Granted there were other projects that trickled out from certain members of the band…we got a fantastic 3rd installment from DANIEL LIONEYE courtesy of guitarist Mikko Lindström…as well as a couple of the guys forming FLAT EARTH, but it just wasn’t the same. What was Ville Valo up to? As the voice of HIM, he naturally carried the most intrigue, and while he did tease some activity with the release of the Finnish language single "Olet mun kaikuluotain", as well as reuniting with former collaborators THE AGENTS for some more traditional Finnish classics…he’s been incredibly quiet, almost suspiciously quiet…until now. On March 20th, 2020, Ville, under the new moniker of VV, surprised everyone by dropping three new tracks on an EP entitled “Gothica Fennica Vol.1”. With a modified Heartagram on the cover…was this what HIM fans had been craving for so long? Tissues at the ready folks, this might get emotional.
We get underway with ”Salute The Sanguine” and as the soft, near synthetic guitar melodies meander through your speakers, you can’t help but feel overwhelmed with, dear I say it…a foreboding sense of impending happiness. This is in its own right fitting as the delicate tones of not only the instrumentation but Ville’s voice hark back to albums such as “Screamworks…” and “Dark Light”; there’s a vulnerability to his voice that adds heaps of sentiment. Conceptually an interesting one, as sanguine is essentially a colour, or pigment used in a lot of centuries old artwork and self-portraits, resembling the shade of dried blood. It’s as if he’s looking back fondly on his career as if it had been dusted off having been locked away, appreciating the memories and what they gave him, with each scar a story, but knowing too that he isn’t the same man as before. This ties in nicely to the modified Heartagram…for like the music accompanying it; it’s a little HIM, but it isn’t, though it’s still beautiful.
Next up we have “Run Away From The Sun” and again here we’re immediately met with Ville’s gentle croon over more soft rock guitars and mellow acoustics. Another smooth and melodic offering, this is accessible as any of HIM’s lightest works as though Ville has embraced more of an indie-pop aesthetic, while retaining his core, lyrically melancholic writing style, allowing for those distinct HIM tropes. Speaking of, closing track “Saturnine Saturnalia” is the most HIM-sounding of the three tracks presented here and while not specifically raucous or rocking, it carries with it a distinct aura of hurt and emotional torment, mixing Ville’s honey coated vocals with a more sombre dose of doom and gothic stylistics. It’s got more prominent riff work and sounds like it could have come from one of the old “Venus Doom” demo sessions, fitting in with the likes of “Cyanide Sun” aesthetically, allowing for a deeper, ever so slightly darker listen.
If I may come across as selfish for a moment, sadly, these are the only three tracks presented here but while naturally wanting more, we have to be grateful of a couple of key things. To start, Ville is once again releasing music in any capacity, that’s the main thing, but the fact that the Heartagram has returned and his music is more akin to the styles and sounds of old is not only heart-warming, but brings with it hope. He’s clearly finding his feet again, and despite being only three tracks long, having been away for three years now, “Gothica…” is an effortlessly good start. The fact too that it’s merely volume one hints at more music down the line, and if these three tracks are anything to go by, we’re in for a fucking treat. Never mind the sanguine, Ville Valo, we salute you and welcome back sir!