This is the seventh album from Finland’s Von Hertzen Brothers and it sees a return to a more prog influenced sound after the last two albums which were more straightforward AOR/Rock. I think that on the strength of the material on display here this was a very wise choice indeed as this album is full of high quality songs and music, yet somehow still retaining a superior melodic flair alongside song very strong musicianship. Having seen these guys live at HRH Prog recently, they are also able to reproduce this astonishing sound live.
The lead single to be released, The Arsonist, has an catchy and infectious singalong chorus needs to be heard to be believed. This is followed by Jerusalem (not the hymn or ELP number) which opens with strong synth lines, from guest Janne “Burton” Puurtinen of HIM, and urgent drumming before the vocals are introduced, once again strong and clear, as indeed they are throughout the whole album.
The album is unusual in that each brother produced the songs they wrote, and yet somehow it’s still cohesive and all sounds very good indeed. Yes, it has poppy overtones but that should help recruit new converts to the cause who could then potentially discover other prog outfits, like Anathema, Steven Wilson or Big Big Train perhaps as they begin to grasp the variety within the Prog genre.
Blindsight and Long Lost Sailor are both fine, if not a tad unmemorable, but Wanderlust is a more gentle acoustic number with sensitive vocals and lyrics, offering a change of pace before the two big numbers of Beyond The Storm and War Is Over, both of which are the more epic songs. Beyond The Storm opens gently and has a good riff to it but for the initial section it is a mid-paced number with very earnest vocals and features a string section to give the song more gravitas, which it does well, then at four and a half minutes in a guitar solo is introduced that begins to take the song to greater heights before another impassioned vocal section. It’s all emotive and stirring stuff really and this is overall a great tune as it builds in intensity and greatness. This is a bold and intelligent piece of songcraft with a great production to boot.
The last song I want to consider is actually the first on the album, the title track War Is Over. At 12:34 it’s the longest and most ambitious track on display, opening with keyboards for the first minute before a guitar is brought into proceedings, strummed languidly but to great effect, heavy with reverb and with a synth matching the guitar line throughout. This is a very effective opening before, at the 3 minute mark the song gathers pace and the whole band crash in with soaring synths. The vocal is introduced, a lyric about the futility of war and how the singer doesn’t want to live in a world where it still happens. There is a lot going on as they pile in guitars, keyboards, drums, layered vocals and the kitchen sink with a production that somehow remains clear, strong and decidedly untacky, bombastic and brave yet somehow it all melds together and provides a very strong song indeed, and a great summation of everything that is good about the Von Hertzen Brothers.
Yes, it’s gloriously over the top but when it sounds as great as this all the bombast can be forgiven and you can simply revel in the sound to truly enjoy what is a fine album. Very much a return to form and a great album to hear by any mark, highly recommended indeed.
01. War Is Over (12:34)
02. To The Ends Of The World (5:08)
03. The Arsonist (3:53)
04. Jerusalem (5:42)
05. Frozen Butterflies (4:03)
06. Who Are You (5:40)
07. Blindsight (5:51)
08. Long Lost Sailor (4:27)
09. Wanderlust (3:55)
10. Beyond the Storm (8:30)
Total Time – 59:32
Kie von Hertzen – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Mikko von Hertzen – Vocals, Guitar
Jonne von Hertzen – Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
Sami Kuoppamäki – Drums
Janne “Burton” Puurtinen – Keyboards (on Jerusalem)
Record Label: Mascot Records
Country of Origin: Finland
Date of Release: 3rd November 2017