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Album Review:  HIM’s New Album, “Tears on Tape”

Posted by Kayla Tooma on 07/11 at 04:51 PM

Grade: B-

Finnish masters of gloom and doom, HIM, are back!  The ‘love metal’ band is entering its twenty-second year and recently released its eighth studio album, Tears on Tape.  As a long time fan of theirs, I was excited when I heard about the new album after three years since their last one, Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice.

Of all their albums, Tears on Tape seems to be the least inspired. And if the album is inspired, it seems it is only by HIM’s older songs. Many, if not all, of the songs on the new album borrow elements, styles, and sounds from their older songs. HIM’s subject matter tends to be very one-noted—love, heartache, and the pains and price of love. But they always seem to package and re-package that message in new, interesting, and beautiful ways. However, Tears on Tape lacks the uniqueness of earlier albums like Dark Light that gave us some of their biggest hits: “Wings of a Butterfly” and “Killing Loneliness,” and one of my personal favorites, “Vampire Heart.”  Also, their previous album, Screamworks, yielded stunning songs such as “Acoustic Funeral (For Love in Limbo),” “Heartkiller,” and “Katherine Wheel.” Perhaps their latest effort is an attempt at a nostalgic work. Its concept is to be a mix tape filled with poetic, complex lyrics, gorgeous vocals, and heavy yet calming metal. But it left me highly disappointed.

Examples of disappointment include the guitar riff on “All Lips Go Blue.” It is extremely similar to that of “In Venere Veritas.” And while I do enjoy the extreme gloom and doom of HIM’s lyrics, “All Lips Go Blue” tends to over-over do it. Valo sings “I weep for the dream in a grave the one that made our lips go blue, blue, blue.” “Drawn & Quartered” is not what you’d expect with such a violent name. It is actually one of the slower, softest songs on the album. But unfortunately, it lacks the same fire of their strong slow songs like “Cyanide Sun,” “Poison Girl,” “Join Me In Death,” or “In Joy and Sorrow” on previous albums.

The album features four instrumental, transitional songs. While they set the tone, half of them are weak. “Unleash the Red,” the intro to the album, is one of the two that make sense to be included. It begins with a soft, yet eerie synth melody that goes from light towards darkness quite quickly in order to set up the whole album. “Trapped in Autumn” is not much more than a few synth sounds against rustling noises. While the song does convey autumn with its fallen leaves and promise of death, and sets up the second half of the album well, it is a waste of a track that is just too easy to skip over. “Lucifer’s Chorale” was a disappointment. When I saw that name, I was preparing for some serious dark sounds, but what I got was a lot of guitar distortion and not much of anything else. It is simply not needed if its sole purpose is to sound like the white noise of a tape. While this helps to give the feeling of a tape and stays with the theme, it’s mainly just sounds. Of the instrumental tracks, “Kiss the Void” is the only instrumental track really worthy of being on the album. It features scratched up tape sounds against Ville’s “ohhh’s” and random snippets of his vocals including screams with some decorative, pretty piano. “Kiss The Void” is a gorgeous mix of horror and beauty, something HIM has become masterful of. The track ends the album with the scratchiness sound getting louder and more frequent, and then abruptly cuts and makes the sound of a tape being popped out of a cassette player.

Unfortunately, only three other songs stood out for me.  “Love Without Tears” has a gorgeous, mournful melody that compliments lead singer Ville Valo’s beautiful voice and impressive range. It is somewhat similar to “Funeral of Hearts” that tells the story of two lovers, and also the switch between acoustic to electric. The title track, “Tears on Tape,” is perhaps the strongest track on the album. It features a pretty piano riff, amazing, and emotional vocals by Valo. Not to mention, the song is incredibly catchy. I’ve been singing the chorus nonstop since I first heard it. The final song I found to be most compelling was “W.L.S.T.D.,” which means “When Love Starts To Die.” Ville’s voice is very, very deep throughout, which is quite unusual. He will usually alternate between a deep, bass voice and falsetto. It is perhaps the consistently deepest on any track I’ve ever heard. “W.L.S.T.D.” is the heaviest tracks on the album and at the end, features awesome metal screams, reminiscent of Ozzy Osbourne.

All in all, with the exception of a handful of songs, many of the tracks on Tears on Tape are unfortunately, forgettable.

Listen to “Tears on Tape” here:

{name} Author: Kayla Tooma
Bio: Kayla Tooma is a senior majoring in English at Penn State. She hails from the great island of Long Island, NY. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing piano, reading medieval literature, watching unhealthy amounts of space documentaries, and making some kind of lame pun. Her favorite genres include a variety of rock, pop, indie, and metal. Some of her favorite artists include My Chemical Romance, Lana Del Rey, Queen, MIKA, No Doubt, Lady Gaga, HIM, The Smiths, The Jane Austen Argument, The Beatles, Beirut, The Dresden Dolls, and The White Stripes. She also has a sweet spot for pop goddesses like Cher, Madonna, and Britney Spears.

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