Van Canto – To The Power Of Eight
Release Date: 04/06/2021
Running Time: 48:20
Review by Beth Jones
I might be a metalhead now, but I’ve not always been this way. I was a late starter so to speak, only discovering the way of the horns in my late teens. Before that, the majority of my life had centered around classical music and Jazz. My dad and brother were Jazz musicians, and my dad also taught woodwind, and was a dedicated devourer of all things classic, with a particular penchant for Wagner. As a child, music was my entire life. I learnt to read manuscript before I learnt to read words. At 4, I started Flute, then at 9, Piano. Then, when I moved to high school, I discovered choral singing, and the little leftover gap in my heart, which had not quite been filled with the instruments I’d started on, or the music I’d been exposed to, brimmed over with joy.
Some of the happiest times of my life were spent singing with my school’s senior girls’ choir. We travelled to various places in the world, giving concerts, and competing in choral festivals. We sang anywhere, from a catacomb somewhere in Germany, to Cologne Cathedral, and a stone outcrop in the middle of the River Dee (after winning the Llangollen Eisteddfod). It was magical, and as yet nothing has come close to emulating the feeling of joy in its purest form that I got from singing in harmony with those around me. However, I still get a small part of that joy back listening to choral music of all kinds. And this is the reason for me telling you another of my slightly melancholic, dream-like tales of past me.
German Metallers, Van Canto are, for me, like a special little bit of Eutopia. They take my love of choral music, and in particular, Acapella, and make it Metal. And they do it with style (and plenty of rigidy-digidy dum dum)! Since 2006 they’ve been trailblazing their Acapella Metal (much to my joy) and their new album, “To The Power Of Eight” continues this. There are many 8’s involved in this album, which I’m assuming is the driving force behind the name. It’s their 8th Studio Album, and former singer, Philip Dennis “Sly” Schunke, joins them as a guest for this album, making them an 8 piece. There are also 8 original tracks on the album, along with 4 Covers: Amon Amarth’s ‘Raise Your Horns’, Maiden’s ‘Run To The Hills’, ‘Thunderstruck’, possibly ACDC’s most well known song, and ‘I Want It All’, by Queen. So, let’s tackle those first.
Queen, for me, are hands down the best and most influential band of our time. I hold Freddie Mercury in the same esteem as I would a deity. HE was, and his legacy still is, a god amongst men. So, when people cover Queen, I get a bit twitchy. But Van Canto smash it out of the park here. I still forget sometimes that, aside from the drums, every other sound they make is created by the power of their voice, and some distortion to get the correct ‘guitar’ tone. Astonishingly good. ‘Run To The Hills’ and ‘Thunderstruck’ are likewise, too.
‘Raise Your Horns’ makes me chuckle, because I’m infantile, and they say ‘doo-doo’ lots. And for some reason, every time they do, I think of Frank Spencer in ‘Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em’ (a UK comedy series from the 1970’s), uttering the eternal line “Ooh Betty, the cat’s done a whoopsie on the floor”. Those who are old enough will get that reference. Those who aren’t, if you google that line, you’ll find it! But I digress, again, this is a very good cover.
For me though, it’s the original tracks on this album that really are special, probably because they’ve been written specifically for vocals. The way that different instruments and tones are emulated is just so brilliantly clever. To create great Symphonic Heavy Metal, with so much power and depth, really displays the astonishing versatility of the voice, when the singers are also blessed with a vision and enough passion to turn it into reality. ‘Faith Focus Finish’ is an absolute banger, ‘Hard Rock Padlock’ is classic Heavy Metal, and ‘From The End’ is thunderous Power Metal, to name but a few.
But my favourite track on the album is ‘Turn Back Time’. This one really strips it back to just the voice. It’s a beautiful, lilting, folky ballad, brimming with close harmonies, and classic cadences, that lets you hear every voice individually, but also displays how masterfully they blend their voices together. Choral singing is so different to any other type of singing because it’s not about making individual voices stand out. It’s about blending each voice together in perfect balance, so that the whole sound becomes one instrument. And Van Canto absolutely nail that. It really is just perfect. As is the whole album. The easiest 10 I’ve given this year.
‘Faith Focus Finish’ (Official Video)
01. To The Power Of Eight
02. Dead By The Night
03. Faith Focus Finish
04. Falling Down
05. Heads Up High
06. Raise Your Horns (Amon Amarth Cover)
07. Turn Back Time
08. Run To The Hills (Iron Maiden Cover)
09. Hardrock Padlock
10. Thunderstruck (AC/DC Cover)
11. From The End
12. I Want It All (Queen Cover)
Hagen Hirschmann – Lead Vocals
Inga Scharf – Lead Vocals
Ross Thompson – Higher Rakkatakka Vocals
Stefan Schmidt – Lower Rakkatakka Vocals
Jan Moritz – Pad and Bass Vocals
Ingo Sterzinger – Bass and Backing Vocals
Bastian Emig – Drums and Backing Vocals
Philip Dennis “Sly” Schunke – Third Main Vocalist and Special Guest
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