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Von Hertzen Brothers - Stars Aligned CD (album) cover

STARS ALIGNED

Von Hertzen Brothers

Crossover Prog


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4 stars What could come after real masterpiece? Of course, album which is rigorously compared with this one. There are too little cases in Rock (and actually in whole music) history, when any artist had created two or more masterpieces consecutively. The "know-how" holds perhaps genuine masters only. Propriate names let fill in every man for himself...

And that´s the case of these Finnish talented (but Goodness knows why less known) brothers. After excellent and breathtaking album "Love Remains The Same" is coming another piece, "Stars Aligned". What then we could expect? Flop, average or another successful album?

I mean third option is valid. Not disappointment at all! Five stars is overly though, but this album earns solid and righteous four stars, concededly. Main characters there are (like on another Von Hertzen albums) strong lead vocal and perfect harmonized backing vocals, pleasant but not obtrusive melodies, vitality and passion irradiating from each song, accomplished musicianship of all band members, and, of course, excellent production. I like occasional using of traditional Oriental or Scandinavian folk elements too!

***** songs: I Believe, Miracle, Gloria, Angel´s Eyes, Down By The Sea

**** songs: Voices In Your Heads, Bring Out The Snakes, Repeat Mode, Always Been Right

What to throw in? Surely that´s an extraordinary album from multi-talented, although (meanwhile) undiscovered young band. I´m impatiently expecting their next work!

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Send comments to Gandalff (BETA) | Report this review (#434340)
Posted Saturday, April 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars A quality Finnish (ouch!)

Released earlier this year (2011), 'Stars aligned' is the Von Hertzen Brothers fourth and latest album. With the five man line up unchanged from 'Love remains the same' (2008), this album appears to indicate a move back towards a desire for commercial success. While the album title is far more prog than the previous album, the Bee Gees style cover image and the relative brevity of the tracks suggest the pop aspects of the band are coming to the fore again.

To be fair, the band have never sought to stifle those pop nuances, but on the last two albums, the commercial basis on which the songs were built was admirably disguised through the band developing them to their full potential. It should also be said that this album achieved great success when it made number one in the band's native Finland.

The heavy riffs of 'Miracle' immediately tell us that this is indeed the Brothers Von Hertzen, the vocals and harmonies being as strong as ever. The song is one of several which are strong on melody and performance, but not as fully nurtured as we have come to expect. The comparisons I have made in the past with Norwegian band Aha remain valid here, particularly on songs such as the delightful 'Voices in our Heads', a track which features an appealing evolving chant. 'Angel's eyes' is another highlight, although once again the song remains relatively straightforward and is highly accessible.

'Bring out the Snakes' is an odd track both in the context of the album and of the band's discography. Starting with some odd dialogue, the track evolves as a complex, schizophrenic prog metal number. Odd as it is, it actually works rather well. The closing track 'I Believe' is the longest at just over 8 minutes. After a brief foray into a Queen style intro, the track settles down as a slightly more ambitiously arranged piece.

Were this review being posted to a general music site, I would simply be reporting that this is a truly great album, and leaving it at that. As this is a specialist site though, I should emphasise that wonderful as the the music is, prog fans should be aware that there is little of that genre here. Recommended for those who simply enjoy good music.

My version of the album includes a bonus track in the form of a live version of 'Freedom fighter' from the previous album.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#524085)
Posted Thursday, September 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
Starhammer
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars "Don't you rain on my parade..."

For me, Stars Aligned was one of the biggest surprises of the year. Anyone who has listened to their previous record, Love Remains the Same, will know that Von Hertzen Brothers are pure class. But it can also be difficult to follow up a masterpiece with something that doesn't just simply just fall under its shadow. In this respect I expected Stars Aligned would be a good, but non essential three stars, and my initial impressions confirmed that. However, it would seem that the brothers just don't know when to give up and let me write an easy review explaining how inferior Stars Aligned should be.

The Von Hertzen Brothers are all fantastic instrumentalists, but what sets them apart from the now crowded crossover marketplace is their ability to write consistently excellent songs. Anyone can write a catchy riff, or a memorable chorus, and that is what the majority of popular music is about these days. But to be able to make your music both accessible and interesting, that is talent. Every time I listen to this album I notice something new and the individual tracks keep getting better and better.

Whilst none of the songs on Stars Aligned reach the heights of Bring Out the Sun (So Alive), Spanish 411 or Somewhere in the Middle, they certainly come close, and I would actually say that Stars Aligned is a more consistent, well rounded record. This is partially because none of the songs on this albums are complete write-offs, even the lesser ones have some redeeming feature, whereas I never looked forward to hearing I Came for You or In the End from their previous record.

The other great thing about Stars Aligned is its diversity. Sure, Love Remains the Same features more musical references than you could shake a stick at, but Stars Aligned has evolved into something even more eclectic, whilst remaining true to their original sound. They could have easily just rested on their laurels and created a glorified rehash of Love Remains the Same, but the touch of experimentation they bring to Stars Aligned is not only admirable, it also works really well.

I'm not sure if Stars Aligned had any single release, but if it didn't then is should have been the album opener, Miracle. Actually the same could be said for Gloria as both are reasonably short, catchy songs with tight instrumental passages. Then comes, Voices in Our Heads, it is probably my least favourite on the album, but really picks up towards the end for a great finale. Likewise, Angel's Eyes never really had me captivated from the start, but then out of nowhere comes this incredible guitar solo! Alas it is too short, but the strong synth section afterwards more than makes up for this. Down by the Sea brings the album's calmest moment, a really nice change of pace but far from being stripped back, this track is just as engaging as the rest.

And then there is Bring Out the Snakes. When I first heard it, I didn't just dislike it, I hated it! What is all this blabber cemented onto the intro?! A bulbous puss on the face of an otherwise decent album. It annoyed me so much that I failed to take notice of the amazing guitar and keyboard interplay that came after it. With more hooks than a pirate convention, it builds then evolves, then builds some more, never taking a breath and flowing seamlessly into the trademark VHB crescendo. Since then I've actually grown very fond of the one-sided dialogue which opens the piece, and this track is my favourite on the album.

Repeat Mode is a hypnotic, spaced out piece, quite unlike the rest of the album and reminds me at times of the British band Elbow. Always Been Right, is another fast paced track, but the main attraction this time are the clever lyrics which somehow manage to tell an interesting story in just under four minutes. The finale, I Believe is another personal highlight and when I listen I hear a mixture of Rush, Muse and Motorpsycho.

If you are already familiar with Von Hertzen Brothers then you will know that their music has so many layers that simply leaving it on in the background won't do it justice. The more time you spend with this album, the more you will get out. But if you are new to the band then I would still recommend Love Remains the Same as the best starting point.

The Verdict: Four stars aligned.

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Send comments to Starhammer (BETA) | Report this review (#586976)
Posted Monday, December 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Add equal parts complexity and accessibility into a bowl, stir vigorously.

That's essentially what you get with this, the newest release from Von Hertzen Brothers. I just recently decided to check out this band, after months of deliberation. Boy, do I feel silly for not getting into them sooner. I've thus far listened to their last three releases, from Approach in 2006 up to this, their newest release, in 2011. I've yet to be disappointed.

All of their albums are an absolutely wonderful mix of complex yet approachable songs; songs that could easily be appreciated by both progressive rock aficionados and those into the more accessible side of rock n' roll. You can tell these guys know how to play their instruments, and use them to their fullest extent, without ever delving into excess, as many prog rock bands tend to find themselves lost in. None of the songs on this album feel distended, and are only as long as they need to be... which is another thing this band excels at. This is also an album of catchy melodies, with *gasp* pop sensibilities! I'm sure many progheads would cry foul at the thought of such an idea, but I love it. In fact, I've actually shown this album to many of my non- proggy friends, and I have yet to get a complaint from any of them.

Standout tracks on this album include Miracle, Gloria, Voices in Our Heads, Angel's Eyes, and Bring Out the Snakes. The album as a whole is excellent, however, and there aren't any tracks I found to be particularly weak. It's an album of wildly varying styles and themes, so if you're looking for music with a lot of variety I'd say this is an excellent choice.

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Send comments to AgentSpork (BETA) | Report this review (#597419)
Posted Wednesday, December 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
LinusW
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Italian Prog Specialist
4 stars Dripping, over-enriched power-nuggets of unadulterated catchiness and melodious joy. Ye gods what a high-octane ride through the more digestible parts of progressive rock!

The purity of this soaring, uplifting euphoria of blistering light and hook-dominated crossover is relentless and oh-so-pleasing. If you expect things to grate, clash or just quietly and discreetly melt together, shield your ears from this zenith-like ray of burning emotionality and harmony.

Von Hertzen Brothers effectively launch a set of songs that grabs you right at your most sentimental, receptive and melodic state of mind, only to lift you ever higher in their rich tapestry of space-atmosphere, tight riff-and-percussion power and die-hard melodiousness. The instruments happily stay safely close together, but often enough still bustlingly independent, in punchy, grandiose and groovy riffs or melodies that eagerly fly away as light as feathers. Clear, razor-sharp harmonies (especially the near omnipresent vocal ones) burst out as often as they're called for. On Stars Aligned, that's pretty much constantly. Calmer bits pleasantly plod along familiar musical walkways in self-assured sincerity and familiarity. Sure, there are the spacious, more atmospheric bits around, where things swirl, resonate, twinkle and pulse more than usually in pop-infused rock of this style. It's rather tense at times, but never very ethereal or ambient, as you might find it in more old-school space rock. Nowhere are you pleasantly lost in time or confused in any way, but rather happily floating on an interesting, but relatively safe river you know will happily reach the sea. And there's a compositional diversity you don't find in your everyday rock band. But despite that, all of this is just another platform on which to launch and contrast the shameless glory of melody and harmony that rise above everything else. I know. Those words keep coming up again and again, but there's a very strong reason for it.

Yes, there are streaks of the familiar and hints of the cliché from all over, but still mixed together and presented with more energy, creative vigour and sincerity than you normally find in this type of music.

So...starry-eyed wonder and orgiastic pleasure in wild, freely flowing torrents of atmospherically infused, direct and eager melodic and harmonic overload and affluent instrumental excess. That's what you get. When properly executed that's a winner in my book. If you disagree, stay far away from Stars Aligned.

4 stars.

//LinusW

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Send comments to LinusW (BETA) | Report this review (#1026818)
Posted Sunday, September 01, 2013 | Review Permalink

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