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Van Canto - "Break the Silence" (CD)

Van Canto - "Break the Silence" CD cover image

"Break the Silence" track listing:

1. If I Die in Battle (4:46)
2. Dangers in My Head (4:05)
3. Bed of Nails (Alice Cooper Cover) (3:37)
4. The Seller of Souls (3:24)
5. Black Wings of Hate (4:41)
6. Neuer Wind (3:21)
7. Spelled in Waters (Feat. Marcus Siepen) (4:26)
8. Primo Victoria (Sabaton cover) (Feat. Joakim Broden) (3:44)
9. The Higher Flight (5:00)
10. Master of the Wind (Manowar Cover) (6:09)

Reviewed by on September 1, 2011

"'Break the Silence' is the latest slab of metal a cappella consisting of seven originals, three covers, a few 'run-a-duns,' but not a 'rakka-takka' or 'dah-re, dah-re' in the lot."

No one can argue that Germany's Van Canto does more with vocalism than most musicians can only dare to dream of with conventional instruments. "Break the Silence" is the latest slab of metal a cappella consisting of seven originals, three covers, a few "run-a-duns," but not a "rakka-takka" or "dah-re, dah-re" in the lot. This time around, the band opted for a more significant choral approach, more akin to true a cappella then in the first three albums. Ingo Sterzinger's bass vocal procures more of the limelight here than Stefan Schmidt's chunky rhythm, which is abridged to copious amounts of "dum, dum, dumdum" and "ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma."

Lead track "If I Die In Battle" is bound to be a crowd favorite, a bombastic paean congruent to any of Manowar's true metal verses. It is only befitting that Van Canto also included a rendition of the ballad "Master of the Wind," the second cover of the Metal Kings the band has done. Even "Neuer Wind" harkens back to Manowar's "Herz Aus Stahl."

While on the topic, Van Canto continues its scintillating choice of cover songs, usually representing marked improvements over their originals. On "Break the Silence," Sabaton's Joakim Broden lends his vocals to "Primo Victoria," in front of Van Canto's polished allegro. The limited edition also contains a cover of Running Wild's "Bad to the Bone," but was not included on your author's promo copy. The only puzzling inclusion is Alice Cooper's "Bed of Nails," which is a bit of a disconnect in its juxtaposition to previous choices, but it is still performed admirably. It certainly isn't as oddly entertaining as Children of Bodom covering Britney Spears.

It was Philip Massinger who said "how sweetly sounds the voice of a good woman." "Break the Silence" represents a coming of age for Inga Scharf, who brandishes her truly exquisite voice with a style to rival all female voices in metal. Sadly, on previous releases, it was a bit overshadowed by Sly's fierce lead male vocals. Scharf adds such an energetic edge to "Black Wings of Hate" and the aforementioned "Master of the Wind."

"Spelled In Waters" is perhaps the most progressive song in Van Canto's growing discography, especially with addition of guest guitarist Marcus Siepen of Blind Guardian. It has a real peculiar melody that seems slightly off, but quickly grows on you.

"Seller of Souls" and "The Higher Flight" are the real strengths of the originals on "Break the Silence" and shows the great influence Blind Guardian's has on the band. However, in contrast to "The Last Night the Kings" on the band's last LP "Tribe of Force," which was more like the "The Bard's Song," these two tracks have more of a modern Blind Guardian feel.

It is unfair to try to imagine how Van Canto would sound with a full band and orchestra, because doing so would only render the band unimaginative and mediocre. Close your eyes and you forget you are listening to mere voices, especially the genre defining "guitar" solos via Stefan Schmidt. It is virtually impossible to dislike Van Canto. It is a living testament that a band can overcome almost any obstacle, including instrumentation. I cannot fathom how this group of vocalists found each other, whether by fate or design. All that is left for Van Canto is inventing a way to air guitar to a cappella metal.

Highs: The band's never ending way to be unique

Lows: Less "rakka-takka" and more "ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma."

Bottom line: All that is left for Van Canto is inventing a way to air guitar to a cappella metal.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)