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Oh dear. I'm afraid that's what I must proclaim in relation to Van Canto's latest album, 'Dawn of the Brave', the German a cappella metal troupe's fifth full-length studio offering. I really wanted to like this, having previously sung their praises. They've always trodden that ever so thin line between the genius and the ridiculous but, for me at least, the gimmick's eventually lost all of its charm and novelty value. As such, in 2014, Van Canto veer way more towards the absurd. As ever, the predominant aesthetic is that of the band hamming it up. They're evidently serious about their chosen stylistic path, although it's been dressed up, more emphatically than before, in goofy imagery. And you needn't look further than the cover art for such a vibe. Depicting a faux superhero standing atop a whole load of trashed musical instruments, it's a bold, and amusingly hammy, statement of their a cappella credentials. However, with a snare drum amongst the gear, Van Canto have somewhat shot themselves in the foot considering the only non-vocal instrument they use is a live drummer.

There's still an immense amount of insanely well-arranged and executed polyvocal talent to be heard in each of the tracks - that's indubitable; however, talent doesn't always necessarily equate to captivating artistry. Far from it on 'Dawn of the Brave' for, here, it's resulted in something that's made me laugh... for all the wrong reasons, and never more so heartily and loud than during the covers Van Canto have tackled this time around. They've managed to elevate Europe's perennially cheesy anthem, 'The Final Countdown', from a mild cheddar to an extra mature stilton in its a cappella guise. A version of Annie Lennox's sonically sublime 'The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King' soundtrack number 'Into the West' is somehow reminiscent, in a bad way, of 80s' UK a cappella pop sensation The Flying Pickets. Tackling Bonnie Tyler's 'Holding Out for a Hero' is just a bad idea on paper and has resulted in a ridiculously melodramatic and cringe-inducingly crass interpretation. And why they presumed Black Sabbath's 'Paranoid' needed the Van Canto treatment is anyone's guess - it's horrific in every possible way. I guess it sounded great to the band themselves, unless they deliberately wanted to end the album at its lowest point.

Have I been too harsh? Perhaps. Van Canto are still masters of what they do and set out to achieve, albeit the whole a cappella metal gimmick's worn incredibly thin. I'm sure 'Dawn of the Brave' would be a lot more fun, and significantly less funny, if digested within the right context. I predict that listening to this after a few...actually, many beers, will make the whole album seem like the most marvellous thing I've heard for years. Unfortunately, my sober state of mind tells me otherwise. If you enjoy listening to music that compels you into uncontrollable fits of laughter then this is most definitely the album for you. If curiosity gets the better of you and you still feel the need to check this out, drink yourself stupid, put on the album, and hail the 'Dawn of the Brave'. Otherwise, it'll seem more like the 'Sunset of the Ridiculous'.
Napalm Records
Review by Mark Holmes
10th Feb 2014
1) Dawn of the Brave
2) Fight for Your Life
3) To the Mountains
4) Badaboom; 5) The Final Countdown
6) Steelbreaker; 7) The Awakening
8) The Other Ones
9) Holding Out for a Hero
10) Unholy
11) My Utopia
12) Into the West
13) Paranoid
"Van Canto are still masters of what they do and set out to achieve, albeit the whole a cappella metal gimmick's worn incredibly thin."