Von Hertzen Brothers - War Is Over

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Musical Theories Recordings
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Finland's Von Hertzen Brothers are a band that for a while looked to be the next big thing in prog. Around the time of the 2011 High Voltage Festival in London, where they opened the Prog Stage, there was quite a bit of excitement. Their current album at the time, Stars Aligned, was a very accessible piece with lots of hints and references to bands like early Queen and Rush when it came to some of the arrangements.

On their last album, New Day Rising, they seemed to go for a more straightforward approach. The good news for those who crave the more progressive leanings is War Is Over makes a real return to that style. It is easy on the ear at times, not all the songs are long, but throughout there are beautifully executed time changes, and well-crafted melodies along with superb harmonies. There are moments of heaviness at appropriate times, and the themes of the album, looking for peace, questioning why we hate and when things go wrong always blame others due to colour, culture or race, work within both the words and music. The music certainly fits nicely along the lyrics all the way through.

This time around, the influences which most came to mind were, amongst others, Yes, King Crimson, Spock's Beard, Pain of Salvation in the way that they use a "theme" and explore it, and U2, at least on one track. None of the major influences swamp the album, as all of the songs sound like the band themselves, but they highlight that the band are reaching into their prog roots more than last time out.

The two longer songs are the first and last tracks. Both make use of a constant theme or melody line, and like an orchestral piece, are explored between louder and quieter parts and various instruments doing fills within it. Opener War Is Over starts with sound effects, hunting through radio stations, some Morse code and small bursts of the theme or melody until about three to four minutes into the track when the band properly kick in. Drummer Sami Kuoppamaki is magnificent on this (and throughout) and having worked with Apocalyptica, before has a grounding in more classical sounding music. There are hints of mystical music from the East, and according to the press release Mikko von Hertzen (vocalist, guitarist) wrote his lyrics in India where he stayed for a number of years. This comes more to the fore on the second song To The End of The World where he wrote the melody and music in an Indian scale. Strangely this second track is the most like Yes, but then again it shouldn't surprise, as singer Jon Anderson is reasonably well known for his love of world music and philosophies, and has put it into his music for many years. The riffs sound dirty and fuzzy and the vocals clear and sweet - between the chorus and the verses there is also that difference. It may be only five minutes long, but it packs a punch. Live this should be barnstorming.

Blindsight is another track with a dirty fuzzy bass sound which is to the fore quite a bit of the time, with moments that have that POS and Orphaned Land feel. The way that Mikko has such a variety of vocal styles, along with the unity of his brothers on backing vocals (including Kie guitars and Jonne bass) elevate the songs throughout.

There are some more mellow songs with Who Are You and Wanderlust being the pick of them. The former is quite symphonic, but the strings are more interestingly used than many bands who end up swamping whole songs or albums with it. The whole thing sounds sumptuous and the production is terrific (the whole album is beautifully produced with each brother overseeing different tracks each). The latter is very melancholy and simple. A note back to a lover who wants to stay home, have children and set roots down from their partner who cannot stay in one place. They are "born to travel". Not sure how the track actually fits in with the theme but it is a very nice song worthy of inclusion.

The last track Beyond The Storm is the second longest song and is an excellent ending. With military marching beats of the drums surrounding the melody or main theme and at times quite haunting especially vocally at points, building up constantly, this is an utterly captivating piece. There is a Celtic feel at times especially around the guitar solo (imagine a cross between Coming Home by Mark Knopfler and something by Big Country), and as a piece of music this could be used very effectively as a movie soundtrack. Without a doubt this is the best album they have recorded in a few years and has much to savour.

Tracklist: War Is Over / To The End of The World / The Arsonist / Jerusalem / Frozen Butterflies / Who Are You / Blindsight / Long Lost Sailor / Wanderlust / Beyond The Storm

Written by Tom Cornell
More: 2017, Albums, Progressive,

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