HIM: A Retrospective (Part 3)
Picking up from where we left things last time, HIM were taking over the world; BAM MARGERA had helped them break out of mainland Europe into the UK and America, by introducing them to the MTV generation…their sales and fan base were on the rise, they were playing bigger stages at festivals, they were all over the charts internationally, Valo even won Metal Hammer’s prestigious Golden God award, and pandemonium couldn’t be sweeter…his infernal majesty had finally taken his rightful place upon the throne…but there’s an old saying; what goes up must come down and sadly, this began to happen sooner rather than later for HIM and it all came around the time of their next album…
In the September of 2007, two years after they hit their commercial peak, the band did a dramatic U-turn, ditched the radio-friendly pop-rock of “Dark Light” and opened up the gates of hell with their follow up “Venus Doom”…praised by critics for its experimentation and total change of direction, the band had embraced a new found sense of heaviness, channelling the likes of PARADISE LOST, with Ville reacquainting us all with his love of all things doom metal (As if the title wasn’t a clue already)…musically it was far heavier than anything they had ever done before, even their earliest work…the riffs, bass and percussion were all full of aggression and suffering…the deep tones of the album allowed Valo to truly hypnotise the listener with his impressive baritone vocal range, on times sounding truly demonic and chilling like on the title track, the lead single “Kiss Of Dawn”, also on the hauntingly beautiful prog-metal journey of “Sleepwalking Past Hope”…but no matter how harsh the band gets musically there’s always a delicately balanced track listing and this album was no different. From the brief, acoustic campfire ballad “Song Or Suicide” to the tortured lamenting of “Cyanide Sun”…this was Adams Family level Gothic romance and it was stunning…their rise in popularity even found the song “Passions Killing Floor” used for the original “Transformers” soundtrack! Despite the change in direction, they were still big, still in the charts, even getting Grammy Award nominations…but the fame came at a price…Valo had developed worsening alcohol problems which over time became more and more of an issue…plagued by exhaustion from the pressures of success, plus problems in his personal life, the writing and recording process took its toll on Valo and he damn near drank himself to death…until he was admitted to rehab. With the blurry oil painting depicting Venus, the goddess of love, now forever a reminder that in nearly dooming himself to drown in a bottle, Valo unwittingly perfectly encapsulated HIM's marriage of love and death, even if he was looking at her through beer goggles...I’m sure he appreciates the irony looking back 
Their success in America and mainstream popularity up to that point led the band to release their first and only (The bonus 6-track DVD footage with “And Love Said No” doesn’t count) live album; “Digital Versatile Doom”…released not long after “Venus Doom”, it was recorded as part of their rescheduled American tour at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles. The tour and resulting live album was heavy on Venus Doom content but also featured several of the bands biggest singles to date, acting as an updated (Albeit live) version of their greatest hits…for those who were never fortunate enough to see the band live in person for whatever reason, this is essential, especially as it came with a DVD of the performance recorded as part of a 2-disk package…here you can get a real feel for the band; how tight they are as performers and how emotional the songs truly are on the raw environment of the live stage…not to mention Valo’s cheeky sense of humour mocking Linde for the amount of solo’s he has to play…
The trouble HIM faced for their follow up album was quite simply a matter of, where the hell do they go from here? They’ve just dropped the heaviest album of their career and Valo nearly did a George Best and put his liver through unthinkable punishment which nearly killed him…the answer? Another U-turn…yes this is where the band lost a lot of fans, as they began to yo-yo in style and lost a sense of credibility among the rock and metal community. In 2010 they released “Screamworks: Love In Theory In Practice, Chapters 1-13” (It just rolls off the tongue doesn’t it) and Valo, again in his self-depreciating mentality dubbed it their DEPECHE MODE album…gone was the bleak bombardment of gloomy, doom metal…gone were the tortured wails of Linde’s guitar…in their place were gentle melodies and enough pop hooks to give Simon Cowell the horn…written and arranged with far, far more emphasis on Burton’s keyboard playing and a much softer song writing approach, HIM found themselves facing a lot of uncertainty…critics were again, generally in favour, praising experimentation once more and championing Valo’s song writing, but a lot of fans weren’t impressed. Many were confused at the direction and while though it retained plenty of HIM’s trademark melancholy, it lacked the bands usual depth and came across as all too synthetic. Even Valo had convinced himself that it was a failure upon release, but in honesty, it’s merely by their own already high standards…lead single “Heartkiller” was undeniably infectious and the majority of the tracks on the album followed suit; “Scared To Death” is quite possibly the sweetest thing the band have written since “Join Me”…while “Acoustic Funeral (For Love In Limbo)” does have a slight emo influence, which people were already moving away from. There were naturally tracks with a bit of attitude however, with the likes of “Shatter Me With Hope” and “Like St. Valentine” having the most bite, but they were a far cry from what had preceded them…before the album closed on the synth-heavy “The Foreboding Sense Of Impending Happiness”…possibly the lease HIM song HIM have ever written, but far from terrible. Ultimately this was a solid collection of commercially heavy pop-inspired alt. rock that sadly got lost in the shuffle…wrong place, wrong time with the wrong sound…from here on out things would slowly go downhill. 
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Gavin J Griffiths, a.k.a GavTheGothicChav, lover of new music and supporter of bands. Inspired by a mixture of horror and comedy, and fueled by a blend of alcohol and sarcasm...if you're a singer / in a band and would like a review written up, please do get in touch via the email address at the top of the page and I'll get back to you ASAP. Much love x