Van Canto - Tribe of Force
Napalm Records
A Capello Power Metal
13 songs (55'13")
Release year: 2010
Van Canto, Napalm Records
Reviewed by Alex

I have to admit that when I heard about the approach Germans Van Canto take to heavy metal I was intrigued. No electronic instruments, just drums and a capello vocals covering the range of frequencies. If anything, a quality choir always wins points in my book, even if the music otherwise is not of extreme heavy variety (i.e., Turetsky Choir in modern day Russia is one example). Still, given the unusual style of Van Canto and my unfamiliarity with the band’s earlier output, I thought I would run for cover by going to a cover first (pun intended), and begin my exploration of Tribe of Force with the cover of Metallica’s Master of Puppets. That song blew me away, hearing how Metallica’s world famous riffs can be vocalized on several different levels and lead singer Philip Dennis Schunke’s rendition of Hetfield is the man himself twenty years younger. Add tight drumming, operatic female voice of Inga Scharf attenuating the high notes when needed, melodic middle interlude – this venerable song has been given a remake and energy uplift at the same time.

That Master of Puppets cover raised my expectations for Tribe of Force, and probably did so unfairly high. There is another cover on the album, of Grave Digger’s Rebellion with Chris Boltendahl himself contributing his unmistakable German accented gruff. Just like Metallica’s cover, Van Canto do a wonderful job of “dandan”ing and “rakkatakka”ing riffs, creating a unique product in the process. It is then regrettable that with their own songs the Germans are not using this line of attack nearly enough. It is certain that Van Canto is not paint-by-numbers power metal band, but they need to bring out their bottom warble continuously and never lose sight of their own shtick. I am game for the atmosphere they are trying to convey, but they need to have more songs like One to Ten and My Voice than I Am Human and even title track, which are closer to mainstream power metal. Hearted, featuring Tony Kakko, is a little too cheery melodic, while the savage beginning of My Voice and Falconer melody of To Sing a Metal Song suit Van Canto so much better. Not trying to resurrect the early In Extremo minstrels, Van Canto medieval folky slant is a natural when polyphonic vocal lines are supposed to be the main attraction. After all, Middle Ages folk could not rely on the electronics either. Rousing anthemic Lost Forever and somber acoustic Last Night of the Kings do bring to life that period of European civilization. Inga Scharf does nothing to diminish the grade here, taking ably on lead role in One to Ten.

And speaking of electronics one more time, it is fine to uncork a guitar solo periodically, but for the life of me I can’t believe that none other than drums and vocals are used on cuts like Magic Taborea and Frodo’s Dream which sound full scale orchestral and operatic. Perhaps we need to talk about vocals being pushed way up front in the mix, rather than being the sole instrument, but if Van Canto can produce the sound they do on many of their songs with drums and vocals only, my hat is off to them and other bands are simply wasting time and money investing into equipment.

Killing Songs :
Lost Forever, To Sing a Metal Song, One to Ten, My Voice, Last Night of the Kings, Master of Puppets (cover)
Alex quoted 82 / 100
Other albums by Van Canto that we have reviewed:
Van Canto - Dawn of the Brave reviewed by Jared and quoted 80 / 100
Van Canto - Break the Silence reviewed by Alex and quoted 82 / 100
Van Canto - A Storm To Come reviewed by Ross and quoted 85 / 100
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