HIM - Tears On Tape (Album Review)

Monday, 29 April 2013 Written by James Ball

The Finnish rockers are back again for another slice of gloomy, yet anthemic rock, deep from the inner workings of the mind of Ville Valo and company, and as you may already come to expect from a band as seasoned as this after a fifteen year career, it’s pretty good.

There has always been something truly melodic about HIM. They’ve always been heavy, with dark, crunching guitars, a bleak sound, some absolutely pounding drum work, and subject matters to cry about, but it’s always been done in a truly romantic, heartfelt way that has kept their loyal and dedicated fan base hanging onto every single chord, note, harmony and lyric.

'Tears on Tape', as you can expect from the title, does not veer too far from this formula. It’s definitely an album without an identity crisis, and truly believes in everything that’s being sung about, a feeling particularly well portrayed by the smooth, yet fragile 'Love without Tears'.

While this album isn’t especially different to anything else they’ve done, it does somehow feel like a real follow-up to arguably their most popular release to date, 2003’s 'Love Metal'. Every song seems to have been written for every one of their adoring fan base to sing along to every word. Oh, and by adoring fans, I mean it. A special pre-order version was made through one of our more well-known metal magazines, and demand was so high, you could only get it through telephone order as the website couldn’t cope.

So, that’s 250 words about the fact that HIM have released an album that HIM fans will absolutely love. So what about the rest of us? What if you’ve never heard of HIM before? Well, Put simply, if you grab yourself a Cure record, turn up the distortion, slow it down a little and swap Robert Smith's beautiful wailing vocals with a sultry, yet macabre vocal line you wouldn’t be a million miles away. There’s something so interesting and mysterious about this line up of musicians and the music they create it sucks you in and you end up hanging off every word.

This album could quite easily become your soundtrack to when you feel low because I defy you to not feel so bad about things by the time the slightly industrial, yet atmospheric 'Kiss the Void' closes the album. This isn’t a band out to depress you, it’s a band that strives to connect with you, and they’ve been doing that like experts for a very long time.

Of course, it’s not perfect. As the band have a very well worked out formula, that means if you’re a big fan of having a varied, boundary-pushing record, then you’ll be disappointed with this release. You could argue that there’s not enough difference between the tracks on offer here to stop it becoming background listening to the non-fan. There’s a real comfort zone here and HIM stay well and truly within it throughout. Also, for the casual listener, this could turn a beautiful album full of connection into a bit of a slog. If you’re not immediately hooked, you may end up liking none of it, as none of the songs particularly stand out about the others in many ways. With the exception of 'Lucifer’s Chorale', which is a heavily distorted drone that is definitely this album's 'Fitter, Happier'.

Personally, however, I love this record as a whole. I have no issue with HIM’s formula because it’s extremely well done.

So, in summary, this is a well crafted, well put-together record full of everything that you would come to expect from this band. They’ve been around for a long time now, and show no signs of giving up, which is truly admirable considering the state of the charts these days. They have written a 100% pure HIM album without straying from the beaten track but without sacrificing any of the energy or gusto you can come to expect from them these days. This album deserves to be listened to. After all, there’s enough energy in the guitar riffs, in the haunting bass, and in the frantic drums, as well as Valo’s baritone, romantic, yet tortured voice to keep this a handy mix of radio-friendly, yet still hardcore enough for the purists. A bruising, and at the same time, gentle album with a real purpose and soul.

In short, it’s not something to cry about. It’s something to enjoy.

'Tears On Tape' is released today, Monday 29th April, on DoubleCross Records. 

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