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H.I.M.


Not since the glory days of glam-metal popsters, HANOI ROCKS, has a Finnish rock band cross the borders and minds of the mainstream music scene. Fronted by the capricious Ville Valo, H.I.M. have spread their gothic overtones from Helsinki to the uneasy listening airwaves of America and the rest of Europe. The goth-rock band’s self-styled “love metal” was actually camouflage for an unashamedly revisionist trawl through the 80s, even going as far as to cover – however effectively – CHRIS ISAAK’s `Wicked Game’.
Formed in 1991 as the brainchild of the aforementioned Ville Valo, together with lead guitarist Lily Lazer (aka Mikko “Linde” Lindstrom), bassist Mige Amour (aka Mikko Paananen) and drummers Juha Tarvonen and/or Juippi, H.I.M./His Infernal Majesty built up a local support, while two undistributed demo tapes, “Witches And Other Night Fears” (1992) and “This Is Only The Beginning” (1995), were kept under wraps by their mainman.
Duly deciding on the respective keyboard and drum combination of Antto Melasniemi and Juhana Rantala, the quintet unleashed their debut EP, `666 Ways To Love: Prologue’, in 1996. One of four dark tracks featured, the chunky `Wicked Game’ was, in turn, subsequently released as a single in its own right – not exactly demonic, but enterprising nevertheless.
Worldwide distribution by B.M.G. Records for their first album, GREATEST LOVESONGS, VOL.666 (1997) {*8}, carried on the satanic theme and occult trimmings, while a cover of BLUE OYSTER CULT’s `(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ (highlighting guest vox from Sanna-June Hyde and Asta Hannula) was credible enough. Valo’s “greatest” croons were all issued in Finland as singles; `Your Sweet Six Six Six’, `When Love And Death Embrace’ and `It’s All Tears (Drown In This Love)’, the first cracking the Top 10.
Towards the end of the millennium, and without Juhana and Antto, fresh meat was found in the pseudonymous Gas Lipstick (aka Mika Karppinen) and Zoltan Pluto (aka Jussi-Mikko “Juska” Salminen); both in place for the group’s sophomore set, RAZORBLADE ROMANCE (1999) {*6}, released in Europe the following spring. Both the Germans and the Finns were sold on its euro-goth agenda, with the track `Join Me In Death’ going on to become the biggest selling single in Finnish rock history. In America, meanwhile, the record was released under the H.E.R. pseudonym, due to a legal battle over their name by a Chicago jazz combo; Jimmy Pop of BLOODHOUND GANG helped with its distribution when things were settled. The platinum album itself spawned a further three hits by way of `Right Here In My Arms’, `Poison Girl’ and `Gone With The Sin’.
2001 saw yet another personnel change, with Janne Johannes “Emerson Burton” Puurtinen superseding Juska for their third LP, DEEP SHADOWS AND BRILLIANT HIGHLIGHTS {*5}, more noteworthy for Valo’s transformation into a sub-Johnny Depp teen heart-throb. Single hits such as `Pretending’, `In Joy And Sorrow’, `Heartache Every Moment’ and `Close To The Flame’, aimed, no doubt, at satisfying the thrusts of their adorning fanbase.
LOVE METAL (2003) {*5} finally broke the near Scandinavian sorcerers in Britain, with a trio of singles, `Buried Alive By Love’, `The Sacrament’ and `The Funeral Of Hearts’, all hitting the Top 30. H.I.M. duly became the latest act to stylize a NEIL DIAMOND gem, going Top 10 with `Solitary Man’ (a track included on their retrospective, AND LOVE SAID NO… 1997-2004 (2004) {*8}.
The Finnish goth quintet’s sound was more 80s glossy hair-metal than hellish, but H.I.M. were more than content (they’d kill for happiness) at their newfound fame. As overseen by U2/ROBERT PLANT producer Tim Palmer, 2005’s DARK LIGHT {*5}, was a transatlantic Top 20 success, albeit “Buffy Vampire”-like and unthreatening to “proper” metal acts of their country. It had to happen sometime: the mouldy corpses of MIDGE URE’s ULTRAVOX and The MISSION were re-animated on UK Top 30 singles such as `Wings Of A Butterfly’ and `Killing Loneliness’. Still, their hearts were in the right place, as depicted on the “heartagram” logo sleeve cover. Tattoo parlours everywhere inundated with requests evermore.
VENUS DOOM (2007) {*6} saw a glimmer of light in their cartoon gothic aplomb, Valo approaching songs in a METALLICA-meets-MERCURY (Freddie, that is) on main hits, `The Kiss Of Dawn’ and `Bleed Well’. The subliminal, `Sleepwalking Past Hope’, all 10 minutes of it, was less ear candy and more guttural gloom, while the minute-long `Song Or Suicide’, took a step into the deepest mind-set of the visceral Valo. Having a reputation for exciting concert sets and exuberant performances that one couldn’t hope to hear on their neo-glam studio albums, the screams of their delirious fans can be heard on their CD/DVD package, DIGITAL VERSATILE DOOM: LIVE AT THE ORPHEUM THEATRE (2008) {*6}.
Now a lucky seven albums into their luminous career, the self-absorbed Valo and Co struck gold again on SCREAMWORKS: LOVE IN THEORY AND PRACTICE, CHAPTERS 1-13 (2010) {*6}. Heavenly hook-lines, melodramatic melodies and theatrical tearjerkers were again in vogue for H.I.M., as the 5-piece weaved their MISSION-cum-MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE mystical metal into tracks such as `In Venere Veritas’, `Katherine Wheel’ and `Scared To Death’.
Employing Hiili Hiilesmaa to produce their first album since leaving Sire Records, Razor & Tie were now behind 2013’s TEARS ON TAPE {*5}. Never veering (or sneering) far from their rich-on-riffing ballad-esque formula, `All Lips Go Blue’, `Love Without Tears’ and the title track, should keep their loyal fanbase happy, if not exactly ecstatic. The goth jokes stop here. Sadly, H.I.M. split sometime late in 2017.
© MC Strong 2004-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS May2013-Dec2017

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