Review Summary: Love Metal redux.
HIM are a band you can't exactly pin into a corner, as they were always soft for metal purists and a bit heavy for mainstream rock radio. Still, since their debut 16 years ago, they have always tried to please both parties and if one takes a careful look at their discography, a certain soft & heavy pattern can be applied to their past decade output. Deep Shadows And Brilliant Highlights
is undeniably their most commercial offering and took several stabs from the hardcore fans. Love Metal
, on the other hand, with its' heavier and more complex structures, put them back on track, enlarging their fan base. Dark Light
and Venus Doom
share the same story, only on a larger scale, as they became a worldwide force after "Rip Out The Wings Of A Butterfly" became a big hit in 2005. So, since their previous output, Screamworks
, was another mainstream-oriented affair, Tears On Tape
was somehow expected to be a harsher offering, especially after signing to a smaller record label, Razor & Tie, allowing them full control over the songs.
Unfortunately, most probably in fear of a commercial flop, HIM decided not to return with Venus Doom
part two, opting again for a radio-friendly sound instead. They try to balance the melodic riffs with the harder hitting ones, turning Tears To Tape
more into Love Metal
redux and hoping it will appease everyone. This approach works well for songs like "Hearts At War" or "No Love", which have some cool, powerful leads, but at the end of the day it's clear that the record is plain lazy. Even when clocking at only 41 minutes, the album is peppered with four interludes. Thus, the listener's left with 34 minutes of proper tunes that fail to offer a full experience like their previous efforts give.
Leaving the two interludes aside, "Unleash The Red" and "Kiss The Void", the two songs that bookend Tears On Tape
are actually worth checking out. "All Lips Go Blue" and "W.L.S.T.D.", both have the same atmosphere and sound that made Venus Doom
arguably their best material. The former boasts one of HIM's most brutal riffs yet and the vocal delivery is really solid, especially the infectious chorus. On the other hand, "W.L.S.T.D." (which stands for When Love Starts To Die), is a proper closer akin to "Cyanide Sun", having a slower, doom-tinged feel accompanied by a deep baritone voice. However, the remaining seven tracks share the same worn formulas HIM kept throughout their career, the heavy intro/chorus & soft verses or straightforward mellow. They have never truly tried to expand their horizons, only juggling sideways and this thing slowly turned into a curse. Whether you listen to their debut, Greatest Love Songs, Vol. 666
, Dark Light
or Tears On Tape
, one can't help but feel the same approach with varied distortion levels. Front man Ville Valo hasn't changed a bit in almost 20 years and even if his gifted voice is still the same charismatic and instantly recognizable croon, it's hard not to ask yourself why are they unwilling to experiment. Yes, it is hard sometimes to stop clinging on the tricks that brought you a huge success, but at this point there's a desperate need of resurgence before starting to rely solely on past gems and churning albums only to keep fans interested.
To conclude, Tears On Tape
feels divided into an EP's worth of strong material and a lazy half that are mostly average songs that HIM could churn in their sleep. Also, the cohesion even Screamworks
shared is missing because of the irrelevant interludes. It's deceiving because the band proved they are capable to create better tunes (see “Sleepwalking Past Hope” off Venus Doom
) yet they stick to the same format. At best, fans will rejoice, but the album won't be heralded as a career highlight anytime soon.