Van Canto – Dawn Of The Brave

January 15, 2014 in Reviews by Arno Callens

npr525_VanCanto_CMYKVan Canto – Dawn Of The Brave  (2014)

Reviewed by Arno Callens

You have to hand it to Van Canto. They turned what could have easily been a cheap and passing gimmick into a unique band and sound. Dawn Of The Brave is their fifth full-length already, and they just keep getting better.

At last I do not miss the guitars anymore. Heavatar, Stefan Schmidt’s foray into guitar-driven neoclassical power metal, was enormously enjoyable, but Van Canto’s charm is in the rakkatakka and the way they use voice-upon-voice to sculpt such huge and mighty songs.

Take “To The Mountains” as an example. It’s as epic as the members of the London Philharmonic all climaxing at once, and all without a single instrument but drums. Special credit goes to Inga Scharf, who’s no longer second fiddle to lead singer Sly and the enthusiastic backing. Similarly inventive is the booming “Badaboom”, surely a staple of the future live set, and “Unholy”, the vocalized main melody to which packs as big a punch as Muhammad Ali after you insult his mother. “Unholy” is (among) the best track(s) Van Canto’s ever penned, with “The Awakening” and “My Utopia” hot on its heels.

And then there’s covers. I wouldn’t mind one or two, but four threatens to outbalance the original work. Only two are a cut above “fine” and not the ones you’d expect. “The Final Countdown” and “Paranoid” are well crafted Europe and Black Sabbath adaptations respectively, but “Holding Out For A Hero” and “Into The West” actually add to their originals. I mistook the first for a new song, that’s how much I liked it (and how little Bonnie Tyler I know). The second is a powerfully quiet affair, surely to give Tolkien fans the chills.

Still, the covers can’t match Van Canto actually being creative. For this band to truly shed the status of an a cappella curiosity, they would have to ditch the covers. They draw attention to the trick and distract from the magic. As Schmidt proved with Heavatar, none of these musicians lack for inspiration, so why spoil the secret?

All in all, Dawn Of The Brave has all the strengths of Van Canto’s previous releases, perhaps emphasized even more, and forever the same shortcomings. The good again outweighs the bad, and as long as that balance is maintained, I don’t have much to complain about. Just don’t mind if I skip the covers on repeat listens.

3.75 // 5