VILLE VALO needs no introduction; the former HIM front-man is one of the most iconic performers in modern alternative music and since HIM disbanded, I guess you could say he’s been a…free agent? Cue the collaboration! But it wouldn’t be the first time, oh no…HIM fans will be aware that back in the late 90’s before the love-metal maestro’s hit the big time, Valo had already performed with Agents a handful of times on Finnish TV…but now, twenty years later, we find them together again as Valo’s career comes full circle as they release their self-titled album “Ville Valo & Agents”. To paraphrase CHER…do you believe in life after love metal? Let’s check it out…
The album opens up with “Kirstinkulma” and what we have really is an elongated intro track; purely instrumental here, it showcases the bands original style and tone with the stripped-back surf rock and blues-pop influences…with a subtle ROY ORBISON inspired sound in places. It’s very easy-listening and really quite sweet sonically. The first track proper then is the first of a couple of revisited tracks for Valo by the name of “Ikkunaprinsessa”, which essentially means ‘The princess in the window’. Not to be mistaken with anything you might find in the window of his dad’s Helsinki sex shop, it’s a romantic little tale about someone who sets their eyes on a model in a shop window and falls in love. A simple story but it’s got such a jovial tone to it, with Valo here sounding smooth as ever. Singing in his native tongue, he makes Finnish as much an art from as a language. “Paratiisi” is another which means ‘Paradise’ and it’s got soft, Mediterranean elements to the guitar here and both tracks sound vibrant; the fresh recording quality has done them justice.
It’s worth pointing out here that the bulk of this record comes in the form of re-recordings, with Valo putting his spin on tracks originally performed when the Agents were collaborating with RAULI SOMERJOKI, a Finnish songwriter who passed away in 1987, with “Kuihtuu Kesäinen Maa” being a great tribute for example. An incredibly mellow track, Valo allows his dulcet tones to weave their way around the song, bordering on the point of becoming a lullaby was it not for the instrumentation. There’s a sense of clarity to him that he was lacking on the last HIM record and he seems audibly more relaxed, healthier even. There are two English language tracks presented by the way of “Rockin’ With Enzio” and “I Told You So”…neither of which have Valo on vocals. The former houses a subtle 70’s glam-rock tone musically, which may appeal to fans of say, T-REX, while the latter harbours a more country-based blues aesthetic; both of which equally refreshing on the ears from a musical and linguistic point.
To be quite frank, this is more of a project than a new band or, real fresh start for Valo post-HIM…a little like his solo single “Olet Mun Kaikuluotain”, he just fancied a change. The songs have been rerecorded and produced well, and Valo’s hushed vocal harmonies are tailor made for Agents musical style, they complement each other wonderfully. If any HIM fans were hoping for something more like the guys have done in FLAT EARTH then they’ll be disappointed, the whole idea was for Valo to step AWAY from the noise and the heaviness that came with being in HIM; he’s exploring new avenues creatively and allowing himself the freedom to do so. Sure the Finnish itself might put some people off too, but it really isn’t aimed at the same demographic of Heartagram enthusiasts he’s been used to for the past twenty five years. If you’re a fan of Valo’s then naturally you’re going to check this out, long-time fans will already be familiar with his history with the Agents, but don’t go into this expecting his trademark baritone, soaring vocals and wailing guitar solos…you will be massively let down.