Review Summary: Ville Valo crafts a sweet and somber solo debut.
It's been half a decade since His Infernal Majesty took a step down from their throne of love and metal and nearly twice as long since the release of their final record. In that time, frontman Ville Valo has managed to keep himself occupied as a free agent. Three years after the release of a tantalizing EP under the name 'VV', he is finally ready to release his debut album as a solo artist.
As the title implies, 'Neon Noir' is a dichotomous record full of brilliant highlights and deep shadows. There is an immediate sense of familiarity for anyone who has listened to HIM in the past. You will certainly find shades and echoes of Ville's previous work throughout the entire tracklist but that does not imply a complete lack of surprise or evolution. While opener "Echolocate Your Love" would sound right at home on 'Screamworks' or 'Dark Light', many tracks tend to lean more on the loving side of love metal.
Albeit somber, there is a tenderness that songs like "Loveletting" and "In Trenodia" are willing to display. Ville definitely wears his influences on his veil as you will not find more lovesick synths and acoustics this side of 'Disintegration'. There is an ever-present sense of melancholy even when the pace picks up on the title track as well as "The Foreverlost". In these louder moments, the contrast that may have come from a soaring guitar solo once upon a time now comes from an infectious melody instead.
If you were hoping for something heavier then you might find this record to be a little too glossy for your taste. "Saturnine Saturnalia" will give you some Sabbath-inspired riffs to chew on but this is an exception to the rule. If you have an itch for The Cure however, then you will find that there is a lot to love here. Perhaps the haunting "Heartful of Ghosts" most of all. A slow burn that is unlike anything Ville has done before.
It's hard to say how this debut outing will be received by fans and newcomers alike. The softer sensibilities could drive the former away while Ville's melodramatic lyrical style will likely remain a point of contention for the latter. That this is a finely-crafted and consistently pleasant experience from top to bottom... well that's quite easy to say.