“2006 was a weird year,” reflects HIM frontman Ville Valo, sipping a beer at his local pub in Helsinki, Finland. “A lot of personal shit hit the fan, and I have a lot of friends that have been getting really ill, just out of the blue. I know two people who are in comas in the hospital right now. Whereas, in the real of rock and roll, everything is perfect!”
Indeed, most bands would gladly laser off their tattoos to have the kind of success HIM enjoyed in 2006. The goth-metal quintet rocked its way across Europe, North America, and Asia, playing one sold-out venue after another; and its 2005 album, Dark Light, hit the 500,000 sales mark in the U.S. becoming the first-ever record by a Finnish band to go gold in America. But last September, on the eve of their second stateside tour of 2006, HIM abruptly cancelled their entire remaining concert itinerary, outing the need to work on new material.
“I was burned out,” Valo admits. “We’d been doing the same-old same-old, playing the same songs every night all over the world. We’d already done two tours in America since Dark Light came out, so why the fuck were we doing exactly the same thing all over again? I just wasn’t in the mental state to do it - I was already looking forward to the end of it, before we even started. Rather then boring everybody to death, we’d rather excite everybody to death,” he chuckles.
To hear Valo describe it, the new HIM material does indeed sound exciting - albeit markedly different from what fans of the poppy Dark Light may be expecting. “It’s like Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality meeting with My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless,” he says. “It’s going to be super melodic, and the vocals are going to be soft and sentimental, but the guitars are going to be in your face all the fucking time. We’ve been studying all our Black Sabbath albums and putting at least four excellent guitar riffs in every song. It’s like full-blown heavy metal for those headbangers who still want to hold a handkerchief in their hands, in case they might drop a tear. People are probably going to hate it, but we’ll see what happens,” he laughs.
With most of the new songs already written, the band plans to began recording in March at a studio in Helsinki with Dark Light producer Tim Palmer behind controls. "We're hoping to get Hiili Hiilesmaa, who was the producer on [2003's] Love Metal, to coproduce it with Tim," says Valo. "The two of them did a couple tracks of our compilation album, [2004's] And Love Said No, and they worked really well together. We're trying to sort that out now".
Though the band enjoyed recording Dark Light in Los Angeles, Valo says everyone’s happy to be doing this one is Helsinki. “We were looking into different studios all around the world,” he explains, “but after touring for so long, it just felt right to do it where everyone can relax and feel safe. By the time the album’s finished, everyone will have been back at home for such a long time, they’ll be dying to go out and just tour the world. And that’s quite important,” he laughs, “since we’re probably going to have to tour extra long to convince people that it’s a good album!”