All you need is dove? Finland’s most ambitious band are back
You know the concept of less being more? Of a barren landscape? Well they are not ideas that have ever suited the Von Hertzen Brothers. And such grandiosity works for them too.
In their career, there are two chart topping albums (Stars Aligned, New Day Rising, Love Remains the Same) and another two Top 5 albums (Nine Lives, Approach )in their homeland. This has led to them scooping an Emma Award (The Finnish Grammy).
Many bands would rest on their laurels there. The brothers don’t know the meaning of the phrase. A record that is described by the group as having an “underlying texture throughout the album, which [we] see as a huge question mark: ‘what are we as humans doing to preserve a loving and kind world? Why are we fighting everyday and blaming others for our problems?”
That explains the dove of peace on the cover. That they are a gifted band explains why the album is so ambitious. It is also interesting for this one that the brothers wrote separately for the first time, in the family holiday cottage in the quiet of Eastern Finland. It is even more of an oddity that each produced their “own” songs if you will.
Given the circumstances, it might be that “War Is Over” might sound a little disjointed. On the contrary. It is cohesive, compelling and comes with a stamp of quality throughout.
It begins with a statement of intent. The title track weighs in at around 12 and a half minutes. Furthermore it is a disorientating wall of sound with so many layers you can barely take them in. It is almost as if it is the soundtrack to some imaginary film in their heads, as it appears as though the credits are going up for the last two minutes.
A truly astonishing opening song, it is followed up with “The End Of The World” an absolutely mighty bass infused groover of a thing, in which the returning Sami Kuoppamäki distinguishes himself on drums (the kit is the only thing the brothers don’t play here).
One of Mikko’s songs, “The Arsonist” shows the brothers at their most harmonic, and it is a real twisted journey, with one of Kie’s following. “Jerusalem” is built on a tide of keyboards that sweeps in, together with a stadium shaking rumble.
Trying to describe the VHB sound is an incredibly tough challenge. But if you could sum “War Is Over” up in one song, it would be “Frozen Butterflies”. Just over four minutes long, it has no right to cram in as much as it does, even down to the twin guitar solo it possesses.
In that context, you can probably see “Who Are You” as the pallet cleanser. However, even this ballad is not stripped down. Instead percussion shakes, and it feels like something wants to burst and there is something of the East about it.
“Blindsight” on the other hand, throbs, pulses and crackles with a primal urgency, and it’s guitar work reaches for the stars and finds them. “Long Lost Sailor” is merely proof that the band can do whatever it wants. Perhaps the simplest song here, with a catchy hook, it is nonetheless an electro rocker with one eye on the dancefloor. Reviewers cleverer than MV would probably call it post punk or something, we’ll just say it is great fun.
A band as confident and daring as this one, doesn’t usually have words like “fragile” and “hesitant” used about their music. “Wanderlust” is absolutely gorgeous and thoroughly deserves both, while “Before The Storm” in many ways brings things back full circle. An epic rocker, just like the opener, it has a military drumbeat and repeats the phrase “War Is Over” as if in hope.
What this song and this collection never is, however, is overbearing, because unlike the power metal bands with way less skill than this, Von Hertzen Brothers understand their craft perfectly. That is exactly why an album with as many moving parts as this perhaps shouldn’t work an yet absolutely does. “War Is Over” is the battle won. Everyone else can just wave the white flag.