The phenomenon VAN CANTO is pretty well known by now, with “Break The Silence” being the fourth album total by the Germans and while the novelty factor has worn off by now, they still are a unique band that through longevity continues to prove that they are more than just a gimmick that will fade away once people would get used to the style and sound, showing that there is long-term quality to be found in this band.
The changes compared to the previous albums are pretty marginal, with the exception of the drums still everything is done by voices only, including the guitar solos that are done through a distorter, with big emphasis on vocal melodies and the trademark “rakkatakka” and “ran-dan-dan” substitutions of guitars and bass, everything still comfortably fitting into the Power Metal genre, so if big evolution beyond the fundamental difference is something you would have been looking for, you might find yourself a little disappointed by the fourth effort of VAN CANTO, if you appreciate very well made music, regardless of style, then you are still in for a treat with “Break The Silence”.
Still building on a stable line-up, the band around fronters Sly and Inga is building on some trusted pillars of up-tempo Power Metal, cover versions and mid- to slow-paced compositions, which you probably will either love or hate, with little room for indifference in-between. Opener “If I Die In Battle” sets a glorious pace, with lots of pathos and energy, super catchy chorus, it comes flying out of the starting blocks, which “The Seller Of Souls” continues with epic melodies and harmonies, excellent dynamics and atmosphere, if you don’t get hooked by the opening duo, you might just as well give up on the whole album.
I find that when the Germans go a little faster and bombastic, their formula works the best, as is further illustrated with “The Higher Flight” towards the end, it is when they slow things down that we get a little more divided results. Mid-paced “Dangers In My Head” fails to connect with me and sounds ho-hum, while “Black Wings Of Hate” also lacks a little dynamics amidst the darker and slower sound, but it has going for it that it sounds nicely different overall, whereas the ballad “Spelled In Waters” is a head-scratcher, because it is all acoustic in the traditional sense, which doesn’t quite make sense to me to use an acoustic guitar on a technically a capella album... “Neuer Wind” is the first German-language track and while it may distract some Germanophones, the very different rhythm of the German language gives it a kind of uniqueness among the band’s back catalogue, even if it may sound a little “odd” to the uninitiated here and there, the song itself is a strong stomper, with good drive.
Leaves the three cover versions, beginning with SABATON’s “Primo Victoria” (with the band’s own Jocke Brodén on the mic as well) and while the song is great and the version is not bad, I miss this epic grandeur that the original has, whereas with “Bed Of Nails” of Alice Cooper at first I had thought it was a VAN CANTO original, just more rocking, so a very well implemented version that also is a nice difference to what they usually choose and in the end we have MANOWAR’s “Master Of The Wind”, which fits the VAN CANTO harmonies very well and is a calm closer for the album.
As usual, the production is top notch, crystal clear and just exactly the way it has to be to let the vocals and harmonies shine, the musicianship still is very high as well, that some tracks have found their way here that are showing some budding signs of weakness might become a slight worry down the road, if they continue down that path, for now I can still attest them the Olympus of A Capella Metal and high originality alongside high quality, not their best, but definitely another quality release by VAN CANTO that will keep them in the hearts of their fans and should hopefully gather them a bunch of new ones as well.
(Online November 9, 2011)