Van Halst are a Canadian band, named for their singer.
Vocally strong, with a stage presence to match, Kami Van Halst transcends the traditional Metal trope of four burly guys and a classically trained elf. KVH uncompromisingly owns both the stage and her identity, exhibiting an impressive vocal range, backed up by flawless musicianship. Ranging from Metal to Blues to more Soulful tones, Kami’s vocals bring to mind a plethora of strong females from Aretha to Alison Moyet and Beth Ditto, none of which detracts from their strictly non-mainstream ethic.
It is this unique quality which makes Van Halst stand out among bands in their genre. Unafraid to explore the whole breadth of her musical talent, Kami remains true to her metal roots whilst giving their songs a depth and level of skill which is lacking in the efforts of others.
The album opens as one would expect – The End and Save Me (the first single) are traditional metal, with growled lyrics and an obvious anti-establishment stance including the (now ubiquitous) Right-wing Preacher sound-byte.
We continue through Ryan’s Song (a calmer offering to counterpoint the openers) and World of Make Believe which offer us lyrical examples of Kami’s political leanings and views on modern feminism.
By ‘Questions’ they have progressed from the growling to a far more operatic vocal style and the culture of victim blaming is examined and found wanting.
From Plastic Smile onward, the album becomes a work of art in the blues and Kami examines every possible sociopolitical issue with a voice which sounds far more real than the beginning growls ever did.
Put Him Down is my favourite track on the album and provides a solid crescendo of talent; the band engage in QOTSA-style thrumming bass lines and Ms Van Halst brings to mind both Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin as we are enveloped in one of the strongest blues voices I have heard this year.
If there is anything to criticise about this band, it is that their lyrics can often seem simplistic and somewhat facile. They clearly have points to make and something to say and, if their writing style can improve to compliment their stunning vocals, they they will go far.