There's a lot more to a record than simple notes, lyrics, and sounds. An impactful piece of music always remains wrapped in emotion. Love, hate, sadness, and joy resound at the greatest decibel imaginable. At the end of the day, a song's feeling will carry on as long as the melody will—and just as loudly.
HIM holds that philosophy in the highest regard on its eighth full-length studio album, Tears On Tape [Razor & Tie]. The platinum-selling Finnish quintet—Ville Valo (Vocals), "Linde" (Guitars), "Migé" (Bass), "Burton" (Keyboards), and "Gas" (Drums)—finds rapture in divine rock 'n' roll hooks, eerie synths, and elegantly cinematic lyrics. You'll undoubtedly feel each tear they shed.
After touring heavily behind 2010's Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice, Chapters 1-13, the band began taking its next step musically. However, it wasn't as easy as these five musicians might've hoped it would be.
Suddenly, in 2012, "Gas" had sustained a repetitive strained injury in his hand, and his doctors weren't even sure if he would ever play drums again.
"We were heartbroken," admits Valo. "We waited eight months for him to heal. During that time, I wrote most of the material on the album with an acoustic guitar at home. It was a mechanism for coping with the stress. I had to do something so I focused on trying to make the songs the best they could possibly be. By a lucky miracle, 'Gas' healed up, and we were able to start this next chapter together."
That "next chapter" sees Valo and Co. venture into a new territory once again, while upholding the pillars of their patented "Love Metal" of course. They cut the album in their native Finland at Helsinki's Finnvox Studios, the site of some of their seminal work including their debut Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666 and 2003's Love Metal. In addition they tapped longtime collaborator Hiili Hiilesmaa for production and Tim Palmer [U2, Ozzy Osbourne, Pearl Jam, Rober Plant] for mixing. The record also boasts paintings from long-time friend BBC Radio's Daniel P. Carter as cover art.
Always evolving, Valo mined inspiration from doo-wop of the '50s and the '60s, examining personal relationships, and pondering existential questions.
"It was a pretty solitary time," he goes on. "The last album I was really in my head. This time, I was constantly looking around me. I wanted this to be super simple. I kept coming back to imagery and harmonies fifties artists like The Ronettes or Roy Orbison would use. I wanted to describe humongous moments of emotional revelation as simply as possible. At the time, the summer was coming to an end. In Finland, the sun doesn't go down at all for summer. Then, it gets super dark in winter. The seasonal changes are very heavy. You can feel them emotionally and physically. The leaves had started falling, so it was like I was describing the autumn of a man—a Finnish man to be exact."
That autumn commences on the first single "All Lips Go Blue". A potent, powerful riff stands punctuated by foreboding keyboards, plaintive acoustic guitar, and a melancholically sweet melody. He reveals, "It's like a memento mori track. We're all going to die, so let's not worry about it now. Let's live first. That's how I see it. The song combines everything we collectively love as musicians. It's a good indication of where we're coming from, but it doesn't reveal everything."
Instrumental segues such as the intro "Unleash the Red", "Trapped in Autumn", "Lucifer's Chorale", and outro "Kiss the Void" also expand the sonic palette add dramatic intricacy.
"I channeled Dario Argento and Goblin," laughs Valo. "Those parts allow the album to breathe and give it a sense of otherworldliness. Plus, having the intro is a very metal thing to do. Ozzy Osbourne and Iron Maiden did it!"
As the seas of the album swell, everything culminates to a brutally blissful close on "W.L.S.T.D." Brooding, bombastic guitars slip into the void of a whirling hook carried by Valo—"When love starts to die, so will I."
"Love is my world," he affirms. "I'm dependent on relationships, emotions, and the fact of having somebody I care for and would die for. I'd say that everybody is."
In many ways, the shimmering title track encapsulates the entire collection's mindset. "The lyrics to that song have a double meaning," he continues. "It's where I was emotionally when autumn was coming. At the same time, most of the lyrics are based on me describing my favorite songs growing up. Tears On Tape are the tears my favorite artists shed on tape. They created the musical milestones in my life. It's a love song for music. If life is a vinyl record and somebody lifts the needle, it ends. Like a record, life rotates into different moods and places. It's the sonic companion from birth until death."
Death always sounds good in HIM's hands. Since forming in 1992, the band has cultivated a truly diehard global fan base that wears the "Heartagram" logo proud. Over the course of seven previous albums, they became the first Finnish act to reach platinum sales in the U.S. Overall, they've surpassed sales of 1.75 million albums and over 1 million digital downloads in North America alone. Teaming up with Razor & Tie, they're marching into their next phase with Tears On Tape.
For Valo, autumn has begun and HIM is shining brighter than ever. "The whole thing needed a cinematic feel," concludes Valo. "We're microscopic beings in the big picture. It's very personal. At the end of the day though, everybody has their secrets, but a lot of people hold the same secrets. We all live through the same seasons."