Review Summary: Parental advisory: explicitly dried out band ahead
Cainotophobia – fear of novelty or newness.
Starting with a dash of medical information, let’s look at the latest offering from Finnland’s most famous pop-rock quintet. Yes, it’s no mystery to anyone that H.I.M. is a pop act, a salesman with five heads, and what they sell is their own brand of pop: greasy guitar riffs ramble over simplistic drum beats, while soft baritone voice is singing about the need for love, the loss of love, the hurt of love, the height of love, the weight of love, the love of love etc. etc. etc.
H.I.M. is a sad case of a band that was self-denyingly digging a creative grave for itself for over ten years, and there’s no one to blame but the band’s frontman, Ville Hermanni Valo. The guy seems to be incredibly afraid of change. Since their sophomore album, “Razorblade Romance”, released in 1999, H.I.M. almost never changed the direction of their music. The dominating song structure was the old verse-chorus-verse-chorus routine, all melodies were siblings with traits of each showing here and there. It was a game of hit and miss: a song was either listenable and enjoyable to a certain degree, or was just bland, but they all sounded similar. A random person would hardly notice the difference between H.I.M. albums.
But I have to be more precise here, for I’m no stranger to H.I.M., mostly for nostalgic reasons. After “Razorblade Romance” they kind of rocked back and forth while still standing at the same spot. “Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights” leaned more towards an even poppier side, “Love Metal” rocked back with a more straightforward approach (and overall better songwriting). “Dark Light” played with the softer alternative rock moments, “Venus Doom” suddenly shrugged towards the (gasp) doom metal sections and massive production (that album is pretty damn good, actually). “Screamworks” was so painfully trying to be appealing to everyone with it’s pop-punk-ish tempo changes and keyboard ornaments that it fell flat on its face, leaving very little tolerable material. And now we have “Tears On Tape”.
Nothing changed in the paradigm.
What really kills any joy for the listener is that Valo can only do so much with his songwriting approach. Similarities in H.I.M. songs were always quite obvious. On “Screamworks” it became a major problem and “Tears On Tape” does nothing but substantiate the sad conclusion: Ville Valo’s creative vein is dried up like an African creek in the summer. An especially painful moment is put in the middle of track 3, “Love Without Tears”, where the band “pays tribute” to Black Sabbath by inserting a re-working of the main riff from “A National Acrobat” into the song. I say “pays tribute” only because I don’t want to say “steal”. After all, their guitarist IS married to Iommi’s daughter.
There’s nothing really to say about any of the songs. They’re all copies of copies of copies. Lyrical content is no better: erase the word “love” from Ville Valo’s mind and he might probably never sing again. However, there is ONE single song I would like to pinpoint: it’s the penultimate track entitled “W.L.S.T.D.” (I suggested it stands for “We Love Satan To Death”, but the truth turned out to be even less exciting). Starting with an almost stoner-influenced riff (gasp again) it has some nice groove and the vocals are pleasantly low (nice tribute to Peter Steele there, eh?). It’s probably the only track that was written with any remnants of care in Valo’s soul.
It seems H.I.M. are horrified by the perspective of any change whatsoever. It may be the fear of losing the sweet spot, losing the target audience, but to be fair, their glory days are gone and I doubt that more of the same will keep any of the fanbase interested, let alone lure in any newcomers.