This album was released when HIM was getting noticed in America and it seems to be a favorite among the fans. It does have some of their biggest hits on it and it’s not a bad record, but there’s something missing from it that doesn’t make it as good as their other releases. Comparatively, this album is heavier in terms of sound and is moodier than the others. It just sounds like something you would listen to on a shitty day. And while it starts out strong, it finishes on a shaky note.
The album opens with the rocking “Buried Alive by Love.” It’s an energetic song that serves as a great opener because it gets you pumped. The guitar riff buzzes and hums around your head, but it’s so awesome and memorable. For some reason this song has a classic rock feel. Maybe it’s because of the obvious rock influence that’s heard here. It just feels like something that could come out of the classic rock era of the late 60s. Also, the chorus is cool because it plays off the form and rhythm of the kid’s bedtime prayer “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.”
Things keep going strong with the haunting track “The Funeral of Hearts.” This is a slower song, but it still has a harsh guitar riff that gives it an edge. It also has a flowing piano riff playing throughout the song that gives it a lighter feeling. All of the sounds together, plus the background vocals that sound like angels wailing, gives the song a tragic sound, then again what do you expect with a title like that. Also, Ville’s voice sounds really great here, especially during the bridge when he hits those high notes. For some reason, this song really complements his singing to the point where he sounds downright beautiful.
The best song here and my personal favorite is “The Sacrament.” This song is absolutely beautiful mostly due to the piano playing. It just sounds so classical and sophisticated. What’s nice about it is it keeps going when the guitar comes in and to keep the tone of the track, the guitar is a bit lighter here, so it doesn’t ruin the mood. There’s something about this song that makes it feel cold. I’m not sure if that’s just how the band presents it or what, but it gives you this cold feeling when you’re listening to it. It’s another sweet, yet tragic sounding song that is definitely one of HIM’s best.
The rest of the songs are pretty good even if there isn’t much about them that makes them stand out. “Sweet Pandemonium” is a slow song with an awesome sensual guitar riff. Seriously, it’s like this riff is a snake that slinks throughout the entire song. “Soul on Fire” is a burst of energy for the dark album and again has this amazing guitar riff that grabs you by throat. The slow singing during the verses kind of throws off the song, but once you get used to it, it’s not that bad. While the first half of the album starts out strong and really gets your attention, the latter half is pretty weak with unremarkable songs.
One of these songs found on the second half of the disc is the sappy “Fortress of Tears.” The music itself is fine, but the lyrics are almost unbearable. I guess the band is going for sad and depressing on this track, but it comes off as cheesy and over dramatic. The line “This fortress of tears I’ve built from my fears for you/This fortress won’t fall I’ve built it strong for you” reminds me of something a 14 year old Goth girl would write for poetry class. Not one of HIM’s finer moments. While “Circle of Fear” is better than the previous song, there’s nothing about it that makes it stand out. It’s kind of boring and really easy to tune out. “Endless Dark” is better with it’s upbeat tempo and catchy lyrics, but again there’s nothing about it that makes it better than the other songs.
Overall, the album gets 7.5/10. While it’s a good record, it’s not as great as their previous releases. Some of the songs are great and stay with you long after the album is finished, but there are some on here that are forgettable, boring, and even cheesy at times. Interesting enough, most of their releases after this one would follow this same path. Otherwise, this record is a bit darker and moodier than their other ones in terms of sound. It’s the type of the album that puts you in a somber mood if you weren’t in one already.