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Von Hertzen Brothers - Stars Aligned CD (album) cover


Von Hertzen Brothers


Crossover Prog

3.81 | 118 ratings

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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.

Starhammer | 4/5 |


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