Though many people may not think so, this is one of the most anticipated albums of the year. At least for hardcore HIM fans it is. Not hearing anything from the band since 2011, fans were wondering if their favorite band were ever coming back. But now their eighth studio album is here and longtime fans will be pleased to find the band returning to their roots. The album is a bit softer than their previous release, but it has that classic HIM sound and feel; some of the songs even harken back to the fan favorite Love Metal. But there is a good mix of the old and the new on this record.
Unlike most of HIM’s albums, this one begins with a short instrumental called “Unleash the Red.” It’s this haunting, warbling music that gets creepier as the song goes on, but it’s contrast by the middle where there is some bright keyboard thrown in that makes it sound hopeful, but still sad. It may not be much, but it’s a great way to set up the tone and feel of the album. The album then moves into the heavy hitting track “All Lips Go Blue.” This is the classic HIM sound at its finest. It has the harsh, aggressive crunchy guitars that the band has become known for along with Ville’s sweet sounding vocals that make your heart melt. And as usual, the song mixes the themes of love and death. The song really reminds me of something that could be found on their albums before Dark Light. It’s a great song that gets you pumped for the rest of the record.
Big booming riffs make a comeback on the track “Love Without Tears.” The hard hitting guitar riff and melancholic lyrics like “As the light across the room flickers/Its dying song waiting for a/reason to go on” makes it sound like something that could be found on Love Metal. Also, this track really displays Ville’s vocals really well. On this album he sounds really good, especially when hitting the high notes and you can hear them the best on this song. He just sounds so sorrowful, especially during the chorus. It’s a song that really pushes the melancholic sound of the record. It seems that the band wanted to make sure there was no filler here because each song is amazing and intriguing.
The record as a whole is solid, without a single disappointing track to be found. Even though the songs here are a bit slower and moody than the ones found on their previous album, they’re still gripping and there are still energetic tracks to keep the album moving. The piano riff on “Tears on Tape” sounds so tragic that it’s enough to make you cry. It also makes it the softest and most vulnerable track on here, especially with Ville’s crooning vocals. “No Love” on the other hand, is full of hardcore energy and aggression. It has this heavy, kick ass guitar riff that gets you headbanging. One of the heaviest songs on the record is “W.L.S.T.D” or “When Love Starts to Die.” Not only does it have some of the most heavy and damning guitars on the album, but Ville’s low baritone vocals makes him sound downright evil. The song also has some really poetic lyrics. Lines like “I prayed to hear again that serpent song,/Wishing it be over” are haunting and sounds like something from Gothic poetry.
What’s interesting about this album is that it features quite a few instrumental tracks, something that HIM hasn’t really done before. Personally, I think instrumental tracks are tricky. Some are just boring, others get dull after two minutes, and others just suck. But all of the instrumental tracks here are really good, not only because the music is haunting, but it also reinforces the dark, somber tone of the album. Songs like “Trapped in Autumn” and “Lucifer’s Chorale” have these odd mixes of unsettling background noises along with dark or at times bright sounding music. Another plus for these tracks is that they’re only about a minute long. It’s enough to make you wonder where the song is headed next, but it ends before it gets repetitive or dull.
If you couldn’t guess from the album title, the theme of cassette tapes runs through the album. Even though they’re only mentioned outright on the title track, there are small references to them throughout the record. Most of the time, the songs will end with a lot of feedback, followed by hissing and popping, as if it’s being played off of an old cassette. This is best heard on the closing track “Kiss the Void.” Here the music is muffled and there are lyrics, but there are so many effects on them, you can’t understand what’s being said. As you start to wonder where the song is going next, it abruptly stops and you can hear the tape being ejected. It’s a really cool effect that ties up the theme of the album nicely. It’s an interesting and fitting end to the record.
Overall, the album gets 8.5/10. This album is a return to form for the band. The songs here manage to mix their classic sound with some new musical elements. The record shows that HIM haven’t lost their touch for melancholic songs with lots of imagery involving love and death. Also, this record shows how much they’ve grown not only as musicians, but as songwriters as well. Without a single disappointing song to be found here this is sure to be one of the biggest albums of the year.