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Oh, what fun we'll have! - 95%

doomknocker, October 2nd, 2011

Everyone needs a gimmick. Or, at least, that SHOULD be how it works. They way I see it, if you want to form a band and push yourself past the thousands of third-rate musical peons, it takes more than ability and metacarpal dexterity. You need to be able to become an entity all your own…and don’t forget to be good at what you do as well. That helps a little, too. That’s pretty much what I thought when I was told of this Van Canto band, an A CAPELLA METAL BAND of all things! I’d, at one time, knew a little of vocals-only musical meanderings, from older acts like Rockapella to the newer Straight, No Chaser, but never in all my decaying years would someone put it through the Euro-metal meat grinder. I guess it was only a matter of time…or rather, it was a matter of time until someone like them was pushed into the limelight. The underground could’ve had a few of these little buggers, but no one noticed. Ya never know.

It was just all too much to ignore, and they had me at “a capella metal band”, so I just HAD to see how it all came out…

It all seemed pretty standard within the first few seconds of choral madness coming at me, but once the “instruments” came blasting at me, I was totally floored. This is, easily, one of the most fun albums I’ve had the chance to undertake a listening to, and judging from the overall sound, it was a fun album to MAKE as well as LISTEN TO. There’re all sorts of wickedly tasty things going on; the compositional end is very impressive, throwing vivid harmonies, catchy as hell hooks, lush-as-tropical-fog choirs and jittery “riffs” from as many angles as is humanly possible for five individuals (and a drummer) to do. The songs themselves don’t just settle with a standard heavy/power metal formula, despite their obvious roots and inspirations, and in the hands of more practical musicians with real instruments it would still be entertaining, but probably as much as hearing three guys belt out “DUM da-da-da-dummm”, replicating the very same strumming patterns and arrangements. As such, the likes of the bombastic “If I Die in Battle”, the damn near pirate-like “Black Wings of Hate” and the dynamic “Neuer Wind” shine with a greatness not heard by ears in quite a while. And let’s not forget the spectacular takes on Alice Coopers’s “Bed of Nails” and Sabaton’s “Primo Victoria”. Fantastic.

The general tone of the disc is one of fun, of joviality, of just sitting back and letting loose. I could only imagine the interesting ambience in the studio during its creation, as such a sensation is present going from plastic disc to headphones. In a fine fashion, it held my attention from the get-go, and as the disc continued such transfixion was kept in check. Still, however…and this is a rather BROAD however…for as great as these guys are, there exists the risk of them being seen as a mere novelty act. Some of the more fist-pumping, denim-clad metallers might have some umbrage with folks who gussy up their fine style with silly vocal gymnastics (no matter how skilled they are), and if that’s the case, then it’s their loss, as I feel that even in the world of steel-clad seriousness, you need to have a little fun to prevent emotional rust from forming. And these guys just might do the trick.

So in the end, a capella power metal has me sold. In a big way. Its infectious appeal and robust approach has all the ingredients necessary to invoke plenty of repeat listens from me, and I think it’s high time for me to get some of their earlier works. Excellent stuff.