HIM can rightly be called the biggest music export from Finland. They've topped charts everywhere in the world, sold over 500k albums
in the US, and played sold out arena tours across Europe. Their 2003 album "Love Metal" is today considered a classic: it re-defined
the whole gothic rock/metal movement completely, shifting it towards a more atmospheric and a chorus oriented style, lifting it from
the obscurity it had been pretty much since it was conceived. That's an awful lot of praise, you might say, considering how hated their
last album "Dark Light" was by the vast majority of their fanbase. People saw them as sell-outs, as their sound moved into a more
polished and radio-friendly one, abandoning their roots almost completely. Heck, I'll be the first to admit that I freaking hated this
band after the overly commercial marketing campaigns and the disappointing songs on that album. As such, I was understandably surprised
upon the first few listens of "Venus Doom". I though to myself: "Well I'll be damned, the band managed to pull themselves out of the
gutter and write another amazing 'love metal' album!".
Though the production is still flawless on "Venus Doom", the songwriting has returned back to the roots. The songs are more metal than radio rock, and the compositions are interesting and refreshingly original. The title track, for instance, opens the album with HIM's signature bass-heavy buzzing guitars. As soon as goth icon Ville Valo sings the first vocals you know the band is back in business. The song is murkier and darker than "Buried Alive By Love", but has all the catchy elements in it. The instrumental part of the song is massive: the solo is technically proficient and almost unrecognizable to be a HIM-solo. That's just one indicator of how good it is. Moments later the band pops out a surprise, as the song slows down to an almost doom metal like level. Ville Valo's vocals sound like the demon himself, surfacing deeply from his lungs, creating a frightening atmosphere for a moment... before the chorus hits back in half a minute later in a perfect transition, catching the listener completely off guard.
"Love In Cold Blood" leans almost into heavy metal with Valo's shout outbursts and its intense guitar solo, giving more insight on things to come later on in the album. "Passion's Killing Floor" is arguably the most "Love Metal"-like song on the album, bringing back the atmospheric synths to the forefront during the chorus. The short and subtle piano introduction for the ten minute mammoth "Sleepwalking Past Hope" is touching, and works as a perfect contrast for the slow riffs that pay homage to early Black Sabbath. Valo sounds like he's in despair when his beautiful high pitch clean vocals give great contrast to the low-tuned guitars full of distortion. The song boasts of multiple transitions, speed changes and atmospheric passages, enough to call it the epic HIM song.
In general, the songs on "Venus Doom" are much longer than what we are used to from the band. Many of them are well over the five minute mark, with the shortest song clocking in at four and a half minutes. This allows for far more artistic elements than "Dark Light", and upon listening to the remainder of the album, I don't think it would be wrong to say that HIM are the masters of dark atmospheric music, there simply isn't anyone else who does gothic rock as well as they do.
Download: Venus Doom, Sleepwalking Past Hope, Passion's Killing Floor
For the fans of: The 69 Eyes, Negative