Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM
Tonight, sees another visit to Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms. This time we have Finnish band ‘The Von Hetzen Brothers’ bringing their eighth album to the shores of the UK.
The Art, Prog trio of Kie, Mikko and Jonne are touring their powerful masterpiece, ‘Red Alert in The Blue Forest’. It promises to be a night of story-telling mixed up in a world of trippy reality, proggie moog synthesizers and sustained guitar solos, sounds great.
Yet again ‘Waldorf’ has been detained by his day job so its up to Statler to capture the night, no pressure then.
On the undercard we have Ethyrfield. This Devonian trio are making big noises in all the right places. Having won various competitions which had them opening the Giants of Rock Festival in Minehead and, later the mighty Metal fest that is Bloodstock.
With a sound that has been categorised as Indie/Alternative the three-piece, consisting of Zach and Ben Cornish, on Bass Guitar and Lead Guitar and Dan Aston pounding the skins, are certainly transcending several boundaries. Their album debut, Delirium, was released during the pandemic kafuffle back in June 2021.
Ethyrfield hit the stage with a determination to impress. Zach thanks the Von Hertzen boys for inviting them on the tour, this is their very first UK tour. They get their short set under way with ‘Sunstroke’ from the debut album Delirium.
This starts with a domination mix of drums and distorted guitars; this’ll wake the guys up at the bar. The riff has a dark, menacing feel to it as Zach’s vocals blend around the bass delivery. Full of twists and turns it sees some great playing from Ben, rich fat tones scream from his fingers as he flicks his hair frequently. Dan beats a meaty drum; his dynamic playing is full on complementing Zach’s crazy distorted bass lines.
The 2019 EP Taurus is where we get the next track from, ‘Free the Dog’. Listening to this I can’t help thinking of some of the heavier ‘Budgie’ tracks from yesteryear. The distorted guitars continue to beat you around the head as the song cruises, albeit at speed, around the venue.
The new single ‘The Hunter’ follows on with the constant barrage of the senses. This band is brutal, but then at times almost melancholy as the power shifts and turns with consummate ease during the instrumental passages, a clever young band.
With a thudding kick drum and open hi hat splashes we slide effortlessly into ‘Serenity’ with its brooding bassline. The voices harmonise to give the song extra depth, Ben’s has a gritty growl to it as he repeatedly flicks his hair.
Stop it I have enough hair flick shots already. Again, a nice slower middle section full of harmonised vocals, gives way to a steady increase in intensity as you feel the song build to the inevitable scorching solo delivered at the stage front, complete with lead crackles which has the band smiling to each other.
The small crowd in early doors are really enjoying the offering that these lands are offering. The final song of their set ‘Bitter Wishbone’ has a gutsy guitar riff and more open hi hat, you gotta love the sound of a hi hat being taught a lesson, Dan is doing a great job handing out the punishment, that’s what his playing has been like, absolutely brutal, looking at him you wouldn’t think he was that deprived, sorry Dan, but you’re a hell of a player buddy.
To be fair the band are all great musicians, you can see that they are serious about their music. This final track has an almost Sabbath, Doom essence to it along with break-a way’s not unlike Alex Lifeson and RUSH from the 2112 years. A stunning set.
For a three piece they produce a huge sound, think Conan crossed with Rush and you’re going down the right path. They have set about to impress and I for one was very impressed. Each of the songs played were delivered with everything turned up to 11 and in doing so they delivered a spine snapping set. Bravo! And the crowd wanted more, there’s nothing else to say!
With the usual Nottingham Music scene crew milling about on the stage, it takes a few minutes to get the Von Hertzen stage set up right. Watching the gear being loaded onto the stage you just know you’re in for a night of swirling synths, crushing drum beats and full on sonic guitar assaults. With a set primarily made up of material from the latest offering, we also get treat to a few from the previous three albums, 2017’s War is Over, 2015’s New Day Rising and 2013’s Nine Lives; you just know this is going to be a masterful delivery of Finland’s finest Prog Rock.
Bang on 8:30pm we get the bass drone starting, this is joined by chimes somewhat reminiscent of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. This echoes around the venue as we wait for the band to walk on, looking around the main room it’s filled up nicely, a great turnout for a Thursday. The band come on, Kie, leading the way shouts as he trots across to stage right. The crowd are whooping and a hollering’. Mikko, with a big smile and striking red jeans sorts his guitar of choice out stage centre.
The first track ‘Day of Reckoning’ starts off nice and genteel, the vocal is softly delivered from Mikko, his brothers join in with a great harmony, keys tinkle in the background supporting the vocal, slowly it increases with intensity, Then BOOM, a huge scream and a salvo from the drums as we kick of properly.
Kie on guitar is dancing around the stage as this song propels your senses into overload. The layering of sound is astounding, I wasn’t expecting that. Distorted guitar full of dirty fuzz and excessive use of whammy bar confuse and destroy as it hits you like the solid wall of glorious sound that it is.
The haunting notes start all over again as it’s joined by a single soft voice as ‘Blue Forest’ continues the onslaught, this is from the new album, Red Alert in The Blue Forest. Harmonised voices again continue, a soft distorted rumble slides around Mikko’s voice.
A throbbing bass bloats like a frog’s croak in the back ground, John Michelle Jarre seems to have appeared as we get the tinkling of electronic chimes flowing into a hi hat riff with an eerie piano accompaniment and a marching rat-ta-tat-tat on the snare as we travel along this almost 10-minute song. Kie scrapes some other worldly noises from his battered Strat as the song flies again.
The three brothers are rocking out, and then a tom tom beat strikes up, Kie is now beating a set of stand mounted tom-toms , before screaming out a solo on the Strat, the layers keep appearing aurally where do you listen the sound is immense.
Mikko takes a moment whilst tuning saying that they played their first gig here 4 1/2years ago as he introduces ‘Jerusalem’ from 2017’s, War is Over album. The familiar military style snare snaps the opening to this fan favourite. Keys swirl around it as the song starts to gather momentum.
A slightly harmonised vocal delivers the message of a refugee leaving home to find a better life and the troubles found along the way. The snare snaps carry on as the swirling sound of the synths massage the senses. The huge sound continues as Kie delivers a subtle solo full of staccato stabs and soaring licks that further add to soundscape. A drum smash of cataclysmic proportions happens and then everything stops.
Mikko says “it feels like we’re at home, the next song is” , wait for it, ‘Coming Home’ from 2013’s Nine Lives album. This fast-paced tune is a lot simpler in texture, a pop driven barrage full of distorted guitars and open hi hat. Kie is on overtime, he starts the song off with its galloping vocal before dancing around with his guitar screaming. The brothers are all rocking to this one full of soaring guitar and crushing drums.
Mikko introduces the next song by talking about this “being the best time to be alive”, I sense a hint of Finnish humour in the statement as he follows it by saying “we’ve come out of a time when the world was closed to us and now, we have a war going on in our midst. Having spent time away for people unable to see them before they have gone from us”.
All of A Sudden You’re Gone’ was written with that in mind. A soft picked guitar and simple bass notes from Jonne perfectly caress Mikko’s melancholy vocal. The basic melody has a somewhat sea shanty feel to it as Mikko delivers a fine vocal over the top. The Harmonised parts gives it purpose as the song, swiftly, moves along. The haunting voice tells of the grief felt by those unable to grieve. Mikko tells us the video for the song was made in December, in Finland that means its effin’ cold.
‘Frozen Butterflies’ changes the atmosphere as we get the familiar delayed guitar riff echoing a butterfly fluttering. Another high energy tune sees the brothers dancing at every opportunity. The drums are crashing hard, I can feel it through my teeth. Kie screws his guitar into his VOX amp generating a scorching, heavily distorted sound. This high-octane driven tune continues to delight to the end.
‘Sunday Child’ is a chance for Nottingham to out sing Bristol. The opening whoah’s are repeated later in the song so Mikko gets the crowd to rehearse, after the first attempt he drops that “Bristol was better” bomb, let’s try again. Nottingham lifts the roof off this time, not to be out done, Mikko smiles knowing full well what he’s doing.
The song starts for real as Mikko starts “your far away from home’ as cymbals crash over thundering drums. Kie patrols the stage as the warm up lyric is counted in and boom the crowd chant it back, arms in the air as they do so. Looking around every man, boy and dog is singing. Stunning stuff as Mikko screams “one more time” and indeed the crowd do, as I get my spine realigned from the bass that’s shaking the wall I’m leaning against.
‘Gloria’ from 2011’s Stars Aligned album is up next. With a solid repetitive drum roll getting the crowd clapping along, ‘Mikko’ introduces the song as the ‘Brothers Anthem’. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of sounds, I can definitely hear a Middle Eastern influence in the soundscape, as Kie, bouncing around, is riffin’ out not unlike ‘Danko Jones’ stirring stuff indeed.
I’ve got to admit that coming into the night with only a light knowledge of the band, I wasn’t sure what to expect, now, half way through the set I’ve now become a fan of this mighty opus producing trio. As Jonne lays down a fat keyboard sound, well I think its Jonne as the lights have gone berserk flashing and strobing all over the stage, Kie’s guitar is almost yodelling in response to the onstage barrage. When its over Mikko tells us “that was fun, we’ve not played that in a long time”. The set list from Bristol tells us that they missed that delight, although we miss out on ‘You Don’t Know My Name’. This is only the second night of the tour.
During the guitar swop Mikko shouts “ God Its Gone Quiet, I Know I’m Not Much of a Stand-Up Comedian’ to which the crowd erupt. Kie and Mikko both tell us Kie has brought the Mandolin for the next song. Now he did call it a name, and from the noise etc, from where I’m stood it sounded like ‘Money Scot’. I apologies to all if this is incorrect.
The Promise’ starts with sound effects that wouldn’t be amiss in a Skandi horror flick. A solid drum crashes out regularly, as Mikko sings over the guitar and Mandolin. Jonne is on acoustic stood above me behind twin keyboards. His guitar has a capo on the 9th fret, this just leaves room for his hand to fit on the neck. The mandolin gives a Celtic sound which mixes around the swirling synth sounds. Distorted feed-back heralds a darker, grittier edge to the song as you feel it building to arousing drum cavalcade of a finish, somewhat different to the album version.
Kie says that was from the Finnish Sherwood Forest, I may have miss heard him as they fire up into the next song, the crowd cheer the familiar, repetitive guitar lick to ‘Flowers and Rust’. The song is lit by flashing lights dancing around the stage, as this anthemic ballad slams around the venue, bouncing off everything in its path. Mikko, dripping sweat drives this song forward helped by a thunderous bassline from Jonne and powerhouse Sami Kuoppamäki on drums. Kie, as he has been all night is ‘Danko’ dancing, never playing a wrong note in doing so.
Jonne hasn’t strayed too far from his keyboards even while playing the bass, apart from moving back into the shadows, I spent a lot of the evening trying to get a decent photograph of him, I think I managed one or two, fingers crossed. During the song the crowd are encouraged to join in by waving their arms. There’s a certain young lady stood in front pf Mikko who’s been doing that all night, complete with a huge smile, I think she might like someone in the band, a lot. Mikko also took time to that Ethyrfield for their sterling performance.
The cowboy song is up next, or rather the song that started out as a cowboy song but its reworkings developed it into ‘Long Lost Sailor’, that’s not before an impromptu chorus of “I Am Sailing’ the Rod Stewart classic from the 70’s is played, jokingly by the band and the crowd sing along with them. The drums crash away in this, at times, ‘Cult’ sounding anthem.
There are plenty of hints towards sounds pf the 80’s. A western sound pokes its head into the wall of sound, akin to the Shadows (apache) it features briefly, a hint to the songs humble, Cowboy origins? Maybe? The hi hat play is cutting through as Kie is having the best time rocking out, spinning around as he does so, at times standing on one red trainer as he performs. As the song cascades from the stage so does the sweat from Mikko head as this song sails along like a boat being tossed about on the ocean.
Mikko says “we’ll give you one more, and then thanks the merch desk and the crowd for turning out to see them on a Thursday night”. Then, like all the songs before it ‘Peace Patrol’ cranks up, has a crushing drum line from which all the other instruments twist around.
The wall of sound is intricate, created with multiple layers that intertwine like a symbiotic organism, easily living alongside each other, but unable to exist alone. The song is brought down to a gentle throbbing tone, the cymbal riff seemingly at odds sounds awesome by being there. Bobbi Engstrand takes over on the keys as the brothers move out of the way, this is his moment to soar and swirl which he takes hold of and runs with. Mikko moves back to stage centre, removes his guitar and holds it over head, Kie is happily making noises with his that wouldn’t be amiss in a dolphinarium, through subtle use of his effect’s pedals and guitar. A stunning set closer.
The band leave the stage, briefly and then quickly return to great cheers from the crowd. To finish the night off proper the band have chosen to play ‘New Day Rising’ from the self-same titled album from 2015. This being a genius choice as the crowd are bouncing and singing along to this faster track. Mikko again teases the crowd from the front of the stage, our young friend is beaming like a Cheshire cat, Mikko is just feet from her now.
The soaring guitars and thunderous drum riff slam into you as the band enjoy this final song, The brothers harmonies are yet again on point as the song flows and ebbs along, with a final crack and scream of guitars Mikko leaps into the crowd onto his back, the lights are on him as the crowd cheer and shout, help him, eventually back onto the stage.. Kie has sat down against the wall as they finally bring the song and the night to a reluctant close.
Again, with cheers thanks and hand clapping the band exit stage left.
What Have I just Witnessed! Wow, the Scandinavians have produced some great bands over the years, Love em or hate them, but their blend of Eurovision mixed with hard rock has produced a unique ‘genre’ of music all of their own. It must be all the long winter nights that fuel these ‘Vikings’ to create a mind-blowing musical experience. Stunning and totally not what I was expecting.
If you haven’t caught the Von Hertzen Brothers yet, then I can fully recommend the experience, by ecker’s like that was a stunning show.
Mikä loistave bändi Bravo!