Heartagram

Rank the Videos: HIM 2005 – 2013

With only a month away from seeing the band live for the final time, it’s time to wrap up the series and take a look at HIM’s final videos. Continuing with Dark Light and moving towards the Tears on Tape era, the videos aren’t as awkward or cheesy as their early ones. Unfortunately, their videos steadily become predictable. Most of these clips look similar to their other ones or is just yet another performance clip with the only difference being the setting. While not terrible, they aren’t as memorable as their other clips. That being said, here are HIM’s videos 2005 – 2013 from best to worst. Check out the first parts here and here.

“Killing Loneliness” Version 1 (2005)

For one of HIM’s biggest singles, the band filmed two videos: one for the European the release, the other for the US. The European version, directed by Noble Jones, finds the band fulfilling various sexual desires. Starting with a dreary, grey setting, we follow a woman walking to a seedy club emblazoned with the Heartagram symbol. Once inside, she gets her coin, also featuring the symbol, and enters a nudie booth. After paying the fee, the band is revealed to be inside the booth performing. The rest of the clip follows different people as they watch HIM perform and begin to enjoy themselves a bit too much. One woman even comes prepared in her lingerie and doesn’t hesitate to start rubbing herself. Ville Valo takes full advantage of his sex symbol status as he chooses one lucky lady and sings in her ear. It’s a slightly naughty clip that goes beyond the average performance video. Though there isn’t any nudity, the sexual situations are somehow still too steamy for American shores.

“Heartkiller” (2010)

This video by James Copeland actually has some clever image trickery at play. Taxidermy figures of tigers, owls, ravens, and boars are carefully layered over each member of the band and one fierce looking lady. Sometimes the image overlying doesn’t exactly work, but when it does, it leaves some head-turning visuals. The most notable moment is opening where flashes of a skull synch up perfectly with Ville. Upon release, I wasn’t impressed with the video and only remembered a shirtless Ville bathed in red light. Revisiting it, I find it to be one of their most creative videos. The imagery is awesome and really sticks with you once the video is over.

“Into the Night” (2013)

What is now HIM’s final video shows them playing the song while mysterious robed figures gather bricks and lay them out in a pattern. The people range from old to young carrying bricks to the middle of a sandy area. At one point Ville has his own brick and tosses it to one of the figures. By the end, we see the result: a Heartagram, what a surprise. The video is nothing amazing, but the robed figures add a sense of mystery, at least the first time you see it. And if you’ve ever spent time in class scribbling out Heartagrams, it brings on a pleasing sense of nostalgia. It’s weird thinking this is HIM’s last video (as of now). It wasn’t meant to be a goodbye and it doesn’t feel like one. There’s no sense of finality to it, which is actually kind of nice. Watching it now, I don’t feel any sadness even though the band is ending. Rather, it makes me remember how much joy they’ve brought me with their music, unlike something like Blink-182’s “Not Now,” which I still associate with frustration due to their break up.

“Killing Loneliness” Version 2 (2006)

Sadly, the US version of this video is quite lame and predictable. Directed by Nathan Cox, the majority of the clip features the band performing in the middle of a club. Other shots include Ville walking through the crowd and a cameo by Kat Von D, seemingly looking for the singer. When the two finally meet, she brands him with a new tattoo of Edgar Allen Poe’s eyes. Not really sure what this random exchange has to do with the rest of the video, but it’s in there. It’s another straightforward performance clip and ends up being dull compared to the previous version.

“Tears on Tape” (2013)

HIM delivers a cryptic video for this single. Beginning with shots of the band members playing in front of a projector, we see Ville scribble out mysterious symbols. Soon, the symbols are replicated everywhere by different people. They serve as tattoos, graffiti, secret notes, an eerie flag, and even some sort of decoration for a horse. This scene is just confusing. Why paint a horse in the first place? The symbol widely spreads similar to the Heartagram, which has been adopted by people who don’t even know the band. It’s a decent video that shows how these weird symbols take on different meanings for people and even bring them together. The only laughable thing is Burton. What the hell is up with that shot of Burton sitting on the floor tapping the keyboard so unenthusiastically? Seeing him tap on his keyboard giving unsure looks at the camera breaks the serious mood the video is trying to set up.

“All Lips Go Blue” (2013)

Directed by Eugene Riecansky, this video collects a bunch of cool imagery and puts it all together with no clear concept. We see giant chess pieces that crumble, violent crashing waves, gnarled trees stolen from a Tim Burton set, and the tumbling of a giant house of cards. Meanwhile, the band is superimposed over these scenes watching the madness unfold, though they look kind of bored by the whole thing. The video is beautifully shot and the graphics are cool to look at, but the unclear focus and the dull look of the band don’t make it the most exciting clip.

“Kiss of Dawn” (2007)

For this clip, director Meiert Avis relies on some of the band’s old video tropes: shirtless Ville and questionable effects. We see HIM recording the track along with shots of Ville looking pensive while writing. The rest of the video finds the singer shirtless, wandering through a Gothic setting while a beautiful apparition passes by him. What this has to do with the story or the song? No clue and unlike Avis’ work on “Wings of a Butterfly” the Gothic scenes look cheesy. Not a terrible video, but like many other HIM clips, nothing notable – just an excuse to stare at Ville for four minutes.

“Scared to Death” (2010)

Directed by Eugene Riecansky, this one has a somewhat similar vibe as “Gone With the Sin:” Ville walking through eye-catching landscapes. This time he’s walking through the eerily empty city streets with his trusty guitar. He gives the camera the typical brooding looks throughout his journey. We then see the other members walking the streets as if trying to meet up for band rehearsal. Out of nowhere weird 3D triangles begin raining from the sky. In one of the cheesiest moments we see one close up and it shows a promo photo of the band as it passes. While the video may be interesting to watch at first, it’s not all that memorable, but hey, at least Ville looks handsome.

“Bleed Well” (2007)

Meiret Avis returns one last time to direct this performance clip. Taking the same grainy effect he used on “Wings of a Butterfly” the band performs the song with gusto and joy. That’s about it. It’s another boring performance clip from the band. At least it looks like they’re having fun; the video opens with Ville laughing and the smile he breaks into while singing is infectious. It’s the one thing about the video I actually remember. Other than that, it plays out like their other performance videos.

“Strange World” (2012)

A rather scruffy looking Ville and crew plow through this Ke cover in this video. Directed by Eugene Riecansky, the clip is nothing but HIM performing the track in the studio. Aside from the band pulling some questionable “rocking out” faces, nothing happens. It’s your typical “we had no ideas, so let’s just perform” video. The most distracting thing is Ville’s lip-synching. Something about it seems off as if he’s trying too hard or not hard enough. Maybe he knew the video would be a bore and decided it wasn’t worth putting in the effort.

And with that, we’ve covered all of HIM’s videos. Some are now iconic and ones that I will gladly watch on repeat. Others are tough to sit through with corny visuals and awkward performances. And rest are just predictable. Still, it was a blast revisiting all of HIM’s videos and seeing their evolution from a small Finnish rock band to global superstars. Doing this series brought back a lot of fond memories when I first got into the band and a lot of them were just fun to watch again. Though the band is breaking up, they at least left us with great music we can still rock out to.

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Saying Goodbye to HIM

HIM announced they’re done. No more albums or new music. I guess it’s a breakup but I hate thinking about it that way. “Breakup” is such a negative term. There’s no bad blood here. Rather, they felt it’s time to move on. Part of me is sad, but I’m also happy for the band. Music is overwrought with bands who probably should’ve called it quits a long time ago *cough* Queen *cough.* In our minds we never want our favorite musicians to stop making music, but there’s a point where it gets sad. New material doesn’t hit you the same way or they keep writing the same songs. Suddenly, their tour stops are a greatest hits package. It reeks of desperation. HIM could’ve kept going for another 10 years if they wanted. Instead, they’re going out on their own terms. And I respect that.

When I heard the news, I was nowhere near tears like I was when The White Stripes broke up. But it still hit me hard. HIM has been with me for a long time. They don’t mean as much to me as The Cure or Green Day, but I still love them. They’ve brought me so much happiness with their music. They’re a band I would often forget how much I liked. I wouldn’t listen to them for months and when I finally did, I’d go on a binge trying to soak up every melancholy thought and note.

What I loved about their music is how they made melancholy and darkness seem okay. Frontman Ville Valo even made it sexy with his sultry vocals. Many of their songs talk about love and death, but it never made you sad or depressed. Instead, it was comforting. They showed that it’s okay to embrace these feelings sometimes.

I also liked their songs for their poetic nature. Sure, some of them are a bit over dramatic, but a good number of them are thought provoking and beautiful. Songs like “The Sacrament,” “Funeral of Hearts,” “For You,” and “When Love and Death Embrace” are downright gorgeous. They still impress me to this day. Songs like these helped me push myself as a writer. Their lyrics often influenced my writing, which I started getting serious about when I discovered them.

Like most fans, I was initially attracted to the band for Valo. No doubt about it, the man is sexy. Something about him is mysterious, which made him more attractive. He’s like the stereotypical new guy in town that’s brooding and spends a lot of time in coffee shops. Over time, I came to appreciate him as a singer. He’s got an impressive range; he sounds sweet and beautiful with the high notes and downright diabolic with his flourishing baritone. I’ve always liked his singing, but I really fell in love with it when I saw HIM live. They’re not the most energetic performers; they don’t dance around or anything like that. Yet, there’s such a fire and passion behind their live shows. They play as if it might be the last concert they’ll ever do. And Valo often has no trouble pulling off his vocal acrobatics in front of a crowd. Most importantly, their shows are fun. Hopefully, I can jam with them one more time before they leave.

The end of HIM is saying goodbye to an old friend. There are times we didn’t speak for a long while, but when we reconnected we picked up where we left off. They’re familiar and comforting, always there when I needed them. I’ll miss them, but at least I can visit them again with all the wonderful music they’ve given us in the span of 26 years. And I’ll never forget how I actually got to speak with Valo for an interview. He was every bit as charming and sweet. It was an honor to speak with someone I’d been following so long. I never thought I’d get the chance to speak with an artist I like so much. So, thank you, HIM, for letting me explore darkness with you and all the memories and fangirl crushes you gave me. I’m happy my friend convinced me to give you a listen 13 years ago.

XX

Uneasy Listening Vol. 1 – HIM

220px-Uneasy_Listening_Vol._1Release Year: 2006

Rating: 7.5/10

This collection from the Finnish rockers takes various remixed, alternative, and acoustics versions of their songs, some of which were found on their singles. While some of the material is great and presents a different side to the band, a lot of it doesn’t alter much. Either something very little is changed or seemingly nothing is changed at all making the listener wonder what makes this version so special.

The best material found on the release are the acoustic tracks. Something about Ville Valo with a lone guitar makes for intriguing and sometimes haunting songs. The unplugged version of “It’s All Tears” gives the track a folk feeling with the throbbing bass and weird key arrangement. It sounds like it should be played in a gypsy camp. “Buried Alive by Love” strips the track of its hard rock sound and presents a naked tune with Valo’s powerful vocals on display. The only downside is he sounds a bit strained by the end. Acoustic renditions of “Please Don’t Let it Go,” “For You,” and “Pretending” are all good, but the best one is “Funeral of Hearts.” Not only does this give the listener a chance to hear Valo’s impressive vocals, but it makes the entire track creepy and foreboding, like he’s singing about someone’s doom. These versions really show the strength of the songwriting and how well they work even when most of the music is striped away.

Many of the tracks are supposedly remixed, but end up sounding very similar to their original versions. The only thing that’s different about the Strongroom mix of “Join Me in Death” are re-recorded vocals. I’m not really sure why they felt the need to re-do the vocals, but they sound good either way. “In Joy and Sorrow” adds string instrumentation creating a really beautiful sound, while “When Love and Death Embrace” is nothing but the shorter radio edit of the single. It’s the same story with “Close to the Flame;” the music has been slightly altered, but overall sounds the same. The most baffling remix on the LP is “One Last Time.” There seems to be nothing different from the version found on Razorblade Romance. The muted vocals and the instrumentation are the same. The only difference I found was here, Valo continued singing once the music faded out. A lot of these versions don’t add anything to the songs and almost seem pointless.

While most of the tracks are lacking, there are some really good mixes. One of the best is the disrhythm remix of “The Sacrament.” The song is already beautiful, but this version takes away the electric guitar and hard rhythm replacing it with stringed instruments giving it a classical feel. It sounds even prettier than before and somehow gives it a bigger presence. It’s a well welcome take on one of their best songs. Another good mix is “Salt in Our Wounds” Thusla Doom version. Doom is the perfect way to describe the sound. It begins with heavily distorted music that sounds like violent crashing thunder. The music is very dramatic and adds a darker element to the track that fits right in. The downside is it drags on longer than it should, but it still manages to be better than the original recording.

Whether or not the remixes completely changed the song or barely touched it, they still sound good. This doesn’t apply to “Lose You Tonight.” It actually starts off really well with the track slowed down creating a haunting mood for Valo’s crooning vocals. But half way through things get iffy. For starters, during the bridge grumbling music comes on that sounds like a monster’s stomach growling. If that wasn’t enough to take you out of the song, it ends with eagles screeching and a woman screaming for some weird reason. Add that to the fact it runs on too long and it makes for an offputing track. But for an album that’s pretty lengthy one bad track isn’t a bad feat.

Overall, the album gets 7.5/10. With the exception of one song, most of tracks here sound pretty good, but it almost seems pointless getting this collection since most of the so-called remixes don’t alter much. Sometimes it’s a subtle change, other times it sounds like nothing is different. There are some great remixes that change the mood and tone of the song and when you hear them you wish there were more versions like these. At least the acoustic renditions are enough to save the release. They show a different side to the band and Valo’s voice is on full display. If you’re a collector, this is a nice addition to their discography, but don’t expect anything amazing.

Tears on Tape- HIM

TearsontapeRelease Year: 2013

Rating: 8.5/10

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.

Love Metal- HIM

HIM_Love_MetalRelease Year: 2003

Rating: 7.5/10

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.