Von Hertzen Brothers - War Is Over album review

Finland’s sibling trio stay true to themselves on seventh album, and it pays off

TODO alt text

Mixing progressive, classic and alternative leanings, Finnish chart-toppers the Von Hertzen Brothers have been writing against the grain since 2000 – in a land traditionally more receptive to the likes of Nightwish, Children Of Bodom etc. With previous album New Day Rising (2015) they decided to go for broke. They ditched a lot of their proggier tendencies, hired Canadian producer Garth Richardson (Biffy Clyro, Chili Peppers) and went to Vancouver to record something more in line with someone like Foo Fighters than anything they’d done before. Essentially it was their bid to swap Nordic success for a slice of the global rock-star pie.

It didn’t quite work out that way. New Day Rising was a quality, well-received record, but stopped short of the big time. It seems reasonable to imagine they may have felt deflated by this. Indeed, guitarist Kie has said: “We had a discussion about if we still have it in us, and whether we are still up for this?”

Rather than jack it all in, the brothers took stock. Mikko went to India (where he’d previously lived for seven years) and wrote lyrics, and they reassembled in Finland to produce and record their seventh album themselves. No tricks, just the Von Hertzens being the Von Hertzens – sounding more ambitious and, as becomes clearer after a couple of listens, more commanding than ever.

There’s something liberated about the whole thing; a sense that they’re not trying to follow anyone’s standards but their own. Six of the 10 songs here are over five minutes long, with the title track running over 12 minutes. The keyboards are bolder and more prevalent, and Kie plays some of his strongest, flashiest lead guitar work. Seemingly they’ve kept the confidence gleaned from New Day Rising, and mixed it with their adventurous roots.

There’s a hint of ELO in the bittersweet melody shifts of Frozen Butterflies and on the title track. Soft touches of jazzy piano mix with understated harmonies in the beautiful, pensive Who Are You. Blindsight and others start modestly then grow into huge-sounding epics. Indeed even poppier numbers) such as The Arsonist seem to be something slightly oddball, but escalate into something bigger, harder and more triumphant.

But then that’s often the VHB way.

They aren’t afraid to be different, on a grand scale that’s progressive, brooding, even weird at times, but still rocks like a beast.