Van Canto

Tribe of Force

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Van Canto's gimmick can be summed up in one sentence: they perform a cappella power metal. These Germans have five vocalists -- a male and female lead, and three backup vocalists who make the sounds of the instruments by singing things like "dundundundunrakatakatakatakadundundundun" behind them. Anyone familiar with the harmonies created by barbershop quartets, doo wop groups, or show choirs will understand the principle, even if hearing it applied to power metal -- with all its lyrics about dragons, fire, and glory -- is a little weird. The vocalists are extremely skilled, though, and it winds up not being nearly as laughable as it could be -- it's desperately earnest in a way only German power metal can be, but by the third or fourth song that becomes appealing rather than stupid. Some may argue with their lack of commitment to their stylistic choice, given that they have a real drummer -- and worse yet, Rage guitarist Victor Smolski plays a screaming, shred-happy solo on "Hearted," which winds up being disappointing, because what the group members can achieve using only their voices is much more impressive than one more whammy-bar-abusing axeman. Some songs, like their cover of Grave Digger's "Rebellion," almost sound like the work of Japanese group Geinoh Yamashirogumi, who recorded the soundtrack to Akira. And their version of Metallica's "Master of Puppets" is just…indescribable.

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