Van Canto - Dawn of the Brave
I like checking out bands that are odd or different in some way. Even if the vast majority of music I end up hearing sucks Godzilla’s giant mutant reptile penis, there are times when checking out a new or different band pays dividends and I get to hear a truly exceptional album that would have been overlooked otherwise. Van Canto is one of those oddball bands that caught my attention because they triggered my “WTF?” alarm. Van Canto describes themselves as A Cappella Metal. That caught my attention because you don’t ever see the terms “A Cappella” and “Metal” together in the same sentence unless that sentence happens to be “A Cappella music isn’t Metal.” I walked to the cash register of my local record store with this CD and paid for it knowing that there was probably a 1% likelihood that it was going to be awesome and a 99% likelihood that it was going to be an abomination of epic proportions. Let me begin this review by saying that Van Canto is what you get when a Power Metal band has to sell their instruments in order to pay the rent. Rather than selling each other into prostitution, they decide that going A Cappella might be something strange enough to lure a few more people to their concerts with the added bonus of not having to lug a ton of musical instruments to each show. This is all speculation, of course. They might have decided to do this whole “Metal without using real instruments” thing on their own without the aid of drugs or alcohol (or impending rent payments that needed to be made), but that would just make them stupid instead of creative. Much like Diablo Swing Orchestra, this is one of those records that you use to show an activist college girl how open minded you are in hopes that she’ll give you a blowjob. It says something, then, that the best material here is on the bonus CD that comes with the “limited edition” version of this release. Yes, it’s that fucking bad. The nature of A Cappella music requires the vocalists to use their voices to simulate the melodies and rhythms that would normally be created by guitars and keyboards. This leads to a ton of laugh out loud moments where the song takes an unintentionally funny turn when one or more of the singers attempts to simulate a guitar riff or some form of melody. It sounds so stupid that you can’t help but laugh. Face it, when you can make the original version of “The Final Countdown” sound awesome in comparison, you fucking suck and you should probably quit music altogether. I think Joey Tempest (Europe) is laughing his ass off right now because now he can honestly say that his version of the song isn’t the worst one out there. What saved this release from being absolute trash was the aforementioned bonus CD. All of these bonus tracks are reworkings of older songs that Van Canto recorded prior to this LP. The first three songs are orchestral versions played with real symphonic instruments and without any vocals. The fourth track is a Techno remix that uses effects to alter the vocal weirdness in such a way that it doesn’t sound stupid, which is quite a feat in and of itself. The final two are an acoustic track with only the lead vocals and acoustic guitars, and a choir rendition of one of their songs. The A Cappella gimmick might get a few curious people (such as myself) to check out one of this band’s releases, but after listening to this, I don’t think I’ll ever buy or listen to another one. One track of this nonsense is enough to give you all you’ll ever need to hear from Van Canto. If you’re able to download the bonus CD material without purchasing the rest of this LP (either through iTunes or Amazon), I’d do that instead of buying the whole thing. The rating below reflects only the LP tracks. The bonus CD is worth an 8 on its own merits, mostly because it’s as far away from this A Cappella bullshit as you can get - most of which probably doesn’t even involve the members of this band. I wouldn’t bother with the rest of it. If you want to hear good A Cappella music, buy a Pentatonix LP. Don’t waste your money on shit like Dawn of the Brave because you’ll probably regret it (unless that activist college chick actually does give you a blowjob, then mission accomplished).
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