I suppose that fifteen years is quite a long time but, for your average music fan, the Von Hertzen Brothers represent something of a “new” thing. Certainly, the band’s recent success is testimony to the benefit of hard work; it’s also testimony to the fact that as they have honed their art so it has become increasingly accessible. New Day Rising (Spinefarm) is unquestionably their most accessible record to date and will, as sure as night follows day, ensure a wider audience and even greater success for this most agreeable of Finnish bands. It’s a record packed to the rafters with ideas; if truth be known, probably a few too many.
Matters get off to what can only be described as a rip roaring start with the title track throwing down the gauntlet: it’s sprightly and full of chutzpah, an energetic tour de force. You get the impression of a band comfortable in their skin and ready to take us on new musical adventures with gusto. ‘You Don’t Know My Name’ lightens the frenetic pace somewhat but the straightforward rock style is maintained in earnest. ‘Trouble’ is initially disingenuous with its soft opening, soon breaking out into an expansive number and a clear progression from the album’s opening two cuts. So far, so very agreeable.
The brakes come on for the melancholy of ‘Black Rain’, which has a nice gentle melody that supports the mood of reflection and introspection. ‘Hold Me Up’ is, make no mistake, Coldplay through a Helsinki misty rain, and is as arch and contrived as that sounds. It’s a self-consciously “big” ballad and I’m not sure it works: if someone said it was Finland’s Eurovision entry, I wouldn’t bat an eyelid. I don’t actively dislike it but it jars the overall tenor of the record.
One of the interesting things about Von Hertzen Brothers has been their fearlessness in trying something new and different, keeping the listener on their proverbial toes and demanding your undivided attention. Despite the relatively straightforward nature of New Day Rising, the quirky nature of ‘Dreams’ demonstrates that this sense of gentle provocation remains firmly in place. It’s quirky and fun, lightweight and unassuming.
‘Sunday Child’ is much more serious stuff, and whilst the Coldplay echoes and sense of impending drama remain leitmotifs there’s also a whiff of Biffy Clyro invading the melody giving it a sense of defiance in its melancholic timbre. ‘The Destitute’ is much more traditional Von Hertzen fare, with a glitzy bassline that recalls U2’s Berlin period. Again, like much of the record it dashes and dances through pace and time signatures as all Prog records tend to but, despite what appears to be wilful exuberance, the core song holds its own. The album coda, ‘Hibernating Heart’ brings the pace and mood down again: an archetypal reflection of times past, of mistakes made, it’s a heartfelt and impassioned ballad and a more than decent sign off.
New Day Rising is an album of progress and advance from the Von Hertzen Brothers: there are some brilliant new songs that build on a growing reputation. However, it’s a record that also has a few jarring moments and, weirdly, too many ideas for its own good. What we’re left with is a very good record but not a nailed on classic. Greatness though is surely round the corner. As it stands, less would, in this instance, have probably been more.