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HIM - Love Metal

By Mark Hensch

Ahhh yes, Love Metal. Sounds somewhat impossible, combining one of the world's most cheese-laden emotions with one of its most devastating styles of music. Say what ever you will, but HIM (an acronym for His Infernal Majesty) sure have a strange as muppets style of music on their hands. With their fourth album (at last arriving via Universal Records in the U.S.A.), HIM make a CD devoted to a genre that they themselves have created. The Finnish goth rockers have given us Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666, A Razorblade Romance, and Deep Shadows & Brilliant Highlights. On those previous albums, HIM combined catchy pop-metal guitars, the occasional guitar solo, and (whether or not you like it) simply brilliant lyrics that are almost unflinchingly Goth. 

In America, the Goth  culture is misunderstood and generally swamped in the music world with a handful of bands who seem to like pissing off random,  suburban parents rather then being truly gothic. HIM take the fundamental Gothic concept of finding the beauty of all things (be they positive or negative) and crafts infectious, catchy, and at times even rocking tunes around it, but always with that same mindset of a sort of macabre or morbid beauty, often involving the most powerful of human emotions, love.

Due to a perhaps deeper appreciation for the stylings of HIM (as opposed to where I live as Goths are often generally unpopular outcasts and/or whiny attention-grabbers) the European community has blasted HIM to stardom at a level that American bands like Green Day or U2 have attained for example. Due to pop-culture loving (*cough Bam Margera, cough*) HIM inked a distribution deal with Universal Records and slowly but surely the band's various albums are getting sent over here with no add-ons and in basically original form. Though in some areas it's possible HIM is breaking through (I recently caught the end of "A Razorblade Romance" on a local radio station one day), they have yet to fully break into the American pop-culture psyche.

After hearing the newest album to be released Stateside (the band's fourth), and having had import versions already of Deep Shadows & Brilliant Highlights and A Razorblade Romance, I'm not totally sure if HIM have a breakthrough in Love Metal. This album has many strong songs, but some of the material is a bit weak and I didn't seem to enjoy the more polished style present on this CD as opposed to their earlier releases.

"Buried Alive By Love" has keyboardist Burton working the sinister undertones and frontman Ville Vallo has that superior crooning that sets him apart from many other rock singers. Guitarist Linde has some 80's like metal riffs and a decent solo near the end. 

"The Funeral of Hearts" was a mildly disappointing (for me anyways) ballad. One of the things I have always like about HIM (as far back as Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666 even) is the fact that they can make a softer song and somehow manage to keep it from passing  the line into the realm of sappy music usually. Though this song is ok, it sounds almost too radio-friendly for my tastes (despite even the lyrics) and it's power ballad and group choruses make it sound like Gothic sugar. 

"Beyond Redemption" floats in with some glassy keys and then a smacking riff. The HIM band nails it this time around with a perfectly dark and catchy rock song. "Sweet Pandemonium" is a meandering fusion of ethereal keyboards, subtle riffing, and Ville Vallo's tortured vocals. 

"Soul on Fire" is easily one of the most foot-tapping HIM songs ever, with it's driving metal alternating with slowly-growing verses and a subtle bass line. The melting guitar solo here is definitely a highlight, and this is one of the best rock-oriented tracks on the album. 

"The Sacrament" is a sweet jammer with clean piano keys, spacey keyboard effects, and strumming guitars. Strangely delicate yet never falling into the realm of openly shallow pop-rock, either the Gothic vocals or the strange beauty of it all allow HIM to commit some musical sins someone as picky as me might not typically forgive. 

"This Fortress of Tears" is a so-so ballad with various weak and strong points too numerous to discuss...depending on one's mood, it might make an awesome rock jam or a lame slow song. 

"Circle of Fear" is an elegant and almost majestic song that offers a decent track to sink into towards Love Metal's end. "Endless Dark" has some transparent sounding effects on the guitars and keyboards before a loud riff and some drumming kick things off. The result is sing-along gothic pop rock. 

"The Path" is a slower song that is for most part Vallo's moody crooning over solid guitar parts, slow drum beats, and epic keyboards. The song's end has some totally sweet guitar solos, and "The Path" is an excellent end to this CD.

Despite some weaker tunes, Love Metal is by absolutely no means a terrible album; in fact, I find it already (in typical HIM fashion) to be growing on me a tad. I wouldn't, however, recommend this album as a start to the HIM mythos; I enjoyed Deep Shadows & Brilliant Highlights and A Razorblade Romance somewhat more then this. If you are missing this album in your HIM collection, however, by all means stop reading this review and get it. The high-points will surely defeat the low points, just like in all things love.

CD Info 

HIM - Love Metal
Label: Universal
1. Buried Alive by Love
2. The Funeral of Hearts
3. Beyond Redemption
4. Sweet Pandemonium
5. Soul on Fire
6. The Sacrament
7. The Fortress of Tears
8. Circle of Fear
9. Endless Dark
10. The Path
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