Von Hertzen Bros. - Stars Aligned – 4.5/5
When a guy in a bar cracked out his MP3 player to see my thoughts on a band he reckon I wouldn't know the result was... well it was "Porcupine Tree." Taking this as a challenge he professed “you'll never have heard this one, NOBODY outside of Finland knows them,” and he was right, and this is the result; a prog rock band comprised primarily of three brothers – and where the band derives its name – on guitars, vocals and bass, bringing in help for the drums and keys. Known only in their native Finland, they've since spent the last few years vying to get internationally recognised, and with music like this it must surely only be a matter of time. Citing influences such as Pink Floyd, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin, it seems intriguing that the result doesn't quite fit, instead harking back to the glory days of Yes, Rush, Queen and Genesis, a style I must confess doesn't always do it for me, which perhaps attests to the wealth of talent on display.
Singing entirely in English, they never fail to provide vocal lines that dare anyone not to sing alongside their catchy hooks and chorus lines, readily drawing comparisons to pop music. But despite the inherent ability to get their melodies stuck inside your mind, the pop comparison largely stops there; it never feels quite as simple as that, and at times can get downright complex when all the intersecting lines are considered, and yet throughout it all the focus remains on the composition with no regard for the speed or 'showing off' their prowess. It's all down to the way everything manages to synchronise in perfect harmony; solos galore amidst such soothing vocals never lacking just enough bite to them to keep them interesting; melodic 'shredding' and folk overtones; heavy hitting rock riffs grooving along into Floyd-esque, almost ambient interludes, and a plethora of other influences somehow integrated into the overarching compositions that seamlessly flow from one point to another, be it within the track or the context of the album in it's entirety.
And it is indeed so melodic that it's all to easy to find yourself entering a trance like state, letting the music flow over you in waves, absorbing more of the atmosphere created subconsciously than consciously until the music breaks and demands your attention once more, and that can be slightly worrying. That such a large extent of the album can be so readily ignored; entire tracks, if not necessarily bad, certainly not equal to the high standard set by others, can be forgotten in the album's midst, it calls into question the replayability of the album as a whole. The best albums in the genre are as ever flowing as this, but is filled with so much at every moment, every twist and turn of the track that you can listen to it a dozen times and still find something new nestled in its depths. By comparison, this is a shallow offering with some vague and cliché ideas, if performed to perfection. It feels like they're holding back – they have the musical ability, that much is at times made abundantly clear – trying to make it as palettable to as many as possible, simplifying tracks when they could easily have added a touch more depth to them. Fans of the classic 70s prog with plenty of pop like harmonies will find much to their liking with this, but I can't help but shake the feeling that they could do better.
Highlights: Gloria, Angels Eyes, Always Been Right
Editors Note: The more I listen to these guys, the more awesome they become. Score bumped half a mark in reflection of how its grown on me.