Von Hertzen Brothers

Nine Lives

Universal / Spinefarm (2013)
Από τον Χρήστο Καραδημήτρη, 19/03/2013
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In a clearly highlighted spot of my 2013 release calendar we find Finland's finest, Von Hertzen Brothers, as for the last few years, especially after the release of the impressive "Stars Aligned", they’ve become a rising star in my books and have dominated my playlists on and off for quite some time.

A uniqueness of sound, musical diversity, progressive mentality, melodies and characteristic vocal harmonies are elements that always move me, especially when they're performed at an astonishing quality standard, such as that of the Von Hertzen Brothers. My opinion was further justified after their impressive live performance as a support act to Pain Of Salvation's last visit to our country.

The first taste of the album came in the form of "Flowers And Rust", the "Nine Lives" lead single. My long lingering expectations quickly turned to enthusiasm, as it is without a doubt the most accessible and catchy song that the band has ever written. A relatively simple structure, a fabulous melody, a chorus that stays hooked right in your head and Mikko’s performance as a cherry on top, giving a tiny Chris Cornell vibe. The -once again- truly beautiful video for the song is worth mentioning.

I am not sure if it's because my a priori decision was that the whole album was going to blow me away, but the first few listens of "Nine Lives" left me wondering what happened to certain elements of "Stars Aligned" that I simply loved. Elements such as the chorus of "Miracle", the thrill of "Gloria", the distinct lyricism of "Angel's Eyes" and the intense folk of "Always Been Right". The psychedelic element was the one that clearly had gone nowhere and it became obvious that the brothers didn't want to make a new album solely based on the success of its predecessor.

However, when it comes to bands like the Von Hertzen Brothers, I've come to realize that there is always more than meets the ear then what the first listens have to offer, so I tried not to rush into any conclusions. As I kept listening to the album its stronger elements started to unveil themselves, slowly indicating the highlights of the record. So, apart from the aforementioned "Flowers And Rust", the albums opener, "Insomnia" strikes with an upbeat groove, probably the closest resemblance to their previous record, while "Coming Home" seems to take a gothier approach, echoing the sound of some of their compatriots like The 69 Eyes or H.I.M., a sound quite unusual for the band, it seems to fit them nonetheless. These three songs are proven to be a very dynamic opening to the album.

I fail to see why they felt the need to slow things down with the two next songs, "Lost In Time" and "Separate Forevers" as despite their psychedelic overtones, they seem bland and dull and overall forgettable, whilst still maintaining an interesting vocal approach. "One May Never Know" is a bit more interesting, incorporating a cool folk vibe and an admirable orchestration, but still doesn’t seem to be up to par with the three openers, making it the third song in a row that seems to be a bit of a misfit.

The last three songs of the album are greater in duration, and once again quite down tempo, but but definitely more adventurous than the previous bunch. "World Without" is the most intense moment of the album, hitting it strong from the start with psalm-like vocals and ending with an emotional crescendo, whilst featuring amazing lyrical content throughout. It’s truly an amazing composition that that hinted back to the wonderful "The Willing Victim". "Black Heart's Cry" has some folk elements and is the most 70s, retro song of the album, while the 7 and a half minute long, "Prospect For Escape", is keeping lengthy ending song tradition strong.

"Nine Lives" has a handful of pros and cons. While some of the band's key characteristics that made them unique can be found here and there, it is clearly evident that there are less of them in comparison to the previous works, and "Stars Aligned" especially. Undoubtedly, some were replaced with an occasional odd appearance of certain new elements, which is all good, but at the same time some of the most crucial ones are clearly missed. "Flowers And Rust" is the best single they've composed, but the potential singles are less this time around.

Overall, we do have yet another fine piece of work from the band but it is with regret that I say that it doesn't really take them to the next level, as a lot of us expected. I am in no place to predict how it would hit a first-time listener but there are definitely points that are noteworthy. For long-term fans the end results are much clearer, as they're surely going to be rewarded with some great moments and experience an overall rewarding listen, but at the end of the day I think everyone will agree that from a band with the potential of Von Hertzen Brothers we definitely
expect more than that.