I once drove a roundtrip of over 800 miles in one day from North Scotland to the Lake District in England just so that I could have lunch with a girl I was particularly fond of. We ate sandwiches and hung around listening to Love Metal by HIM, then, after not much more than an hour, I drove home to be ready for work the next day. That was a hopelessly romantic escapade between two afflicted young souls with undeveloped ideas of love and pain, and of course, HIM provided the soundtrack to it all.
Fast forward six years and I’ve long since left behind that mercifully-oh-so-brief new goth influenced period of my life: gone are the HIM records, along with the New Rock boots and Tripp bondage pants that they came with. I’m probably the same hopeless romantic but I’ve moved on in so many other ways that when I come to listen to HIM’s seventh studio album, Screamworks: Love In Theory And Practice, I’m reminded of why I became so disillusioned with their music and all that came with it.
The truth is that HIM’s seventh album is just like any of their other albums. All the familiar cues are here: love, death, pain, loneliness, broken hearts, et al. It doesn’t even seem like HIM are trying any more; as I listen to the songs on Screamworks it just sounds lazy, and for the lyrics it’s almost as if Ville Valo just wrote down a bunch of keywords on bits of paper then got his band mates to pull them out of a hat. Valo’s whining has become tiresome and from a lyrical viewpoint it seems like he is standing in the same spot; HIM have built a career off of his crooning about open wounds and shattered hearts, but really you’d hope he might have reached some kind of epiphany by now, or at the very least realised that everybody hurts.
The music is the same HIM you’ve heard before, only sounding more neutral and Americanized than ever. Rather than progressing, their latest offering is the blandest to date – nothing on this record comes close to matching the biggest songs from their earlier, better records, (anything up to Dark Light). It’s a limp offering, and snippets of synth-pop and a bit of nice squealing metal guitar do little to raise the game. By the time I reach the final track “The Foreboding Sense of Impending Happiness” I can’t help but chuckle at the shameless borrowing of the synth tone from Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away”. HIM really have run out of ideas.
© Brian Banks, Music Vice