/april 2008/

Digital Versatile Doom review

H.I.M. has a reputation for engaging live shows, so it's disconcerting when Digital Versatile Doom starts off a bit stiff and stilted. It's an unfounded worry Ч as lead singer Ville Valo and his band loosen up on-stage, the music becomes warmer and more involving (along with Valo's stage presence), and fans will be pleased to know that the album captures not only H.I.M.'s sound, but also the mood and atmosphere of what was evidently a particularly impressive show. Valo is in fine form; by the time the lead singer reaches "Wicked Game," the set's fourth song, he's showing off his considerable vocal range, making the ladies in attendance squeal as he slides effortlessly from falsetto to deep, sensual growls, and joking around with both spectators and his fellow bandmembers between numbers. Things get even better exactly half way through when H.I.M. turns in an exuberant performance of "Dead Lovers Lane," a track off of the studio album Venus Doom. While the concert (recorded at The Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles) was in support of what was then the band's latest album, the set list is a balanced mix of the group's most well-known tunes. It's a decision that pays off handsomely: the crowd is happy that their favorite hits get a turn, and that makes it easy for Valo to lead them in singing the opening lines of several songs. (His gentle encouragement at the beginning of "Poison Girl" is particularly endearing.) As could be expected for a group with such a charismatic frontman, most of the theatrics are reserved for Valo, who plays with melodic variations throughout the concert and sneaks in some naughty improvisation at the end of "It's All Tears." Consequently, there isn't much time for the rest of the band to get part of the spotlight; when they do, it's with the concert's centerpiece, "Sleepwalking Past Hope." Clocking in at just over ten minutes, the song gives guitarist Lily Lazer, keyboardist Emerson Burton, and bassist Mige Amour a chance to shine while their vocalist takes well-deserved break. It's a move that benefits not only Valo, but his audience; unlike other live recordings, the second half of Digital Versatile Doom doesn't flag, but manages to continue and even build up a bit more energy before it concludes with a lush version of "Funeral of Hearts." If the ultimate goal of a live album is to capture not only the music but the full experience of a band in concert, it's safe to say that Digital Versatile Doom succeeds handily.

Review by Katherine Fulton

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