Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy, aka the Joyful Gadfly! Musician, podcaster, writer, historian ... here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album is unique in some way. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Van Canto ~ Hero

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: vocal, experimental, heavy metal, German
Label: Gun
Year: 2008
Home: Germany

Members: Dennis Schunke, Inga Scharf ~ lead vocals
Ross Thompson ~ higher b. vocals
Stefan Schmidt ~ lower b. vocals/wahwah solo guitar vocals
Ingo Sterzinger ~ lowest b. vocals
Bastian Emig ~ drums

Guest: Hansi Kursch ~ vocals


Though untraditional German rockers VC had gotten immediate attention on their debut, A Storm To Come, with their ear-catching rendition of Metallica's "Battery", a fast youtube favorite, it's their sophomore effort Hero that really is the highlight of their output to date. Quite often bands come out shining on their first album but it's the second where their sound really gels & they get a grip on what works & what doesn't, let alone become strong where they were weak. A Storm To Come suffered from some light arrangements where the lead singing was fine but the backing "dum dum da dum" vocalizations were not strong enough, too low in the mix & often moved into less than thrilling "ahs" & "oohs" & normal backing singing. It set up the band's gimmick but its Hero that moves things beyond gimmick & up a notch, or tightened the act. It happened a bit on the "Battery" but the rest of the album had too much normal accapella & put too much emphasis on the lead vocal & not enough on the 'rhythm section', which is the focus of VC. But, things have changed with Hero. The whisper is gone for harder heavy metal, or there's less focus on opera & more on the pounding rhythm section. For those that don't know what "dum dum da dum" vocalizations are or are feeling confused VC is not a normal heavy metal band. They do operatic metal with four male vocalists, a female vocalist & a drummer. That's it. No other instrumentation. All the rhythms & textures of a normal band are imitated via "dum dum da dum", "oh oh oh", "rakka rakka"& other non-word vocalizations while one guy & the girl take traditional lead vocals. They call themselves 'hero metal a capella.' The lead singer Dennis Schunke has a good full chest voice but not exactly a distinctive voice. His tone reminds me more of Paul Rodgers than any heavy metal singer, while Inga Scharf adds an operatic element with her high tones in a group of deep voiced men. So, obviously, the real attraction of the band is the backing vocals of the guys imitating a rhythm section. To hear someone sing Metallica is an experience in itself & put VC immediately into the limelight. Cover songs on subsequent albums have thus continued to be a main draw. The original songs being epic but lacking some of the punch of the covers. Hero takes this to a higher level than any album before or after. Their debut had two covers, Hero has half the album as covers: Manowar's "Kings of Metal", Nightwish's "Wishmaster", Deep Purple's "Stormbringer", Iron Maiden's "Fear Of The Dark", Blind Guardian's "The Bard's Song" & "Take To The Sky", the later featuring guest Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian. Hero was the first album to feature a guest that would become the norm. It's hard to avoid not knowing about VC. I've had the opportunity to interview founder Stefan Schmidt who takes great pride in the original compositions, many from his pen, but sadly few are going to overlook these for the gimmick singles. Hero attempts to bring together both worlds. The only other weak part of the album is the vocalized guitar solos that are run through a wah-wah pedal thus losing their unique tones.



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