HIM's U.S. breakthrough album, '05's "Dark Light" made its debut in the Top 20 of Billboard's album chart and rode the success of the singles "Rip Out The Wings Of A Butterfly" and "Killing Loneliness." Of course, this overnight success wasn't that at all. "Dark Light" was the fifth studio album by the group that was formed by vocalist Ville Valo, guitarist Mikko Lindström, and bassist Mikko Paananen back in '91.
Being from Finland, HIM had a long road in front of them. First, they had to become a success in their homeland. That was doable. But only after a four-year break while members served their military conscription. Next they had to replicate that success in Europe. A bit more challenging but they were able to accomplish that. Finally, there was the States. It took three tries before they really got noticed. But they did it.
The group began as His Infernal Majesty - a "joke" name created by Valvo. But it was quickly shortened to HIM to avoid any satanic connotations. They started as a covers band churning through the Sabbath and KISS catalog. After several iterations, the group's line-up, in addition to the three founders, included keyboardist Janne Johannes "Burton" Puurtinen and drummer Mika Kristian "Gas" Karppinen.
HIM's full-length '97 debut was a collection of covers, "Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666," containing Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game," and Blue Öyster Cult's "(Don't Fear) The Reaper." Interestingly, the album's length was 66:06 and contained 66 tracks (56 of which were blank) and the 66th track, HIM 666" (or "Dark Circle") started 6 minutes in. Satanic? Valo claimed that wasn't the case. Just another joke.
'99's "Razorblade Romance" (released in the U.S. in '02) got the band noticed outside their native country, especially Germany. Their follow-up, two years later, "Deep Shadows And Brilliant Highlights," the first with keyboardist Burton, went to #1 in Finland and nearly did the same in Germany.
"Love Metal" was the first album to feature a gold heartagram, the band's logo. "The Funeral Of Hearts," the lead single from the '03 effort did well in both the U.K. and Germany. The group also achieved a higher profile in the U.S. thanks to skateboarder and TV personality Bam Margera promoting their music on his MTV series, Viva La Bam. He also directed their video, "Buried Alive By Love."
Next out was "And Love Said No: The Greatest Hits 1997-2004." This collection had two new songs, one of which was a cover of Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man." "Dark Light," hit and HIM had arrived. Back on the continent things were moving right along. The group shared the Download Festival's main stage (in England) with the likes of Black Sabbath (an early influence) and Velvet Revolver. The album's popularity spurred interest in the group's back catalog. Building on their success, HIM unfurled "Venus Doom" in '07. Several months later, the group issued their first live DVD/CD "Digital Versatile Doom" which was filmed at The Orpheum Theater in L.A.
During a mid-09 radio interview Valo mentioned that the group was returning to L.A. to record with producer Matt Squire. According to Valo the album's sound was "Guns 'N Roses meeting Depeche Mode on a good day." With lead single "Heartkiller," "Screamworks: Love In Theory And Practice" landed in February, '10.
Side Project: In '01, members of HIM formed Daniel Lioneye. This was essentially a Lindstrom solo project. He also sang under the Daniel Lioneye moniker. Valo moved to drums. Song themes revolved around sex, alcohol and Rock N' Roll, a stark contrast to HIM's romantic tendencies. "The King Of Rock N' Roll" was not a commercial success though it gained a cult following.
1997 Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666
1999 Razorblade Romance
2001 Deep Shadows And Brilliant Highlights
2003 Love Metal
2005 Dark Light
2007 Venus Doom
2010 Screamworks: Love In Theory And Practice
2013 Tears On Tape
As any teen/young adult knows, love is serious business. There's drama, pain, and yes, even death - in which case, love becomes immortal. HIM knows this. The juxtaposition of extreme romantic themes and Metal guitars - with keyboard interludes - is an enlightened combination. Love Metal or maybe lovelorn Metal.
"Venus Doom" sounds closer to "Love Metal" and "Razorbalde Romance," (both excellent efforts) than the more recent "Dark Night." The album is more guitar-oriented with the keyboards seemingly in remission. The dark, brooding title track is followed by the intense "Love In Cold Blood." "Dead Lover's Lane" nails it. The song roars riding the lyric's clever climax.
"Dark Night" is HIM's most melodic and complete effort. "Rip Out The Wings Of A Butterfly" has some terrific guitar lines but there's more here than riffs. Rhythm guitars propel songs and the keyboard parts have a theatrical impact.
The title "Screamworks: Love In Theory And Practice" implies a cathartic excursion into the depths of emotion. It's not that. Like all HIM albums, this one has its melodramatic moments (thanks to the frequent use of minor keys) but the group's core Hard Rock sound - that stops just short of Metal - remains intact. While "Heartkiller" received initial attention, "Like St. Valentine" is really the stellar track.
"And Love Said No: The Greatest Hits 1997-2004" is a good encapsulation of HIM's early years, when they were building a name for themselves in Europe. It also contains more recent material. "Uneasy Listening Vol. 1 and 2," released in '06 and '07 respectively, contains rarities and alternate takes.