Love songs. We just gotta, well, love them…right? Across all genres of music, love and the relationships between a man and a woman is a prominent theme. Whether they are of the sappy ‘without your love I would surely die’ variety or the dark and brooding ‘if you ever leave me I shall surely destroy you and everything you stand for variety’ love songs hold a special place in the hearts of musicians and fans alike. Some musical acts have based their careers on a few of the greatest love songs they have released. Others have completely skewed the topic of love in their music. One band who has seemed to set out to write about the topic of the heart exclusively is the Finnish band HIM.
Formed in 1991 in Helsinki, HIM is composed of Ville Valo (vocals), Mikko “Linde” Lindström (guitar), Mikko “Mingé” Paannanen (bass), Janne “Emerson Burton” Puurtinen (keyboards) and Mika Karppinen (drums).
HIM released the demos Witches and Other Night Fears (1992) and This Is Only The Beginning (1995). The former was never released and the sole copy resides with Valo. In 1996 they released their debut EP 666 Ways to Love: Prologue only in their home nation of Finland; just 1,000 copies were pressed. It has been said that the woman adorning the cover of their debut EP is Valo’s mother.
On November 20, 2007, HIM released their debut studio album Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666. The album featured a predominately gothic metal theme, full of down-tuned and heavily distorted guitar tracks, dark and haunting atmospheres, and what would become Valo’s trademark dramatically lamenting lyrics of love and death. For a conceptual theme of the album HIM chose to focus on the numerical value of 666; the album is 66 minutes and 6 seconds long, contains 66 tracks and fills up 666 megabytes. Although sometimes perceived to have Satan-worshiping references, Valo has stated that the album was not to be perceived as such; these references are meant to symbolize the “darker” side of love; a theme that HIM continued to explore throughout their career. The album was a definitive example of “love metal”, drawing inspiration from Sisters of Mercy and blistering hard rock. It also contained overly romantic lyrics, which many listeners might consider lame or corny, but which became a niche HIM carved out masterfully. Valo’s deep, dark, yet lovingly croon were showcased throughout this studio debut. Compared to subsequent releases, Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666 would garner a reputation as HIM’s darkest and heaviest album by fans and critics alike.
Gaining good popularity in Europe, HIM released their sophomore studio effort, Razorblade Romance in December 1999 in Finland and in January 2000 in the rest of Europe, expect the UK, where it was released in May 2000. The album saw a shift in the sonic direction of the band, going much more pop and glam; though it still contained noticeable hard rock sounds. The album was met with major success in Europe when their single “Join Me In Death” was featured in the sci-fi movie The Thirteenth Floor.
The album was a bug hit in Germany, reaching number 1 on the sales charts, going platinum, and is the biggest-selling single in Finnish music history. The album sold more than 2,500,000 copies worldwide. Upon its US release in 2004, the album peaked at number 8 on the Top Heatseekers Chart. It has since been certified double Platinum in Finland. Due to a legal issue with a US band also named HIM, Razorblade Romance was released under the pseudonym “HER” in the States. The band eventually bought the rights to the moniker HIM and release subsequent releases under the name world-wide.
In August 2001, HIM released Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights. This was the first album to feature Puurtinen, thus being the forst album with the current lineup. Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights had steadied success in Finland and Germany, eventually topping both nations’ charts. In 2004, the album peaked at number 190 on the Billboard 200 and number 10 on the Top Heatseekers charts. CDUniverse described the album as “…take[ing] their dark, brooding, hard rock sound into more pop-friendly territory[…]even then, the group has not lost its guitar-driven bite or tragic/romantic edge, as frontman Ville Valo waxes melancholic about love and lust on these hook-laden tunes.”
In April 2003. HIM released Love Metal. The band returned to their metal roots. Rob Theakston of Allmusic said of the album “The songwriting is as strong as it has been in quite some time and a newly found sense of urgency keeps the record going at a well-tempered pace. For die-hard fans, this is the album HIM has been struggling to make and realize for quite a while.” The absence of the poppy feel of their previous releases brings out the angst and turmoil Valo tries to portray when writing and singing about differentiating aspects of love and relationships.
In September 2005 the band released Dark Light. The album had a black wrapping, forcing consumers to purchase the album in order to observe the actual cover art. This was not the only hidden tidbit contained within Dark Light. Several of the songs include Easter eggs, hidden messages. In the exclusive bonus track “Venus (In Our Blood),” there is a little girl’s voice speaking at the beginning, and in reverse the little girl says “Where are we going, Daddy?” There is back-masked voice at the end of “In the Nightside of Eden” and “Behind the Crimson Door,” continuing their trend, has a whispering voice at the bridge of the song. The album peaked at number 1 in Finland and number 18 on the US Billboard 200. Dark Light was certified gold by the RIAA, making HIM the first Finnish band to have a gold album in the United States.
Since the release of Dark Light, HIM has released three more studio albums: Venus Doom (2007), Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice (2010) and Tears on Tape (2013). They have earned a mainstream fan-base in Europe. In the US and elsewhere abroad, they have garnered a loyal cult following which love their love inspired gothic metal. HIM’s musical chops have fallen in a well defined niche, but the subtle experimentation with their signature sound is evidence that the Finnish band cares about their evolution and maturity as musicians. Fans seem to appreciate such care in HIM’s musical approach. This is evident by the fact that you have more than likely come across a sticker or t-shirt containing the Valo designed band logo, the Heartagram.
HIM probably will never see the mega-mainstream success earned by such bands as Metallica, Disturbed or Slipknot. But if love is prevalent in your life and on your mind, including and especially the darker sides of the age old topic, then HIM may very well be a band worth your chance.