Saturday, 8 June 2013

HIM's 'Tears on Tape' - Album Review

HIM are easily one of the most recognisable bands in today's world of modern metal. Whether it is the successful fusion of gothic metal and new wave pop of their sound, their instantly recognisable 'Heartagram' logo or their simple yet striking artwork - HIM have an identity that is totally their own. Many bands have tried and failed to emulate the success of one of Finland's biggest exports but HIM have continued to sell plenty of albums and tour world-wide despite the fact that many of their contemporaries have fallen by the wayside. 2013's Tears on the Tape is the band's eighth album and their first since Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice which was released in 2010. Tears on Tape takes the pop-esque songcraft of the previous album and mixes it with the rawer, heavier production of 2007's Venus Doom, making their current album an amalgamation of the previous two. For the most part this works and, being a relatively short album at 40:56, there is little room for any real filler. While this is certainly not their most creative or enjoyable album, HIM do not really have anything left to prove so can make the music that they want to. Tears on Tape seems to be just that, a well established band just enjoying themselves and making music that they would want to hear.

After the intrumental intro Unleash the Red, the album gets underway with second single All Lips Go Blue. From the outset it is business as usual with big, doomy guitar riffs mixing well with atmospheric keyboards and frontman Ville Valo's unique voice. This sort is song is well within HIM's usual territory and sets the tone for the album. The melodies are well-woven into the music and there is a great guitar solo from Mikko Lindström. Love Without Tears is up next and for me this is one of the best songs on the album. It makes great use of Janne Puurtinen's keyboards, creating a big soundscape that is particularly effective during the choruses. Valo shows great range during the song, reaching some nice high notes in the choruses and adopting his more traditional baritone for the rest of the song - particularly during a lovely acoustic-led breakdown towards the middle of the song. The next highlight is third single and title track Tears on Tape. It takes the form of a melancholic mid-paced rocker. Again, it is classic HIM and will please long-time fans. It is similar to the material found on 2005's Dark Light with it's slightly commercial edge. It is quite a grower, as when I watched the video before I got the album I was not too keen on the song, but after a few listens it has opened up and I find that I enjoy it rather a lot now. Up next is first single Into the Night which has another killer chorus with more high notes from Valo. Like the previous song, it has that commercial sheen from their mid-career material but it is catchy and the delicate keyboards in the chorus offset the chugging guitar riffing.

Hearts at War comes next and this moves back slightly into the doom territory but still with a highly melodic chorus making yet more use of great keyboard soundscapes. It emphasises all that is great about HIM, especially the simple yet deceivingly heavy guitar riffs from Lindström. The next highlight is Drawn & Quartered with it's bass-heavy verses and melancholic choruses. 'Melancholic' seems to be a theme here, and I think it is fair to describe this album overall as melancholic. It is not particularly heavy, especially when compared to Venus Doom or 2003's Love Metal yet it is much less poppy and polished than Screamworks. Melancholic works well for me anyway, this album has a certain vibe that is hard to place - and that is what makes it mysterious and enjoyable. This song basically sums up the whole album for me and, incidentally, is the album's longest song. After the short instrumental Lucifer's Chorale the final 'proper' song of the album W.L.S.T.D. (which stands for When Love Starts to Die) starts and carries on the vibe from the previous song. After a delicate keyboard intro we are treated to the heaviest riff on the album (one that Tony Iommi would have been proud of) and a verse to match with some discordant guitar and almost-spoken words from Valo. The melody comes back for the chorus, with some effects-drenched piano backing up the guitars. This song would have not have sounded out of place on Venus Doom and really brings all the themes of the album to a head. The album is finished off properly with another instrumental piece called Kiss the Void that is piano led backed by some distant drums that reminds me of Nine Inch Nails' Piggy in a way - slightly odd. Overall, this is another solid album from the band but probably not one that would convert anyone who was unsure about the band's sound. This is classic HIM through and through. It might not be as experimental as some fans may have wanted it to be, but the songs are strong and the murky production works a treat.

The album was released on 29th April 2013 via DoubleCross Records/Cooking Vinyl Limited. Below is the band's promotional video for All Lips Go Blue.

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