Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
Fortitude of pure feathered white, noiseless wings carry the Snow Owl high above the frozen landscape. His figuration crisply defined against the slate grey skies; winter has driven hard from the Northern realms.
A return southward across the ecotone that divides tundra and forest beckons obstreperously. Here Pinus Silvestris – the Finnish pine – slenderly points towards the tempestuous heavens but a haven it provides.
Shakespeare’s melancholy Jaques noted “The whole world’s a stage” in his epic monologue. Here in the Land of the Midnight Sun prog-masters The Von Hertzen Brothers tap into this inspirational natural resource to project a powerful insight upon their most unique of stages.
Fronted by brothers Kie, Mikko and Jonne this highly accomplished Scandinavian outfit have delivered, in the humblest of opinions, an absolute articulate opus in ‘Red Alert In The Blue Forest.’ An expansive galactic sonorous adventure that spins in orbit before majestically swooping low across snow-enveloped lands.
The near five year wait for new material following the 2017 release of ‘War Is Over’ has been well worth it as the brothers deliver something so very personal to them. A damn neat trick in something as astrally broad as this 11-track collective which clocks in at a fraction under a whopping 70 minutes!
A distant storm thunders as pin-sharp vocal harmonies enwrapped around the psychedelia of early Pink Floyd announces the arrival of album-opener ‘Day Of Reckoning.’ Utilised, to advantageous effect, to kick off their set on the recent UK tour this four and a half minutes of deliciously technical rocking that seamlessly transitions into ‘Blue Forest.’ Its simplistic, ethereal beginning swirls around like the thickening fog about flickering gas lights.
There are more than hints of Bowie’s grandeur in the vocals that bring forth deep and complex lyrics, whilst the keys reflect 70s Jean Michel Jarre with musical phases beloved of Fish-era Marillion. This is, without doubt, a track grabs your very soul before plummeting down the rabbit hole into a vividly hued vista. The forest explodes with life.
Boards creek and the mainsails fill as ‘The Promise’ navigates a course through uncharted broiling seas. There’s folk, there’s metal and, naturally, prog herein. Monsters from the deep do battle as they are forced to the stormy surface.
The evocative folk edged ‘All Of A Sudden You’re Gone’ follows in effortless fashion. A shooting star of a track, flashing across the starlit night skies before ‘Peace Patrol’ takes a darkened brooding Joy Division / Cure kind of direction on the musical compass. Registering at a mammoth ten minutes its subtle movements of classical proportions lift an already soaring collective to a higher altitude. Be sure to check out that fine, fine sax solo.
Wondrously entitled ‘Pirates of the Raseborgian’ treks into the realms of sea shanties in an electronic manner with a cracking head-nodding beat. The most devout of landlubbers will not be immune to the nautical charms within this beauty! The gentle waves of ‘Anil’ lap the shoreline with the grandiose stateliness of peak-time Yes at the fore prior to ‘Elbowed’ doing precisely what it states on the tin.
Barging in with a horns driven intro this is the rock equivalent of a five-lane motorway at rush hour; busy and intricate it weaves one way and then another.
It’s quite apparent how much the Von Hertzen Brothers are in tune with their surroundings and none more so than in ‘Northern Lights.’
With an alloy of Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream and the aforementioned Jarre this stirring electro-prog epic takes the rarely heard sounds of the Aurora Borealis, captured by Professor Unto K. Laine, and intertwines them into this astral planar composition.
The gentle haunting psych of ‘Söderskär burns as brightly as the lighthouse of the same once did, prior to decommissioning, thirty odd years ago. Such is the passion contained within; a theme which continues seamlessly into album closer ‘Disappear There.
A heartfelt balladic folk-tinged lament that seemingly raises the question of what is waiting in the afterlife. Possessing shades of Simon & Garfunkel in its ecclesiastical toned intro the main body of the track meanders gracefully whilst hauntingly lilting “Just a ghost without a home.
It’s a crowning glory that provides a gloriously befitting emotional end to what personally strikes me as an album that comes from the heart and soul of this band throughout.
The Von Hertzen Brothers follow their successful UK tour with a slot at the Steelhouse Festival at the end of July. Be assured this is a band you do not want to miss!