The Von Hertzen Brothers – ‘VII: War Is Over’ (Musical Theories Recordings/Mascot Label Group) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by David O'Neill   
Thursday, 26 October 2017 04:20

Von Hertzen Brothers War Is Over artworkThe VHBs have been locked away since their recent visit to the UK back in the summer, recording their seventh studio album ahead of their UK headline tour in November, which sees them doing 12 dates in 13 days. It’s an impressive itinerary which criss-crosses the UK mainland, starting in Nottingham on 5 November, then heading west, north east then Scotland before to north Wales (where they are doing two stints at Camp HRH) before doing the south east and then back to north Wales and finishing in Wolverhampton.

 

The album is an eclectic mix of rock and prog given the VHB slant, with Mikko von Hertzen’s definitive voice always edging the vocals towards the more commercial Anderson days of Yes.

 

‘War Is Over’ is a definite prog influenced track, with multiple layering and time signatures throughout, that is carried along fantastically by the haunting ethereal vocals of Mikko. At 12 minutes 34 seconds you’re really going to have a surfeit of prog – and, even though it’s not likely to get much radio play, I know a certain PlanetRock DJ who’s gonna love it! The keyboard playing of Robert Engstrand is clearly evident throughout the track and the guitar work of both VHBs (Kie and Mikko) calls and returns intricately throughout. This is going to be a live epic! The ending reminds me of ‘Squonk’ from ‘Trick Of The Tail’.

 

‘To The End Of The World’ then hits you right between the rock ears. Hard driving, solid riffing, bass/drum driven rock! The vocal harmonies of the band continue to amaze me both recorded and live. ‘The Arsonist’ is the single from the album and at 3:53 is great for airtime, and follows on from the style of the previous album in the distinctive vocal harmonic style that the VHBs are getting to be their own sound, supplemented by a hook that has more barbs than a mackerel line. This is gonna play and play on the radio.

 

 

‘Jerusalem’ readily demonstrates the keyboard skills of Engstrand, where they subtly lilt along in the background of the track carrying it before taking over at the breakdown. The track is another VHB belter. ‘Frozen Butterflies’ take me back to Yes in parts and is going to go down a storm live, the driving drums of Sami Kuoppamäki hammering the track towards its inevitable soaring guitar solo and vocal harmonics.

 

‘Who Are You’ starts with a simple acoustic guitar riff and the echoic vocals of Mikko before it gets a bit monastic in parts; the guitar work is subtle, just carrying the melody along before the crescendo which stops abruptly at the breakdown and drives on to the end. This is a truly great track.

 

The rhythm section of Kuoppamäki and Jonne Von Herzten open up ‘Blindsight’ before it rocks along at a progtastic pace with some outstanding guitar solos from the boys towards the end. Breathless! ‘Long Lost Sailor’ opens in a typical VHB style: Mikko’s lyrics followed rapidly by the guitar hook and harmonic vocals. I can’t wait to see many of these tracks live as they are going to go down a storm. ‘Wanderlust’ is the only other sub four-minute track, so you can’t say the VHBs don’t give value for money.

 

Listening to this album made me realise why I got into “some” prog rock in my earlier years: this, plus the late discovery of King Crimson (the last two years), may just dig out some Yes and early Genesis again. After playing the VHBS to death of course. It is a gentle disclosure of the reason why musicians desert their families on a regular basis.

 

The final track, ‘Beyond The Storm’, initially has a military feel to the drum/tom/snare rhythm that carries the track throughout before the breakdown gets much harsher than the emotion of the track seems to be trying to convey.

 

At first listen I wasn’t sure what to make of the heavily prog-laden offering of this album. However, I can see me listening to it almost as often as my other current favourite album. I wonder if the title has some musical significance in the development of the band from the more “popular” offering of the last album.

 

If UR did album ratings, I’d give it 8.5/10, only because of the unexpected development of the significantly prog influenced music, but it will definitely grow and grow. I can’t wait to see the guys in the Fleece in Bristol in a couple of weeks’ time.

 

Von Hertzen tour header

 

‘VII: War Is Over’ is released on Friday 3 November. You can get your copy HERE.

 

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