Rating - 8.5/10
It’s hard to believe that the new album "Venus Doom" is actually the sixth release from the Finnish rockers. They have come a long way
since their first album and have troubled the charts with catchy songs like “And Love Said No” as well as making a pin-up idol of lead
vocalist Ville Valo for young girls around the globe.
I have to be honest and say that Him's music has never been one of my passions. I have enjoyed each release and have always found both Valo and his band to be consistent ,but they have never been a band to get regular airplay in our household.
After one listen to "Venus Doom" though I have to say all that is about to change as let me say this album delivers everything you could want from a hard rock album and it does it with style. The opening track "Venus Doom" is pacey and up-tempo and chugs along in familiar “Him” style but there is a new striking texture to the sound. It’s heavier, murkier and a little bit more sinister than previous efforts. Valo also appears to have been putting a lot of thought and attention into his vocals as he layers his tracks to form unusual harmonies and takes his vocals to some of the lowest notes of his career.
"Love In Cold Blood" is a surging rocker with a glorious chorus, blistering guitar solo and a very cool Sabbath like guitar breakdown midway through. Once again Ville’s vocals are impressive as he provides angst-ridden screams delivered with a newfound passion.
"Passions Killing Floor" is prime time "Him". It’s a brooding mid tempo rocker with a gothic feel but like the albums opening tracks it has a new found power thanks to its heaviness. The guitars are big, bold and tuned down so low that your windowpanes and maybe your fillings will rattle and buzz with approval.
"Kiss Of Dawn" for this reviewer is a real highlight of the album. It has power and some awesome rocking grooves but is tempered with a fabulously melodic chorus. The play out bears a resemblance to the verse pattern of Whitesnake's “Is This Love” but is delivered much heavier.
The opening classical piano of "Sleepwalking Past Hope" lures one into a false comfort zone before doom-laden guitars bring in slow and mean groove. The song has a sombre vibe and a tangible delicacy. The guitar solo is pure Black Sabbath and rather special. The last two minutes of the song brought to mind vintage Soundgarden in the way the guitars milk those single string three note riffs. This track can be summed up in one word. Epic.
"Dead Lovers Lane" is Him at his catchy, rocking best. It’s up-tempo and melodic and has guitar grooves that really hit the spot. Special mention must go to Valo's vocals, which towards the end of the track are pushed to their limit.
"Song Or Suicide" is a short acoustic ballad. It’s delicate and fragile and ably demonstrates Valo's ability to sing deep and low. At any moment you could imagine he is going to break into the traditional song “Old Man River” Personally I would have left this track off the running order or maybe tagged it on the end as a hidden track. It kind of stops the flow of the album somewhat.
"Bleed Well" is a mid tempo rocker full of melody and big guitar grooves. A very cool guitar solo raises it above the ordinary. This track does seem to give its secrets away early on and is possibly the most predictable on the album.
The final track "Cyanide Sun" has the slowest tempo of all the tracks on the release. It’s very much a slow burn number. Its simplicity gives it a sense of drama and repeated listens shows it to be every melodic.
Valo has, through various interviews, recently told of his problems with alcohol and how he has been dealing with it. By all accounts it sounds as if he’s been having a fairly rough time. Maybe in a strange twist of fate, having to really look at himself and evaluate what he was becoming and how to stop what could have become a downward spiral in one direction has enabled Valo to create what is without doubt the best album of his career so far. Vocally he is singing better than ever. He is trying new textures with his voice and sounds like he is really pushing himself. The music is much heavier than previous albums and all the better for it. Previous releases like “Dark Light” and “Razorblade Romance” sound like warm-up albums when put next to "Venus Doom".
Many people are going to have to re- think their opinions on "Him" as “Venus Doom” shows a new found maturity in the song writing and performance stakes. With this album he has stepped everything up a gear and gone to the next level. To sum up I would say this is a new and improved “Him” who has delivered an album that deserves to be his most successful top date.