Finnish rock band Von Hertzen Brothers have had acclaim in their homeland, topping the charts and even winning a Finnish Grammy. They have always prided themselves on blending complex arrangements with uplifting melodies and working around conventional musical structures. In 2015 their album New Day Rising was a well-received attempt to go mainstream and achieve success outside their homeland and bring the global stardom that they hoped for. After abandoning their musical individuality for the album, the band were left questioning if they had the passion and energy left to continue. Seeking inspiration in their families summer cottage the brothers retreated there one by one to write with Mikko also returning to India, where he'd previously spent seven years, to write lyrics. The resulting album, War Is Over, is a regenerative work that takes VHB back to basics, tearing down what had gone before and starting over again.
For an album that follows themes of war and loss, there is a profound sense of freedom here. The brothers have taken control of their art and as a result, they sound invigorated; the album contains some of their best work. It's passionate and emboldened but not disconnected. There are no restraints on the tracks either, allowing each song to tell its story - many of the tracks are over 5 minutes with the phenomenal titular track running at 12 minutes.
The music is heavy yet graceful, bold yet deeply introspective and gives a welcome return to their progressive signature. There's an abundance of jazz influences, syncopated rhythms, unusual progressions and haunting harmonies on the album. To the End of the World encompasses a pop chorus alongside Indian influenced progressions. Frozen Butterflies adds musical conflicts that push and pull you in a multitude of directions towards a tempestuous sweetness of melody.
There's plenty of contradictions in the lyrics that will make you ponder and question your own values. One such example is in Wanderlust where our pressured protagonist walks away from his relationship and family: on the one hand, you dislike him for turning his back, yet admire him for choosing his own path and not being fettered and mounded by others. It's also quite autobiographical for the band's experiences over the last few years too.
Guitarist Kie comments, "we are on a VHB mission, we're not going to bend or break." If there's one thing to learn from their experience it's to stand your ground, don't bow to the opinions of others, be proud, be different and be true to yourself - clearly, this time round VHB have done exactly that and the results are remarkable.
Groupie Rating 4/5