They are an a cappella band… but with a drummer instead of a beatboxer. Bizarre.
They are (sort of) a cappella but they don’t do twiddly classical or twee pop… they do metal. Proper metal. Metal with a capital M. A cappella Metal. Bizarre.
In their latest release, Voices Of Fire, they have worked with fantasy author, Christoph Hardebusch, to produce a concept album that tells the story: Voices Of Fire, a story of dragons and darkness. An a cappella, Prog Metal, concept album. Bizarre.
Finally, to put the icing on the bun of bizarreness, have a look at the people they are collaborating with on this release. A couple of backing singers just doesn’t cut the mustard for Van Canto. For this album, they have enlisted Metro Voices, a choir noted for their big, bombastic sound on films such as Pirates of the Caribbean and, because one choir isn’t enough, the children’s choir from Chorakademie Dortmund also feature. The cherry on the top is none other than Gimli the dwarf (in the form of actor John Rhys-Davies) who narrates the story. Brilliantly bizarre!
When they are full pelt, they are astonishing. The band claim they have to have a real drummer because beat boxers couldn’t keep up with them and when they cut loose, you can understand why that might be true; it is impressive that Bastian Emig, the “real drummer”, can last the pace. The rest of the band are; Ross Thompson (higher guitar vocals); Stefan Schmidt (lower guitar vocals); Jan Moritz (bass vocals); with Dennis “Sly” Schunke and Inga Scharf on lead vocals. To my ear, the sound is least impressive when attempting to vocalise a guitar solo but when they are all working together, it sounds awesome. I was playing a track one lunchtime when some pupils came into my room. They asked who it was. When I told them, they refused to believe there were no instruments other than drums and vocals. “But I heard a guitar!”, they insisted. If you don’t believe they can be that good, check out the video for “The Bardcall” at the end of this review or this lyric video for “Clashings On Armour Plate” (one of my favourites).
While some bands struggle to create a symphonic metal sound by layering on keyboards and orchestral samples. Van Canto nail it using just drums and vocals. If you like your metal on the progressive side, or if you would like to try some a cappella that is aca-epic, get yourself a copy of Voices Of Fire!