Finnish family band Von Hertzen Brothers have always toed the line between prog rock and more straightforward hard rock. There’s not usually anything inherently progressive about their music, but they’ve always maintained a mix of moods and tones and tried out some slightly unusual things. Their new album, New Day Rising, is no different, and is a fine addition to their catalogue.
For those who have not encountered the band before, they are led by three brothers, Mikko von Hertzen (lead vocals, guitar), Kie von Hertzen (guitars, vocals) and Jonne von Hertzen (bass guitar, vocals). The line-up is completed by Mikko Kaakkuriniemi on drums and Juha Kuoppala on keys. For me, and I’m sure for many others, the band’s unique selling point for a long-time has been the fact that all three of the brothers are very strong singers. Although Mikko leads things in the vocal department, Kie’s baritone and Jonne’s powerful falsetto bring something wonderfully unique and powerful to the superb vocal harmonies that the band writes. I saw them live in London a couple of years ago, and I’ve honestly not seen any gig with better vocal harmonising.
To the new album then! The band has stuck to the approach that it has used for each of their albums and produced a collection of varied but unrelated songs, ranging from relaxed vibes and melancholy moods through to upbeat rockers and expansive epics (in style that is, rather than song length). One might argue that it’s a little formulaic, but it’s always served the band well and they put their focus into writing collections of enjoyable songs rather than pushing the boundaries of music.
With that in mind, they’ve done another top-notch job here. The opening title-track, which the band also released as a single, does a great job of setting the tone for the album, with its catchy hooks and energetic riffs. The whole album, in fact, is packed with great melodies, and pleasingly the vocal harmonies are as strong as ever. Some songs took a few listens to get used to – Hold Me Up, for example, borders on symphonic indie, reminiscent of bands like The Verve, and at first seemed a little out of place to me. Once I let it sink in, though, I found it to be lush and full of great moments.
The real standout song for me, however, is the one that immediately follows it: Love Burns. And I have to admit, I have become a little bit obsessed with it. You know how sometimes a song or album comes along that just grips you and doesn’t let go and makes you want – correction, need – to listen to it over and over? Well, Love Burns is my current one of those. Everything about it is simply fantastic. It starts with a catchy down-tempo groove leading into a nice first chorus, before it steps up into something similar but with more energy. From there, the song just builds and builds, and by the time the bridge section has segued into the third and final chorus, the sound has become absolutely huge. This chorus, with all the added vocal harmonies and guitar counter-melodies, really lifts me up and gets my heart pumping. The music and atmosphere are gorgeous, and nicely complement the lyrics, which do a great job of dealing with lost love and struggling to move on.
Although Love Burns is very much my highlight, it doesn’t take away from the other great songs on the album like the closing trio of Sunday Child, The Destitute and Hibernating Heart. Not every song is as great, but none are particularly boring either. The only small complaint I would have is that the album’s flow is slightly off for me. I’m not sure what it is exactly, but something about the stylistic shift between some of the songs feels more jarring than it has done on the last couple of albums. It’s a relatively small point, but it does keep New Day Rising as a whole from reaching the heights of previous album Nine Lives in my estimation.
My final point to note is that performances are as slick as ever, particularly in the vocal department where Mikko’s voice in particular ranges from powerful in the huge choruses to delicate and almost fragile in the more tender moments. The approach to vocals and the sense of melody that the band exudes is what attracted me to their music in the first place, and what really makes them stand out for me, and New Day Rising is another success in this regard!
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