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After ten years and four albums time was ripe for the Von Hertzen Brothers to release a compilation album. Immediately after its release, the deluxe CD+DVD package climbed the top 10 of the official Finnish album charts, opening on 7th place on its first week.
It’s an album that answers to the needs and wants of both the Finnish and international fans. I met with Mikko Von Hertzen in Helsinki for a short talk, just before their last spring tour gig in Nosturi (read more about it here ) and he said about this release that “once you’ve listened to the album and watched the DVD, you’ll have a pretty good picture of what we do.”
And that’s for sure. The Best Of has tracks from all the four VHB albums and according to Mikko they tried to make the selection a balanced one. However, the album isn’t just a look into the past of VHB. It does include two new tracks. The album opens with Rubicon, which really is structurally quite clearly an intro song. “Sure, Rubicon is an intro, but nevertheless it’s also a 4-minute song, a chant of a sort, an independent piece of art. It’s originally the intro to our previous album, Stars Aligned, but we realised quite quickly that the album doesn’t need a separate intro as Miracle is a strong opening track on its own. So we didn’t even finish it until for this collection.”
There’s also a cover song from the old British prog rock band, King Crimson, on the album. 21st Century Schizoid Man is a classic and the VHB version of it certainly honours the original. It’s definitely not an exact copy, but a VHB processed interpretation. According to Mikko the idea of recording and playing covers isn’t very intriguing, but as the record company representatives in London suggested that the Miracle single would need a B-side to it, this song eventually came up into discussion. “Kie had some of his own arrangements for the song and as we were playing the song here [in Nosturi, in their own studio] we thought that we’d see what would become of it. We shortened it quite a bit and took the bits we thought were essential for the song. And as such it ended up on this collection. It’s the first time it’s been released in Finland”, Mikko explained.
As a whole, The Best Of is most certainly a great way to get to know the Von Hertzen Brothers. For the fans outside of Finland it will be nice to get their hands on older material, and us Finns, we get the new songs plus the live-DVD, which certainly has been long awaited.
The DVD includes a live performance from the Love Remains The Same -tour, recorded on two nights in Tavastia Club (Helsinki) back in December 2008. I’m not a huge fan of watching live performances on DVD, but I was surprised how well the VHB show translates into something I can watch from TV while lounging on my sofa. It’s not a polished and sterile result of an industrial production machine, but instead an intimate imaging of a club gig, very much true to the style of VHB. There are fans in tears in the first row, singing along and living the music with the band. The handheld stage camera gets up close and personal with the musicians in odd angles. Some of the material has been recorded from the audience (by friends and relatives of the band) which adds to the feel of intimacy and genuine warmth of the moment, as the picture quality is what you would expect it to be when recorded with non-professional equipment.
It really doesn’t feel like the DVD would’ve been made only money in mind, but because the band has wanted to give the fans something they’ve waited and asked for. Mikko confirms this. “We really put a lot of time and our own money into making this DVD. We hired some Big Names for the job, because we really wanted it to be great and sound good.” The Big Names seem to have done their jobs extremely well, because the DVD sounds fabulous, all parts of it. I was able to crank up the volume as much as is sensible in an apartment where I have neighbours to consider…
In addition to the Tavastia Club gigs there are seven official VHB music videos and seven VHB video blog entries from the making of Stars Aligned on the DVD. The videos start out from the latest, the absolutely heart warming and summery Always Been Right as the first one. From there on we get to walk down a memory lane, as the videos showcase the band’s past in their own way.
The video blog entries give a peek into the process of recording and promoting Stars Aligned. If you haven’t watched these online (for example on the band’s FB page), you’ll be in for a treat. You’ll see what goes on behind the scenes. And since most of the material is recorded by the brothers themselves, it feels personal and I for one appreciate it a lot. This is the stuff that some people think takes away from the mystery of the music and the band. Kind of like a magician revealing the techniques of his tricks. So if you’re anything like me, you’ll like to see what goes on in the process. Keep on video blogging, bros!
As a last note on the DVD I have to say that the graphics on this collection have a fun attitude. The CD jacket is filled with fan art and the DVD menus are really cool. I kept waiting for Jonne to blink. Check out the DVD to know what I’m saying.
2. Let Thy Will Be Done
3. Angel’s Eyes
4. Disciple Of The Sun
6. Freedom Fighter
8. Voices In Our Heads
9. Kiss A Wish
10. Always Been Right
12. Somewhere In The Middle
13. In The End
14. 21st Century Schizoid Man
- Live from Tavastia Club in 2008
1. Always Been Right
3. Angel’s Eyes
4. Freedom Fighter
5. In The End
6. Kiss A Wish
7. Let Thy Will Be Done
Video blog from the making of Stars Aligned, parts 1-7