Album: Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice
Genre: Goth Rock
Finnish “love metal” band HIM are finally back with their 7th studio album, Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice. The album has a due date of February 9th, 2010 here in the states, but let me tell you that it’s probably in your best interest to start preparing now as this is easily the band’s best work in quite some time.
Beginning with the near pop punk intro chords of “In Venere Veritas,” we quickly find HIM to not only be back on the scene, but with more energy than we’ve seen from them in quite awhile. Ville Valo comes across early as Matt Skiba did during the Good Mourning years of Alk Trio with his emotion-drained vocals and borderline graphic storytelling that is only amplified by the near perfected instrumentation of tracks like the late 80’s goth rock jam “Scared to Death” or the much progressive [and lead single], “Heartkiller.” The band swings in and out of rock subgenres with flawless progression that truly displays just how versatile they’ve become over the past 7 albums.
As the album progresses, the general dark tones we’ve come to expect continue to prevail as tracks like the near power ballad like “Disarm Me [With Your Loneliness]” will most likely find the group’s target market of depressed teens and lonely 20-somethings weep while those who simply can’t connect with Valo’s heartache will most likely find everything a bit “dramatic.” However, I think the real strength of HIM, especially after hearing this record, comes from their overall songwriting ability. It’s not just the dark, ambient tones that are covered in sob-worthy poetry, but the overall feel of each note that comes booming through the speakers. For instance, “Disarm Me,” at one point, goes from a near squealing guitar solo to a bridge full orchestral backing and it does so with such ease you’d believe it common in everyday music. It’s simply moving. However, like the line about the devil counting teardrops in the rain from “Love The Hardest Way,” there are times these Finnish rockers go a bit too melodramatic to be taken seriously. It’s a fine line between evoking sympathy and evoking laughter and at times, it’s a bit blurred on this record, but when you’re talking goth rock, that’s bound to happen. Also, with a band like this, for every person that laughs at some obtuse metaphor for depression there is one or ten people that find it to be the most beautiful thing they’ve ever heard. That’s just how it goes.
On “Ode to Solitude,” we find the group finding the perfect balance of synth and power chords in order to create a near radio ready track that still carries the dark undertone that HIM fans have come to crave with unbridled passion. There is a similar, but far more rock driven gem to be found in “Shatter Me With Hope” as well. Both go to show that even bands that are 7 albums deep and that have well developed fan bases who have made their desires of the band known, you should never be afraid to write for an even wider audience. These two tracks beg for the public’s attention and do so without risking the “cred” the band has developed. How many bands out there only wish they had that ability this far into their career?
The album finally comes to a close following two of HIM’s most impressive tracks to date. First off, “Like St. Valentine” screams early millennium punk rock [think Good Mourning by Alkaline Trio with a mainstream/power rock twist] and will surely be a live show staple in a matter of months. Following this, “The Foreboding Sense of Impending Happiness” closes the album on a much more somber, yet passionate note. Vallo belts about hanging from heartstrings, watching stars, and smothering his heart while the band performs near avant-garde orchestral goth rock that seems to linger for hours after the album closes. In fact, the first few times the record ended, I sat back, took a deep breath, and after a few moments simply said, “…wow.”
Even after 7 albums HIM continues to be one of the few bands in the current rock scene who constantly push themselves to bigger and better things. Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice is more of a sonic journey than simply another album for your collection. Over the course of 13 tracks, Ville Valo and crew take listeners on an emotional roller coaster both lyrically and musically for nearly 50 minutes and leave nothing behind, but tear filled eyes and awestruck music fans. This is the kind of record that not only appeases the demands of the fans, but that branches out to the music community as a whole and shouts, “Hey! We’ve got something you need to hear!” and after this album I don’t think a single person will be able to disagree. Screamworks is a heavy, romantic, dark, evil, beautiful, and breathtaking work of art that you definitely don’t want to miss.