Von Hertzen Brothers – War Is Over – Album Review

von-hertzen-brothers_war-is-over_c1

Artist: Von Hertzen Brothers

Album Title: War Is Over

Label: Mascot Label Group / Music Theories Recordings

Date Of Release: 3 November 2017

The history of Von Hertzen Brothers is both rich and varied. Prior to forming the band in 2000, each of the three Von Hertzen siblings were well-known individually for their own musical exploits. The idea of joining forces at the turn of the millennium was simply to come together to produce the kind of music that united the trio, namely a bold blend of progressive, classic and contemporary rock. With a hint of folk and punk thrown in for good measure, it is a genuinely eclectic-sounding recipe but one that has found reasonable success over the years.

In spite of this, I’m not the biggest aficionado of the band, only owning one record out of their previous six in my personal collection. I like ‘Stars Aligned’ (2011), but it doesn’t get as regular a rotation as perhaps it should. The band then courted controversy in 2015 with ‘New Day Rising’ by enlisting the help of Garth Richardson (Red Hot Chili Peppers) to produce their slicker, less progressive and more mainstream compositions. It was clearly the band’s attempt of breaking into the mainstream and, to be honest, I can’t fault them for trying.

The gamble did not really pay off as far as I can tell but undeterred, the Finns have continued to create music under their collective banner, with ‘War Is Over’, their latest offering.

Whilst the gamble might not have shot them into superstardom, it has undeniably had an effect on their music and this can be heard loud and clear on ‘War Is Over’. In no way is this new record a clone of their last, but you can certainly hear the more mainstream trappings lurking within many of the ten songs that makes up this new release. Some of the melodies are right out of the world of pop, as are a few of the overall song structures.

That said, you can’t escape the fact that the opening title track is over 12 minutes in length, whilst the closer is over eight. A further four songs then weigh in at over the five-minute mark. This therefore flies in the face of the conventional three-minute length required by the shrinking attention span of the mainstream.

Equally, the music that makes up ‘War Is Over’ is far too varied and far too multi-faceted to be glibly dismissed as another attempt to cosy up to the mainstream. Not only are the songs varied within themselves, there is also a very clever diversity between songs also. In short, whilst there is no mistaking any of the music as the work of Von Hertzen Brothers in part because of the distinctive voice of Mikko von Hertzen, no two songs sound the same.

041244fc-a80e-41b0-9fb0-588f174cf5c5

‘To The End of the World’, for example, is a big, groovy hard rock number with a bold 70s vibe at the outset, led by the guitars of Kie and Mikko von Hertzen. It features an enormous hook-laden chorus and a striking mid-song descent into a moody soundscape before re-emerging via some effervescent instrumental interplay. It’s the kind of song that really grows on you and ultimately makes a big impact.

Then there’s the jangly, looser indie feel to ‘The Arsonist’, specifically in the immediately accessible chorus. The bass of Jonne von Hertzen is prominent in the verses, whilst Mikko Kaakkuriniemi’s drumming is full of exuberance.

My personal favourite track shows another side to this talented band. ‘Jerusalem’ is a slower keyboard-heavy and atmospheric neo-prog beast of a track with another killer chorus, powerful lyrics and drama in abundance.

We’re not finished there because ‘Frozen Butterflies’ is another up-beat and chunky rock track with a breeziness that’s infectious, whilst ‘Who Are You’ begins quietly with acoustic guitars, soft vocals and the gentle keys of Juha Kuoppala before turning into something more akin to post-rock thanks to the driving guitars that create an imposing wall of sound in places, albeit tempered by more melodic material as well. ‘Long Lost Sailor’ then calls to mind ELO of all bands at the beginning and end of the song by virtue of the vocal delivery, not to mention an eyebrow-raising dabble with something that could have come from a spaghetti western film.

At this point, I feel I have to return to the enormous opening title track. It might be over 12 minutes in length, but it flies past every time I listen. According to the band in an interview with Classic Rock Prog, ‘the title song is a three part declaration of peace’ but more than that, it is an elaborate, genuinely progressive composition, full of ambition and competing ideas. It contains plenty of theatrics and drama, as it opens in deliberately slow fashion, full of suspense and intrigue only to blossom into a muscular rock song with yet another memorable chorus, plenty of dynamic light and shade and even a hint or two of Queen as well as a brief sojourn into pronounced blues territory.

To close out ‘War Is Over’, Von Hertzen Brothers give us ‘Beyond The Storm’, an eight-and-a-half minute song that follows arguably the most introspective and brooding track on the entire record in the form of ‘Wanderlust’. The way in which the finale builds from quiet beginnings to controlled exuberance gives the whole thing an epic feel and actually, a sense of unbridled joy at the death. It is a fitting climax to the record.

Ultimately, ‘War Is Over’ would appear to be ideal blend of mainstream rock and more progressive ideas; the way in which the two are blended so smoothly is impressive, leading to an album that is varied, multi-faceted and hugely enjoyable from start to finish. As a result, I suspect that ‘War Is Over’ could well be the album to force me into exploring the exploits of the talented Von Hertzen Brothers in a lot more detail.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.75

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Witchery – I Am Legion
Cloak – To Venomous Depths
Elvenking – Secrets of the Magick Grimoire
Moonspell – 1755
Cannibal Corpse – Red Before Black
Communic – Where Echoes Gather
Impureza – La Caida De Tonatiuh
Auđn – Farvegir Fyrndar
Beast In Black – Berserker
Serenity – Lionheart
Sorcerer – The Crowning of the Fire King
Daydream XI – The Circus of the Tattered and Torn
CyHra – Letters To Myself
Devoid – Cup of Tears
Ne Obliviscaris – Urn
Sons Of Apollo – Psychotic Symphony
Enslaved – E
Samael – Hegemony
Vuur – In This Moment We Are Free – Cities
Power Quest – Sixth Dimension
Iris Divine – The Static And The Noise
Daniel Cavanagh – Monochrome
White Moth Black Butterfly – Atone
Jag Panzer – The Deviant Chord
Vulture Industries – Stranger Times
Anubis Gate – Covered In Black
Protean Collective – Collapse
Cradle Of Filth – Cryproriana – The Seductiveness of Decay
TDW & Dreamwalkers Inc. – The Antithetic Affiliation
Caligula’s Horse – In Contact
Nocturnal Rites – Phoenix
Arch Enemy – Will To Power
Threshold – Legends Of The Shires
H.E.A.T – Into The Great Unknown
Dyscarnate – With All Their Might
Subterranean Masquerade – Vagabond
Adagio – Life
Paradise Lost – Medusa
The Haunted – Strength In Numbers
Serious Black – Magic
Leprous – Malina
The Lurking Fear – Out of the Voiceless Grave
Prospekt – The Illuminated Sky
Wintersun – The Forest Seasons
Witherfall – Nocturnes And Requiems
Tuesday The Sky – Drift
Anthriel – Transcendence
Decapitated – Anticult
Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Ancient Ascendant
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s