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Van Canto – Voices of Fire review

Release Date: March 11th, 2016

Label: earMUSIC

Genre: Power a cappella metal

Track List:
1. Prologue
2. Clashing’s on Armour Plates
3. Dragonwake
4. Time and Time Again
5. All My Life
6. Battleday’s Dawn
7. Firevows (Join the Journey)
8. The Oracle
9. The Betrayal
10. We Are One
11. The Bardcall
12. To Catharsis
13. Epilogue
14. Hymn

Members:
• Dennis “Sly” Schunke – male lead vocals
• Inga Scharf – female lead vocals
• Ross Thompson – higher guitar vocals
• Stefan Schmidt – lower guitar vocals, solo guitar vocals, vocals with distortion effects
• Bastian Emig – drums
• Jan Moritz – bass vocals

Much has been said about the perfect composition for a metal band. One must have the galloping double bass of the drums, a growling bass line, guitar shredders that challenge the tensile agility of one’s hands and of course a range of vocal styles varying between the growl of Death and Thrash Metal to the more melodic lyrical structures of Symphonic and Fantasy Metal. Heck, Dio even introduced the keys into metal in a way that had never been done before and somewhere along the way all the above found their way into metal and are today the staple set-up for most metal bands. So when one comes across a metal band that boasts of having a drum kit as its only instrument, challenging the orthodox nature of the metal band structure is but an understatement.

Van Canto has been doing just that since 2006. Five voices and a drummer are able to create a sound which most would be sceptical about calling metal till you give their discography a whirl and see how much of an instrument the voice can be. Out with their sixth album, Van Canto continue to challenge the stereotypical metal band set-up with a genuinely original arrangement which showcases their talents as musicians, their mastery over vocal chords and an alternative take on the genre.

‘Voices of Fire’ is a new project for the band and sees them team up with German author Christoph Hardebusch and his fantasy novel ‘Feuerstimmen’. In an earlier press release the band mentioned that the collaborative process of development between the album and the novel made for a classic case of the chicken and egg paradox. The album has readings from the book interspersed at the end of every song adding further context to the adventurous themes of battle fields full of armies, both human and mythical beast, of dragons and hell fire, of sword wielding heroes and legendary troll warriors straight out of a Tolkien book.

Fantasy metal is thus the easiest genre to slot Van Canto’s sound into though one cannot negate the strong symphonic / choir influence in their composition resulting from the vocal arrangement in the band. The two lead vocalists, Dennis and Inga, establish a commanding presence throughout the album as evidenced on tracks like Dragonwake where the ominous dark undertones are brought alive by Inga’s clean vocals offering a contrasting respite from the feeling of impending doom that the track evokes in the listener. Inga’s vocal range really comes to life on the track with high falsettos and clear low octaves accompanied by the children’s choir from Chorakademie, Dortmund. Equally, tracks like The Bardcall see Dennis take the lead on the vocals with harmonic backing provided by Inga through the track creating a vocal track that has both depth and volume in keeping with the epic nature of the genre.

To Catharsis, for me, is the most complete song on the album. A high intensity track with well positioned vocal interludes accompanied by rhythmic changes to the tempo which build into the solo that matches the high intensity maintained throughout the song. All that coupled with a powerful chorus and rhythmic backing vocals make for the complete epic battle soundtrack.

That being said, Van Canto venture into uncharted territory with ‘Time and Time Again’ which doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the album. The track has more of a rock structure and feel to it, which sounds like a RATM – Symphony X crossover but fails to come together like the other tracks on the album. A brave venture but fantasy metal is an all or nothing kind of genre and this track, in parts, falls short of that.

Overall, I’d say Voices of Fire is a unique experience given the a Cappella delivery of an established metal genre and its interaction with Hardebusch’s book. For the novice metal head, it will require a degree of appreciation for fantasy / symphonic metal but having listened to the album a dozen times, it does grow on one and I would recommend a listen for those interested in experiencing a band that challenges the conventional structure of a metal band.

Written by:- Karan Dutta

Score: Karan 7/10

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