“When love starts to die it begins with a kiss; violently soothing and warm”…beautifully morose, melancholy has always played a major part in the lyrical style of Ville Valo and it’s that tortured feeling of love-lost that catapulted HIM into the hearts of legions of fans around the world. With a whole tongue-in-cheek genre of their own in Love Metal and with a logo reaching semi-religious status (The Heartagram is arguably the McDonald’s M of rock music) they steadily took over the world, branching out of their native Finland into mainland Europe, the UK and then beyond to the US, selling millions of albums worldwide and becoming Finland’s most successful musical export. On New Year’s Eve…Valo and co put those words into practice at their final performance at Tavastia, Finland for the last ever Helldone…calling time on their 20+ year career and kissing goodbye to a sold out teary-eyed crowd. With a rich back catalogue of albums and compilations, right now I’d like to pay respects to the band by taking a retrospective look at each of their albums and remind the world that, we’ve just lost something truly special in HIM, and the pleasure was all ours.
The bands journey started way back in 1991 when Valo and Mige originally came together playing covers but it wasn’t until the release of 1996’s now infamous “666 Ways To Love: Prologue” EP that the ball truly started rolling…with only 1,000 copies originally made, it’s considered by many to be the holy grail of HIM memorabilia, just short of kidnapping Valo himself…and it’s this little 4-track EP that started it all. From the opening screams of “Stigmata Diaboli” we soon get a taste of the hard rock inspired gothic tones the Finn’s would quickly master…Valo’s baritone vocal accompanied by the raw riff-heavy approach of Linde gave them a distinction that would before long have us eating out of the palm of their hands. The song that put them on the map however, was THAT cover of sombre CHRIS ISAAK ballad “Wicked Game” and here we have the bands earliest recorded version…again, raw, but it was impossible to ignore the potential in these Finn’s and as far as covers go, it was original. “Dark Sekret Love”, a far drearier affair highlighted Valo’s love of doom metal with its bleak, methodical style and an early, rough rendition of “The Heartless” rounds things off nicely. Early days but plenty to be inspired by…his infernal majesty wasn’t quite ready for his throne. 
Just a year later they were back and the world finally got HIM’s debut full length album…”Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666”…and here we got a much better sense of direction from the band. Despite being a touch more polished with slightly better production quality courtesy of Hiili Hiilesmaa, you can still sense the raw, garage rock feeling the band used to deliver their intertwined messages of love and death. Housing some of their darkest and grittiest pieces of music; tracks like “The Beginning Of The End” and “Our Diabolikal Rapture” really embraced the gloom and channeled the influence of the likes of TYPE-O-NEGATIVE and CATHEDRAL…the beautifully bleak “When Love And Death Embrace” became a trusted fan favourite, a song the band would later rely on as a solid encore, and another cover in the form of “Don’t Fear The Reaper”…the BLUE OYSTER CULT classic getting it’s wrists slit to be bled out on a bed of roses…dark and romantic…HIM were here to violate us in the most sensual ways…
The next album wouldn’t follow for another three years but to say it was definitely worth the wait is by far an understatement…in 2000, after coming to Wales to record in Rockfield Studios, they dropped not only the album of their career…but arguably the greatest Gothic rock album for generations; “Razorblade Romance”. With its bright pink cover art acting as a middle finger to stereotypes and super slick production it saw the band rise to heights they’d never have expected in their own humble self-depreciating humour. With tracks like “Join Me In Death” hitting the top of the charts in both Finland and Germany, HIM could do no wrong and no wrong they did…with an album literally full of top tunes, they exploded onto the scene with tracks like “Right Here In My Arms” and “Razorblade Kiss”...and not forgetting that cover of “Wicked Game”…re-recorded here again but SO much smoother, it’s here the band claimed the song as their own, creating a modern Gothic rock anthem in the process. The newly found sense of melody also saw the band embracing their softer side too, adding a depth to their song writing and playing on their romantic rock style…songs like “Heaven Tonight” and “Gone With The Sin” helped balance the chugging with the charming and quintessentially, the record was a masterpiece. No…the record IS a masterpiece to this day…and HIM will forever be pretty in pink. Goth rock was sexy again. 
HIM’s next album wasn’t far behind as the band didn’t take long writing new material, but the huge success found with the preceding record had made the record companies aware that there was money to be made with these Finn’s…and a lot of pressure was put upon the band to release a record equal in commercial acclaim; the result was “Deep Shadows And Brilliant Highlights”. Aided by producer Kevin Shirley, the band found themselves embracing (albeit reluctantly) a far sleeker sound leaning more towards pop music, stripped away was the grit and vigour of their established style and in its place, was even more emphasis on melody and mass-marketing. While it raised questions from long term fans, it still had the strength of Valo’s song-writing backing it up and despite the criticism, songs such “Heartache Every Moment” and “Pretending” were still huge…Linde is allowed to perform some tight guitar solos and the lighter musical approach allowed Burton to shine on the keyboard. “In Love And Lonely”, “You Are The One” and “Please Don’t Let It Go” all highlight the beauty of not only Valo’s song-writing ability but the capability of the band too, to diversify and pull it off with ease. Deep Shadows behind the scenes, but brilliant highlights on record…and frankly an under-appreciated album. 
News & Reviews
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 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