members have moved away from the idea of combining acapella arrangements with metal attitude and towards a more "fusional" style. The acapella sound is still there, but the tracks are more clearly "songs" now, rather than "compositions". This is accentuated by a higher percentage of covers - and from big-name acts such as Manowar, Blind Guardian, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden and Nightwish, to boot. The "guitarists" (as I still intend to refer to them) appear more comfortable performing solos and riffs - as can be seen in both "Pathfinder" and their stunning cover of "Wishmaster", for example.

The two standout covers here are Manowar's "Kings of Metal", in which Inga's female vocals aren't even heard, and Nightwish's "Wishmaster", in which barely a peep is heard from the male lead. While it appears odd to congratulate a band on essentially playing covers - and I certainly hope Van Canto doesn't go down the route of being an amusing covers band with the odd original - this really does demonstrate the strength of the band these days.

To begin with, both tracks are eminently in keeping with the band's over-the-top but still tongue-in-cheek style. Hearing the "guitars" muttering "Man-o-war" in the background of the former cover is amusing enough, and the fact that there are four highly talented vocalists to deliver the signature "Manowar KILLS" line in the chorus sets it up very nicely indeed.

On "Wishmaster", which is the first cover of this iconic song I've ever come across, Inga obviously has big shoes to fill, being in the Tarja Turunen role. She doesn't equal the soprano heroics of the original by any means, but the spectacle of the backing vocalists growling "squiddly-diddly-diddly-diddly-DUM-DUM-DUM" in deadly earnest to simulate the main riff points to the aim not being an entirely emulative cover anyway. I'd always had a bit of difficulty taking Nightwish seriously, for all their impressive pedigree, and hearing this take on their signature song demonstrates precisely why. By stripping away all the backing instruments, Van Canto are able to show that it's still a great song, but just as silly as a lot of other power metal can be.

It would be remiss not to mention the Blind Guardian links here, too. Hansi appears as a guest vocalist on "Take to the Sky", and one wonders exactly what he thought after all those multi-tracked vocal experiments on his band's albums. Indeed, the band repays the favour in a manner of speaking, by covering "The Bard's Song". It's not an essential Blind Guardian recording, in my book, but it allows the more "traditional" acapella aspects of the band to shine through, as each male vocalist takes one of Hansi's melody lines.

Overall, this is a real standout of an album. Fans of power metal will lap this up, and indeed anyone with an open mind and a sense of humour will get a lot out of it. For a band that could so easily have turned into a bad joke, this is all kinds of fun.

Cover Me with Van Canto - 90%

Flamos, October 24th, 2008

The A cappella power metal group Van Canto are coming at us with their sophomore effort “Hero.” In the metal scene, bands that try to do something new and unique often fail or are shunned. Van Canto is an exception. This is dare I say a great album. If you haven’t noticed, there are no instruments here besides drums. The jobs of the guitars is given to Stefan Schmidt and Ross Thompson, instead of guitars they’re labeled as higher “Rakkatakka” and lower “Rakkatakka” vocals. Ingo Sterzinger performs the bass, or “Dandan” vocals as they’re called. I understand how this can be confusing, but in this mess they’re two lead singers. The male one being Dennis Schunke and the female one being Inga Scharf. That’s right, five singers, and one drummer. A little too overwhelming on the vocals spectrum but trust me, it actually works.

The album itself is comprised of five covers and five originals. The original written songs are impressive. The opener “Speed of Light” has great singing by Inga Scarf and a catchy chorus. “Pathfinder is my personal favorite, the opening Rakkatakka is pretty sweet and overall it’s the best original on the album. “Take to the Sky” has the god-like Hansi Kursch on guest vocals, the song itself is ok, nothing too special. “Hero” and “Quest for Roar” are both boring and really feel like filler.

The covers are definitely something to behold. Manowar’s “Kings of Metal” is actually better than the original. I know that going to piss off a lot of Manowar fans, but I don’t really care because it’s the truth. The Rakkatakka vocals fit well and the vocals by Dennis Schunke are great, this cover is amazing. “Wishmaster” by Nightwish is all right. Inga Schark is no Tarja Turunen, but she does well filling in. This is still somewhat enjoyable. “The Bard's Song” by Blind Guardian was never a good track to begin with and nothing changes here, it’s hard to understand why it’s on here. Deep Purple’s “Stormbringer” is the best cover on this album; the Rakkatakka vocal style is perfect for this song. This is a song I also find better than the original. “Fear of the Dark” is cool. Although it’s odd how Inga Schark performs the verse’s for the track but’s it’s not a problem because it’s performed to perfection.

If you’re even the least bit curious, check this out you won’t be disappointed. Of course this is a band that will get plagued by idiotic Youtube comments, but it’s easy to ignore when this works so well.