The Von Hertzens’ recent move away from their spacey, expansive roots towards a more succinct approach proved fruitful, with 2013’s Nine Lives earning them deserved acclaim beyond the borders of their native Finland.
In many instances, such a diversion could herald a new, overly commercial simplicity, but the trio maintained a complexity befitting their progressive past. As if to prove how they were flourishing, their buoyant Flowers And Rust even won the Anthem Of The Year gong at the Prog Awards two years ago.
Having achieved so much with that musical shift, the band were faced with matching or outshining the magical songs on their latest album. New Day Rising opens with its title track, which is a clever proclamation of their objectives. Replete with the vibrancy of their last album, it’s an airless, unrelenting rock anthem brimful with the type of chorus and attitude synonymous with the likes of the Foo Fighters. You Don’t Know My Name continues in that vein, with a startling Motörhead-esque guitar riff, bass-driven chorus and harmony vocals that evoke early-70s Queen, enhanced by the brothers’ gleefully twisted progressive mindset.
Black Rain tempers the exuberance. Enhanced by strings, it’s a relatively mellow yet evocative tale of painful longing, and it provides a concise interlude that’s only eclipsed by the remarkable Hold Me Up. Any progressive act seeking guidance on how to incorporate a pop edge into their music without selling their souls to The Man should look no further. With an exquisite chorus, it’s an obvious single and should further enhance their more mainstream credentials. Yes, the fickle nature of playlist-oriented radio may weigh against it, but it deserves to be heard by a wide audience.
All this may well alarm some Von Hertzen purists, who might wrongly believe that the band’s current path is leading them away from their noted adventurism. But there are numerous moments that will provide reassurance that this band’s spirit of audacity remains a forceful presence. Their daring may not always be successful though, with Dreams being a noticeable example. Coming across like the Von Hertzens playing Madness, its jaunty attempt at creating the genre of ‘Nordic ska’ is daring but remains slightly wide of the mark. Such moments are fleeting though, and more than compensated for by such marvels as ambitious track The Destitute or the atmospheric Hibernating Heart.
There are still a few bands with the musical imagination and resilience to create an album as all-embracing as this. Thankfully, the Von Hertzen Brothers are only part of the way through their journey.