Review of Tears On Tape by HIM
It’s been three years since ‘Screamworks’, an album that many HIM fans would rather forget about. I actually thought there were some decent tunes on there (Like ‘St. Valentine’, ‘Love the Hardest Way’, ‘Heartkiller’ etc.), the major downfall I think was that 13 tracks could be considered overkill when 12 of them sound the bloody same!…
Ok yes, ‘Tears On Tape’ is the 8th studio album by the Finnish Love Metallers known collectively as HIM. After a lengthy hiatus there has been a great deal of hype amongst fans surrounding the band’s return. A few things to note about the making of this album, HIM actually self-funded the entire record and put it together without being signed to a record label (they dealt with that later). The reason being that frontman Ville Valo felt out of place with previous label Sire Records, who allegedly wanted radio-friendly tunes while Valo contrastingly wanted to go in a more Sabbath– esque direction.
So for the first time ever since the band’s 1996 EP ‘666 Ways To Love’ the band had 100% artistic control with no label breathing down their necks. So surely ‘Tears On Tape’ is going to be their most daring, ballsy and non-commercial release yet!… Well not exactly, more like ‘Love Metal’ part 2 albeit with much more raw production. Not that this has to be a bad thing since I consider ‘Love Metal’ to be an album filled with terrific songs plagued with shit production. Ironically the same production/ mixing duo that gave us ‘Love Metal’ also delivered ‘Tears on Tape‘ and this time round they did good!
Out of the 13 tracks available 4 of them are short interludes which are mostly boring and uninteresting effectively making ‘Tears on Tape‘ a 9 track album. ‘All Lips Go Blue’ starts off deceptively with one of the heaviest riffs I have ever heard this band produce, distorted guitars and gothic keys are made apparent very quickly only for the song to descend into a very soft opening verse featuring acoustic guitar and light vocals from Valo before descending back into the fuzzy guitars. The chorus is catchy yet crying out for a more aggressive delivery akin to the likes of ‘Buried Alive By Love’, it seems too soft against the comparatively harsh musical backdrop.
‘I Will Be The End Of You’ is a stand out track, possibly because it bears an uncanny resemblance to ‘Love Metal’s’ ‘Soul On Fire’ but nevertheless it is the fastest track on the album and packs a serious punch. The only song to feature screaming vocals if I’m not mistaken, you gotta listen carefully but they’re there. Again, some killer guitar on this one and the drum work is solid too! Classic HIM.
‘Into The Night’ also starts out deceptively with an almost punk-like opening riff that moves quickly into distorted Sabbath territory only to once again open up into a soft, pop rock number. The chorus is very catchy with soaring notes being sung over clean guitars that kinda take me back to ‘Under The Rose’ from 2005’s ‘Dark Light’.
Other poppy songs include the title track, which acts as the ballad of the album. Beautiful keys drive this number: ‘Deep Shadows’ on steroids. Again, classic HIM.
‘Drawn and Quartered’ is the psychedelic and progressive track of the album. There is a touch of ‘The Path’ about this one, could have been ripped straight off the ‘Love Metal’ album in any event. Took me A LOT of listens to appreciate this number but give it a chance. Valo’s strongest and most heartfelt performance was saved for this one. The keyboards get pretty trippy towards the end. One of the more delicate numbers in terms of the instrumental work, almost a pseudo ballad in itself.
Unconventional and all the more interesting for it. It just takes a while for the ears to digest.
My absolute favourite song on the album is ‘W.L.S.T.D’ (‘When love starts to die’). Burton opens with some calming keys but the storm enters with Linde’s ominous chugging riffs. It’s slow, doomy, very heavy and marks the only occasion where Valo descends into the deep guttural deliveries he gave on 2007’s ‘Venus Doom’. The choir vocals during the bridge catch you off guard as well. I think when the boys go heavy and broody they get more exciting, they’re better at the doom-laden stuff than they think they are. This is perhaps why I consider Venus Doom and their debut ‘Greatest Love Songs vol. 666’ to be their best albums.
In short, ‘Tears on Tape‘ does not break any musical ground for HIM but certainly refines a few things. Many were hoping for a return to the bands’ dark, doom-laden roots and early media impressions created a somewhat misleading notion of this being the heaviest and least conventional incarnation of HIM to date yet, if truth be told, it is none of these things. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very solid album. The songs are short but there’s a lot of musical information you can cram into 3-4 minutes as ‘Tear on Tape‘ demonstrates over and over again. I’ve referenced ‘Love Metal’ a lot, so needless to say if you’re a fan of that album then I reckon you’re onto a very safe bet with this. Minus the interlude tracks there isn’t a mediocre/crap song to be found.
Unleash The Red
All Lips Go Blue
Love Without Tears
I Will Be The End Of You*
Tears On Tape
Into The Night*
Hearts At War
Trapped In Autumn
Drawn & Quartered*
Kiss The Void
*check these out!
Review by Al Westlake