Review Summary: Softer and more downbeat than much of the Finnish quintet's other releases to date, the introverted nature of the album need not get in the way of great songs, and every track on this album is worth a listen.
Before I begin to delve into the oft overlooked masterpiece that is HIM's 2001 opus 'Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights' (that's a photography term, and possibly the best description of what this album actually sounds like) I should take a moment to speak of their charismatic frontman, Ville Valo. An electrified Johnny Depp character, all long curls and smudged eyeliner, as much a dandy romantic-hero as he is tattooed rocker-badboy, crooning poetic lyrics with a perpetual Marlboro glued to his lips, Valo is a unique personality even for the heavy rock genre he's part of, and his presence on this album is strong. This is by definition a gothic rock album, however extends far beyond the limitations of the genre, thanks to the Helsinki band's frontman's natural dynamism.
This is evidenced most strongly by the album's opening track 'Salt In Our Wounds', as Latin-style percussion gives way to lounge piano and surf guitars, Valo's smoky (literally, he was on around 100 a day when this album was released) baritone begins to lament 'Here we are in the maelstrom of love' to a backdrop of haunting strings. This is goth rock only by a narrow definition, whilst Valo sings of heartbreak he does so in a way that's as much charming as self-deprecating, far more tongue-in-cheek than many of his wrist-slitting contemporaries. Valo's low harmonies have a certain timelessness to them, and he's in many ways a skeletal Sinatra; zombified but emanating class and charm all the same. 'Heartache Every Moment' follows, a melodramatic masterpiece of chiming pianos and distorted guitars. It's melancholic whilst still retaining power, not an easy task for a band with the 'goth' tag, and whilst the lyrics are self-absorbed at face-value, something about this romantic themed rocker still resonates with the listener. 'Lose You Tonight' follows, with more fuzzy-guitars and harmonised voices detailing a tale of woeful love.
'In Joy And Sorrow' is up next, a ballad track, all mournful strings and acoustic guitars, it most accurately depicts the world of dark romance, heavy rock and old-style pop that HIM have created. 'Pretending' continues in a similar vein although it revs up the guitar attack that is more generously featured in preceding albums. Like every track on this album (and in fact in HIM's repertoire) 'Pretending' deals with themes of love and loss. 'Close to the Flame' tracks back any idea of heaviness in favour of soft piano and clean guitars; it's dark, but somehow warm in nature. It's a coffee-shop track for a rainy day, but there's some real sentiment amongst the sadness. 'Please Don't Let it Go', injects some fresh energy, something which this album noticeably lacks, and is one of the brilliant highlights of this album. 'Beautiful' is a a real deep shadow, a funereal dirge of a love song, but classic all the same, whereas 'Don't Close Your Heart' brings some much needed levity before doom-and-gloom closer 'Love You Like I Do' finishes off.
Softer and more downbeat than much of the Finnish quintet's other releases to date, the introverted nature of the album need not get in the way of great songs, and every track on this album is worth a listen. Melancholic as it is, there's something heart-warming about the heartbreak that Valo and co. detail throughout the LP.
Stand out tracks; 'Salt in Our Wounds', 'Heartache Every Moment', 'Please Don't Let it Go', 'Don't Close Your Heart'