Grandiose prog rock with infectious pop sensibilites
For a band a decade and a half down the road since their inception in Helsinki at the dawn of the new Millennium, it was only with their latest infectious 2013 release, Nine Lives that The Von Hertzen Brothers truly began to establish themselves on our shores. With a musical heritage deep-rooted in their family tree – the brothers’ father a guitarist in the progressive acts The Savages and The Roosters, with their uncle also a member of 70’s folk band Cumulus – it was the powerful and perfectly pompous single Coming Home that ignited this band’s commercial potential. It was a song as fun, as bombastic and as memorable as they come – plays on morning radio shows on the likes of TeamRock and beyond had us dancing and wiggling our arses while haplessly trying to sing along with a mouth full of Colgate. Perhaps that was just me, but one thing I was not alone in was in the hyping of what this Finnish trio had to offer: Like the ever-brilliant stomp of Muse, this was flamboyant and expansive prog rock clothed, not so much in the kingly robes of the progressive greats whose sounds echo in their own – namely Yes, Genesis and Rush – but in a smart casual attire that has won the hearts of the mainstream rock world. It was progressive in every sense of the word, from the delicately layered instrumentation to the pyschadelic tinges and purposefully off-kilter execution, but it was sharp and succinct all the same, boasting a magnetism that drew in a wide variety of followers.
So in many respects, New Day Rising – and we’ll refrain from boring you with rhapsodising about the relevancy of the title – is their most hotly anticipated album to date. After a decade and a half, it is now, in 2015 that they find themselves putting out an album that, if it manages to maintain the excitement bristling around them as a result of Nine Lives, would see them cement their place in the rock world for years to come.
The opening one-two of the record, the enormous and swaggering title track and the soulful, captivating and awe-inspiring You Don’t Know My Name, appears to have bottled the excitement that’s been building up around them emphatically and then unleashed it in the studio. Across their collective nine minute span they unleash a flurry of resonant guitar riffs juxtaposed with more meaty, head pounding moments, twinkling, grandiose piano, hip shaking rhythms and intrepid and inexhaustible vocals. When the vocal harmonies that close the latter track fade out in a haze of passion and fury you’re left short for breath in a few seconds silence before the next track begins– although it feels like so much more.
"Throughout, moments of light, of luscious melodies and genteel delivery, intertwine faultlessly with darker movements where the velocity ramps up and goes for the jugular."
Throughout, moments of light, of luscious melodies and genteel delivery, intertwine faultlessly with darker movements where the velocity ramps up and goes for the jugular. Trouble exemplifies this, with lulling verses giving way to tidal choruses lavished in falsetto, Queen-esque backing vocals and a fuzz savaged crescendos capable of bringing walls down.
Yet, the unadulterated excitement and exuberance gushing from those opening tracks isn’t capitalised on as you’d hoped. While the ensuing Black Rain, Hold Me Up and Love Burns are far from disappointing, they do little to grab your attention and imagination like the surrounding songs do.
It is in the latter stages of the album that takes it to the next level. The band’s pop sensibilities shine through most blindingly on the spangly, piano led Dreams. While it does nothing to rouse your inner beastliness and throw furniture across the room in the throes of a riff driven mosh, this inoffensive composition, reminiscent the chart botherers Electric Light Orchestra, is a refreshing change of pace that broadens the albums horizons. Complain about this track’s lack of heaviness and you’re simply a party pooper – if you want me I’ll be dancing on the table, with a mouthful of toothpaste again.
Sunday Child is amass with some deft guitar work of emotive chord variations that dance around intricate bass work and Juha Kuoppala’s simplistic but highly effective keys adding yet more spice. The fuzzy grooves and keyboard melodies on The Destitute meanwhile are just brilliant and Hibernating Heart is a gorgeous and soothing way to end what is, quite frankly, a brilliant album.
If this was the album that would either be sink or swim for the beloved Finns, then you’ll find them on a Lilo, cocktail in hand, floating nonchalantly atop the water. A job well done.