Von Hertzen Bros – The Best Of

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Review by Brian McGowan

Benefiting from a belated burst of popular acclaim – thanks to 2011’s ’Stars Aligned’ – the Von Hertzen Brothers are back. This carefully compiled volume is essentially a bunch of choice cuts from the band’s 4 releases. From the poorly received debut ‘Experience’ through ‘Approach’ and ‘Love Remains The Same’ to last year’s magnum opus. Plus 2 new tracks – opener, ‘Rubicon‘ and a cover of King Crimson’s ’21st Century Schizoid Man’. 14 tracks, 79 minutes.

Describing the band’s music simply as progressive rock for grown ups is to do them a disservice, denying them the credit for being that rarity in rock music – a band with a unique vision, a singular view on how to construct and render contemporary rock songs, using only guitars, keyboards and drums. The number of influences they take in their stride is breathtaking. They reference Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Pink Floyd during interviews, but many hear The Flower Kings, Yes, Kings X and Kansas in the music.

New track, ’Rubicon’, starts out with a snare drum beating a militaristic tattoo to the murmur of a chanting crowd. Guitars and keyboards progressively get on board, shadowing the staccato rhythm. Then the mock teutonic vocals kick in. It’s like a rock version of the March Of the Templars, or an outtake from Medieval 2. Bizarre, surreal. But totally addictive. For the uninitiated, it sets the scene for a handpicked collection of complex, engaging songs. Often flamboyant, never dull. And all totally accessible, full of recurring themes and riffs, liberally sprinkled with catchy tunes – some as tough as teak, others as sweet as honey.

The album picks:

‘Let Thy Will Be Done’, from ’Stars Aligned’ was recently voted “track of the month” by readers of Classic Rock magazine. You can see why. It’s got a real Kings X, T-Ride harmonic vibe, and a soaring chorus, delivered with religious intensity. On the other hand, ’Angels’, from the same album, is driven by sharply dressed US westcoast harmonies, cut and tailored to perfection, alternately employing a lightness of touch and a steely authority.

The band’s Progrock aesthetic, which seems to be their default position, despite the album’s poppier moments, rapidly comes into focus with firstly, ‘Disciples of The Sun’ (Approached), intertwining shuffling rhythms with neat time changes and secondly, ’Miracle’ (Stars…), an apparent hodge podge of disparate sounds and tunes, skilfully layered and knitted together into one immense Progressive Rock song.

That last track is not untypical of much of this ‘best of’. Other tracks – like ‘Somewhere In The Middle’ (Love Remains The Same) and ‘Freedom Fighter’ (Love Remains…) – have that same allure. All are bursting with curvaceous chords and seductive, head turning tunes, but equally have an edge of the seat urgency, pulling you in, eager for the next wrinkle to be revealed in a constantly unfolding piece of music.

Symphonic pop/progrock, executed with flair and invention by a band unafraid to take risks.

Yeah, that’s it.

Rated 9.5 out of 10