"A moment of calm before the storm," main man Ville Valo declares on "All Lips Go Blue," the first single off of HIM's highly anticipated new album, Tears on Tape. After a three-year hiatus, the Helsinki "love metal" quintet is back with a vengeance. Composed of 13 songs, Tears on Tape may leave the HIM diehard a bit baffled, disappointed, and curious as to the new direction the band seems to have taken--but the truth is that the typical HIM fashion is always to move forward, even if it leaves some fans behind.
In concept, Tears on Tape is a heartfelt, delicately composed mixtape. Drawing inspiration from the musicians that inspired the band, Valo & Co. has drawn together lingering elements of Black Sabbath, Roy Orbison, Elvis, Paradise Lost, and the earlier incarnations of HIM themselves. For instance, on "Love without Tears," the band teleports the listener back to both their seminal Love Metal album and Roy Orbison's Mystery Girl album, elements of which have been seamlessly fused together with guitarist Linde Lindstrom's clean, Iommi-inspired guitar solo and a variety of layered vocal tracks, which range from doo-wop era "ooh"s and "aah"s to Valo's infamous baritone hum, which murmurs out a moving plea for his ever-mysterious muse to “Love without tears, go on and prove me wrong.”
The heaviest tracks on the album are the trifecta of "Lucifers Chorale," "W.L.S.T.D.," and the outro to the entire album, "Kiss the Void," which wrap up Tears on Tape with the sound effects of the end of a cassette tape and the familiar sound of a cassette tape stopping (those who yearn for the good old days of mixtapes will be moved). "W.L.S.T.D." is reminiscent of the band's 2007 album Venus Doom with touches of Type O Negative and Paradise Lost. A very cold and dreary tune carried by a thundering bass line and nightmarish keyboards, the song comes together with deep vocals that almost sound like Valo has finally succumbed to his inner demons, concluding with an apt scream that ultimately defines the key line in the chorus: “Violently soothing and warm.”
On top of all its proper songs, the album also contains four instrumental tracks, which are meticulously placed throughout as interludes and outros; one, "Unleash The Red," even starts Tears on Tape off. The track is a full 1:07 of spooky keyboards, trance-inducing drumming, and heavy guitars. (The song actually made it’s mystery debut as the band's intro at HIM’s annual Hell-done Festival in late December unbeknownst to most who attended.)
Reminiscent of a classic record, the cover and booklet artwork are just as cryptic as the songs. Illustrated by Daniel P. Carter (The Bloodhound Gang, BBC Radio Host), the 12 accompanying images are complete with ancient languages, optical illusions, and symbolism that beautifully inter-fuses the “Trifecta” concept it’s supposed to.
Suffice it to say, Tears on Tape is a sentimentally sweet, sonically stunning, and beautifully packaged album. Despite some snippets that have been leaked, one is cautioned to listen to the entire album first before coming to a decision as to what exactly HIM has unleashed upon them: a mixtape dedicated to new beginnings or a bittersweet yearning for the past. Either way, Tears on Tape is a powerful collection of music (very much worth the three-year wait) that will appeal to music lovers of all eras and, of course, those in the Golden God category they are nominated in: Most Dedicated Fans. SARAH B. KOENIG
Check out the title track from Tears on Tape below: