HIM Album Review

HIM album cover   Band Name: HIM
Album Name: Screamworks: Love in Theory & Practice
Rating: 4 / 5       User Rating: 0 / 5
Label: Warner Brothers
Buy Album: Amazon.com
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1. In Venere Veritas
2. Scared to Death
3. Heartkiller
4. Dying Song
5. Disarm Me (With Your Loneliness)
6. Love, the Hardest Way
7. Katherine Wheel
8. In the Arms of Rain
9. Ode to Solitude
10. Shatter Me With Hope
11. Acoustic Funeral (For Love in Limbo)
12. Like St. Valentine
13. The Foreboding Sense of Impending Happiness

When Finnish self-proclaimed love -metallers HIM release their 7th studio album, titled Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice (out February 2010), they're not channeling the melancholic, gloomy and sometimes depressed sound from their earlier releases. Maybe front-man and the band’s main songwriter Ville Valo's sobriety has something to do with it. This is the first album he writes while being completely sober and as Ville himself has said in various interviews, that instead of putting energy into going to bars, he put it into his songwriting.

The first time I heard the album I didn’t quite know what to think about it, as it was so different from what I had expected. However, I grew to love the album more and more after each spin. I wasn't too psyched about it after hearing the first single Heartkiller a few days before receiving the album. While Heartkiller is a good song, it is not a great song. If it was up to me, I would have chosen a different song to give a better first view of the album as a whole.

Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice is a rather happy-sounding, rock 'n' roll album you can put on while having a few beers with your friends. This is definitely a big contrast to some of their earlier work where you'd preferably listen to it while sitting alone in a dark room with a few candles lit and feeling like you want to slit your wrists, or at least feeling depressed. Of course there are not only fast rock songs on the album; there are also some of those melancholic, atmospheric ballads the Finnish quintet always pulls off very well.

The over-all feeling I get from the album is that the whole band have really put their best efforts into making it; it sounds like they have all been involved in the making. Lyrics, the melodies, the riffs – they are all put together so well. Guitarist Linde really gets his groove on, with riffs and solos that can easily be matched to the ones on Razorblade Romance (1999) and Love Metal (2003). Also, keyboarder Burton gets the chance to shine, Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice is filled with his skillful playing and there is quite a few funky, 80's influenced intros. The 8th track, In the Arms of Rain could best be described as the little sister of Right Here in My Arms (Razorblade Romance), but with a keyboard oriented intro. I had to listen to it once or twice more before I realized from where I recognized the song’s riff. I couldn’t be happier that they have re-used it with a slightly new vibe, since RHIMA is an excellent and classic HIM-song. Like St. Valentine, the 12th track of the album, is the heaviest song off the album, don’t let the verse fool you. In the chorus both drummer Gas and bassist Migé surely gets to work for their money, as it explodes into a loud rock song. The best way to describe the intro on this one: Salt in Our Wounds (2001), but on speed.

Unfortunately, the lyrics were not included in the promo so I have had to judge only by my hearing and repeating songs over and over again. And Ville's pronunciation is not the best at times, let me tell you. But from what I can hear, Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice is one of the best lyrical works penned by Ville Valo since Love Metal. They're brutally honest, sincere and heartfelt. Like these lines from the chorus of 2nd track, ballad Scared To Death: I'm not afraid to say I love you/and more than I used to be babe/I am scared to death/I am scared to death to fall in love/with you.

In 5th track Disarm Me (With Your Loneliness), also a ballad, we find these touching words: Deceive me out of my emptiness/telling me how you love me with all your heart/no more And they're also some of the raunchiest and sexually suggestive lyrics ever to appear on a HIM-album. Or e.g., what do you say about this line from the 7th track, Katherine Wheel, an up-tempo song: Holding hands won’t be enough/in a world giving head to God

Ville once again shows that he has an incredible vocal-range, as he goes from almost whispering to screaming, from low to high pitches in the same song. A song can change from sounding almost like a lullaby into a full on rock n roll song in the matter of seconds. Ville sings with such a feeling that it makes every word, may they be sweet words or words of anger, sound like he means it from the very bottom of his heart.

The biggest surprise of the album is without a doubt the 13th and last song; The Foreboding Sense of Impending Happiness, which sounds like nothing HIM have ever done before. It's a slow song, influenced by drum n bass with a soothing keyboard-loop. I think with a little remix it could easily be played at a nightclub and people would dance along to it. Definitely the closest to electronica the band has ever been without someone remixing their songs (remember the techno-mix of Join Me (in Death)?). This doesn't necessarily mean that The Foreboding… is a bad song, it is just very different and I advise you to listen to it with an open mind.

Apart from the tracks already mentioned, the opening track In Venere Veritas, 6th track Love the Hardest Way and track 9, Ode to Solitude, are songs that I really enjoy. They're all good rock songs and in true HIM character they have choruses that are easy to remember, and my personal opinion is that any one of them would have made a better single than Heartkiller.

With Venus Doom (2007), I regained some of the love for the band that I lost when Dark Light was released in 2005. Now that Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice is here, I can honestly say that the love has returned and is here to stay.

Review by: Mary Madskills

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