Review Summary: Wonderful nostalgic Prog Rock from the Land of the Thousand Lakes
In German “von Herzen” means “heartfelt” or “from the heart”. The last name of the three brothers forming the core of this band is spelled slightly different yet I believe it to be pronounced the same way. And indeed, albeit this album is not perfect no one can deny its passion and emotion. The Von Hertzen Brothers, which are actually really three brothers named “Von Hertzen” all played in various Finnish groups on various instruments before they settled to start their own project. “Love Remains the Same” is their third album, this time accompanied by two other musicians on keyboards on drums, and by now they have achieved quite a status in their homeland: the album jumped right on top of the sales charts - which I think is incredibly for music like that in our times.
I cannot compare it to their previous albums as I haven’t heard them, but “Love Remains the Same” successfully pays tribute to the 70s Hard Rock and Prog Rock scene with references to be found all over the place: from Pink Floyd over Rainbow to Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, at times even hints of Yes and King Crimson. Yet the clearest parallels in sound and style can be drawn to the Hard Rock group Uriah Heep, a criminally forgotten British band. Although it is dripping with nostalgia and references, Von Hertzen Brothers still manage to make an album of their own, not a cheap rip-off or imitation of their inspirations. The album lives from its catchy melodies and tunes, yet that is only one part of the foundation upon which the music is built, next to technical talent and the knowledge how to build up songs and generate tension within them as well as a powerful and clear production, that knows when to make a step back and when to use its full capacity.
Summed up, “Love Remains the Same” is one of those countless “strong beginning, strong ending, weaker middle section”-albums. Bring Out the Sun (So Alive)
is an opener as good as they get, starting laid back, imagining rays of light forcing their way through the clouds, until it explodes into full prog-mode halfway through, featuring energetic drumming, organs, solid guitar work, great melodies and a lot of passion: “Every pore, in the core I’m feeling so alive, so alive - Alive!”
. With over ten minutes running length it is also the longest song on the album. The following second song might be my actual favorite of the album: Spanish 411
reminds me a lot of the 70s Canterbury Scene, especially of Caravan, a very lively and cheerful song featuring Flamenco-esque rhythms and although it actually tells a rather sad story about an unfulfilled love it maintains a huge portion of humour. However, after the great start the album tends to drag a bit, all of the following songs have their amazing, beautiful moments, but they cannot satisfy as completely as the first two did, sometimes feeling more forced and not as natural, and sometimes getting damn near starting to be cheesy. And with over one hour of music, this album goes on a bit too long - if some of the lesser moments would have been cut out, “Love Remains the Same” would have been much more effectiv.
And two problems become clearer the further we move on: even to me who is not a native English speaker it is clear from the first moment on that the lyrics on here aren’t top notch. “Dear mister jesus or someone who sees us / They’re not our neighbors and you’re not their saviour”
they sing on what I think is the album’s weakest track, Freedom Fighter
(ironically the album’s first single) - I mean, c’mon, you can do better than that. I personally can blend lyrics out more or less when they’re not too stupid and flashy. So it’s hard to tell for me, but I have the feeling Von Hertzen Brother’s lyrics might affect the experience for a more lyric-focused listener, especially because they’re often bordering on the corny and schmaltzy: “In the end death can’t take me / ‘Cause I could never let you down”
. The second problem is also one that doesn’t affect me that much at all, but I know how much importance many other listeners attach to the vocal performances: all three of the brothers are credited as vocalists and they do give some splendid work, including beautiful vocal harmonies and catchy melody lines, however they always seem a bit shallow and pale in front of the walls of sound the instruments build around them.
My favorite moments on the album might be the perfectly written piano parts, often ending much too soon like after the long intro of Somewhere in the Middle
or in the middle of I Came for You
. The latter kicks off the second peak of the album after the great beginning. It builds a big crescendo that adds up new layers until you’re eagerly awaiting the final explosions that never comes, instead the song dissolves into the closer The Willing Victim
. However, this next and final track delivers everything that I Came for You promised: The crescendo again builds slowly, first offering a calm yet broody atmosphere: “Morning rain / Is just the same / As my tears on her grave”
. But when the final climax comes, it comes in full glory, with organs, driving drums, a soothing guitar solo and a surprisingly majestic vocal performance: “Her Love remains the saaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaaame!”
So although the album has its flows, to me it is always a joy listening to a modern band wallowing in the now uncommon classic Prog Rock sounds of the 70s. And to everyone who agrees with me on that, this is highly recommended as one of the best things 2008 had to offer within this genre, only challenged by Van der Graaf Generator’s most recent output “Trisector”.