The mind of the reviewer is an interesting machine. Usually, it manages to adopt a critical frame of functioning while keeping itself open to the essential emotional element of the music. Well, „Nine Lives„, the newest release of Finnish prog-rock masters VON HERTZEN BROTHERS blows up all conventions and takes the listener to a very different world: that of pure art – uplifting, transgressive and ineffable.
It is truly hard to focus on the standard elements which make-up the content of an album review when delving into the songs delivered by the Von Hertzens. The compositions simply kidnap you into their sonic universe and erase all prejudice, canon or judgment. Yes, they are that good. But still, since it is a review we’re doing, we better get a grip of ourselves!
One of the most fascinating traits of the record is its vintage feel. From Blue Oyster Cult to The Doors, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Black Sabbath, and Pink Floyd, there’s enough „legendariness” to fill an entire musical cosmos. All of this without sacrificing the truly original element, which is the perfectly recognizable blend of progressive rock, metal, old-fashioned synths and agonizingly beautiful and complex vocal harmonies.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are dealing with an album which may very well be described as a succession of rock-studded mantras, influenced deeply by classical compositions and some very subtle, very well placed elements of sacred music (just listen to World Without).
The lyrics deal with profound topics, like love and spirituality, focusing on the existential angst which torments the sensitive ones.
Song-writing wise, „Nine Lives” is very diverse and sophisticated, without being chaotic; on the contrary -all of the 12 pieces are part of the same narrative. The first song, „Insomniac” opens the album with a more light-hearted tune, baring resemblance to grungey acts like Chris Cornell’s solo work.
„Flowers and Rust” takes the listener deeper, into a sonic world where drama and sensitivity mix in order to form a Baroque structure, embellished with a grandiose chorus and heartrending guitars. „Coming Home” begins with a war-like drum pattern, continuing with liquid-metal guitars, pop-goth synths and an overall The 69 Eyes feel to things.
Enter „Lost In Time”, which steals our hearts and abandons us right in the midst of a Black Sabbath reunion, where „Iron Man” is played with the help of moonman piano riffs and evil music boxes. The song itself is a metaphysical plea to God, which develops soul-wrenching bridges and something which can only be called a „Depeche Mode mood”.
„Separate Forevers” brings home poor, lost Psychedelia, who, again, roamed for a while in a world very similar to that created by David Gahan and Martin Gore. The repetitive nature of the composition and the agonizing guitar heard on the background create an atmosphere of calm tragedy, whilst calling upon trip-hop devices.
„One May Never Know” is a hats-off to The Doors and to Blue Oyster Cult, while tenderly riding on a very psychedelic storm.
„World Without„, as previously stated, debuts with very hooky church-like choirs, evoking further-on a bit of Pink Floyd through its drum & synth leads. „Black Hearts Cry” releases medieval chants and some 80s synths, preparing the territory for „Prospect for Escape” which is the most graceful, most meditative song on the record.
The following three songs are bonus tracks, but they fit just fine into the thread of the album. „The Climb” holds on to the revelations engendered by songs like „Flowers and Rust”. „Do What You Want To Me” is one of the most „metal” tunes on „Nine Lives”, relying heavily on a dark riff and bringing into the spotlight some raw sexual energy, after all the descents into deeper regions of the self. „Between the Lines” harbors some experimental rock notes, just like a fine, layered perfume, and even creates a Trentemoller feeling, despite „rockness” of the orchestration.
„Nine Lives” is definitely one of the best records released by the Von Hertzen Brothers, and clearly one of the most awesome albums of 2013. The Finnish musicians are old-souls in search of higher truths, and it is this particular trait – their fearlessness regarding their love of bands which are no longer „quoted” by others – that makes them great and transforms them into the bearers of the „torch” which will light rock’s way out of the darkness of forgetfulness.
Our mark is 10, out of 10.
01 – Insomniac
02 – Flowers And Rust
03 – Coming Home
04 – Lost In Time
05 – Separate Forevers
06 – One May Never Know
07 – World Without
08 – Black Heart’s Cry
09 – Prospect For Escape
10 – The Climb (Bonus Track)
11 – Do What You Want With Me (Bonus Track)
12 – Between The Lines (Bonus Track)