HIM as we know them are as much an enigma of deep intrigue as they are a stain on the shelves of good record stores at large. Their trademarked, stocked and saved sound referred to as "love metal" is about as metal as Lifehouse at it's core. We all know the band is really a baladeering bunch of saps at heart, frontman Ville Vallo in particular. But what keeps so many fans engaged, if you hadn't been paying attention, is the downfall of hit singles almost all of their albums have brought forth. They strike a chord, and whether or not you've been stricken as of now will go a long way in determining how you'll recieve Venus Doom, HIM's "heaviest record to date" (their words, not mine).
Is it heavy? Absolutely. In the same gothic-hard rock way Fields of the Nephilim managed to sound heavier than they actually were, HIM sound at times like a completely different band than the drivel-driven emocentric band of earlier days. The memory remains, however, so don't expect love songs via Slayer or anything like that. Vallo is still stuck on sentimentality and an all-too-feministic approach to the heart of a male. Yes, these are songs mostly meant to get the girls in the front row to scream, cry, remove clothing, etc. At least from a lyrical standpoint. The music is mostly in direct contrast to that, and the lyrics sometimes detour into similar darker directions. The opening title track is a great example, using doomy riffs and subdued melody as a primer for Ville's expected ode to heartbreak and loss of faith in love and blah blah blah. Sometimes it's hard to see how solid of a rock band HIM are, a complaint I'm sure many honest music critics can relate to.Taking on a few new roads on the songwriting highway, Venus Doom has two pleasant surprises: an epic and an acoustic interlude. Actually, one pleasant (the former) and one disturbing ("Song or Suicide", perhaps Vallo at his most egocentric?). The epic, 10 minute "Sleepwalking Past Hope" is the type of song a band like HIM can only get away with once or twice, and thankfully they manage to fill the space with considerable ease. Impressive, but still far too lackluster to make a dent.
HIM's first two records are still a couple of my favorites. I love having heavier music I can play for my girlfriend without fear of an argument, haha. Besides that, they've always been a band who, regardless of being self-pigeonholed into a continous loop of depression and angsty love, have played their parts as well as 90% of bands out there. They're passionate, and while they have lost some of it in my mind, it's no surprise that Venus Doom satisfies more than not. Still, you have to ask yourself if it's time for them to throw some dirt on the holes in their collective heart.