Join Me in Death

Rank the Videos: HIM 1996 – 2001

I was taken aback when HIM announced their breakup. As I explained before, they were never the most important band in my life, but I’ve followed them for so long it’s like saying goodbye to an old friend. I immersed myself in the band shortly after the news, similar to many fans and soon I came upon their videos. I never thought they had the best music videos, but there are a handful I always loved. Some are outright terrible, but others are charming even if they are strictly fan service.

Before seeing them one last time in fall, I wanted to look back at all their videos and rank them from best to worst.

“Join Me (In Death)” (2000)

HIM’s biggest song received four different videos with the “ice version” being the most popular. Ville and crew find themselves in the middle of an ice palace performing what turned out to be their breakout song. This clip, directed by John Hillcoat, gets to the heart of the track, which is about Romeo and Juliet. Ville is a smoldering Romeo at the peak of his glam rockstar phase. A mysterious heavy coated woman plays Juliet, who meets her demise by drinking poison. The entire thing takes place in an ice cave and even members are shown freezing over. Just watching the video makes you shiver. With its cool imagery and Ville’s good looks, the video has since become iconic within the HIM fandom. It’s definitely a fan favorite and one that helped the band break into US mainstream charts. The only thing that bothered me was how uncomfortable the woman looked. She’s wearing a barbed wire outfit and it looks like she’s trying hard to keep it together. Aside from Ville’s eye shadow, it’s the most distracting thing in the video.

 

“Wicked Game” (UK Version) (2000)

The third, and best, video for “Wicked Game” finds Ville having the worst night of his life. Cold and wet from the rain, he’s convinced to warm up in a strip club. While he starts having a good time watching the dancer on stage, he gets his wallet stolen, his drink ruined, starts a fight, and ends up being kicked out of the club. The other HIM members play the role of a cheesy backup band complete in corny Elvis costumes. For some reason, the dancer always freaked me out. Maybe it’s because she looks like she’s made out of plastic. Otherwise, the clip is humorous and keeps your attention, unlike previous versions, making it one of HIM’s most memorable videos. It’s not their best, but at least it’s fun and doesn’t have cheesy Gothic elements.

“Right Here In My Arms” (2000)

As HIM found more success their videos improved, but they were still kind of rough as this clip shows. Here, the band is trapped in a mirrored box performing the song. Outside, one lucky lady watches the performance even though the band can’t see her. It’s a simple clip but is kind of cool with the box the band is encased in and the lights. Ville finally seems comfortable mugging for the camera but pulls off faces that are supposed to be sexy, yet end up looking funny. Behind him, the rest of the guys are still pulling their best rockstar impressions, tongues hanging out and all. This used to be my favorite HIM video for a while. I remember being jealous of the girl because she got to watch Ville in all his glory. I’ve gotten over it since then.

“When Love and Death Embrace” (1999)

HIM’s first few videos are rough, but at least they started to get it right for their third one directed by Mikko Pitkänen. It’s a straightforward clip; the band sits in what looks like an old hotel mixed with set piece shots and footage of people brooding. Nothing much happens, but its sophisticated tone and charm match the somber mood of the song. Plus, Ville does his best pouting for the camera leading to the start of his sex symbol status. The video’s gloomy vibe does match the sound of the band at this point: melancholy, dark, and gothic. Overall, the video isn’t that memorable, but it’s not terrible.

“Gone With the Sin” (2000)

This video is more Ville eye candy. The clip is just him walking through a beautiful landscape looking sullen and moody. He then comes upon some flowers and makes his way, barefoot, to a grave bearing the heartagram. He leaves the flowers while looking over the grave. Did I mention Ville is walking through the fields without a shirt on? There are actually two versions of this video. Both are pretty much the same except the US version features super bright, vivid colors while Ville himself is in black and white. It’s kind of a cool effect that reminds me of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” video. The Finnish version doesn’t have the blinding colors. Rather, the scenery is presented in all its glory. While the color dynamics are cool in the US version, the entire thing looks more beautiful and pleasant in the Finnish one. The video as a whole is nice even though nothing happens.

“Join Me in Death” (Version 1) (1999)

For a video with four different variants, the first three are very similar. The very first version features the band performing the track in a room filled with lasers. It’s kind of awkward as it’s clear Ville is supposed to be the focus. At this point, he doesn’t seem sure of what to do and starts pulling weird poses and even has a Mick Jagger thing going on. These attempts to look sexy are ruined by the overly pouty faces, glitter make up, and a choker that looks more like a neck brace. Since the song was used in the movie The Thirteenth Floor the remaining versions of this video mix in footage from the film, which features lasers. That makes a lot more sense now. Even worse the footage is so out of place. It’s hard to make the connection between the song and the movie. Still, the video isn’t as memorable or visually pleasing as the later clip.

“Poison Girl” (2000)

I’m not a fan of live performance videos. They’re overdone, lazy, and generic. It’s no different for this HIM clip. The video is pulled from various performances from their 2000 Berlin show. It features the band playing the song with plenty of eye candy shots of Ville pulling off his cheesy rockstar impression. There’s even a moment where he takes off his shirt followed by a shot of drooling girls in the crowd. The video doesn’t even feature a live version of the song. Rather, it’s the standard track played over live footage. Aside from some brief moments, the clip is pretty dull. And watching a young Ville’s rockstar behavior is kind of cringy. I’m sure back in the day I would’ve found these shots sexy. Now, they’re kind of awkward to sit through.

“Wicked Game” (1996) (German Version)

HIM’s first video is something you would dream up when you’re 15. So yeah, it’s pretty bad. That’s to be expected for any band trying to make a name for themselves. The amateur clip hits all the hard rock video clichés: headbanging, playing in the woods, sticking out your tongue and making devil horns, and random shots of a dog. It even has a sepia tint for that extra dose of “edgy.” Though it’s cheesy, it’s still kind of cute. The band doesn’t seem to take the video seriously. The only one trying to pretend they’re actually performing is the drummer, Gas Lipstick. Ville doesn’t even lip synch half the time. You can even see him in the background walking the dog as if he grew bored with video shenanigans. The band tried two more times to get the video right, improving with each attempt.

“Pretending” (2001)

If you get dizzy easily, best avoid this video. Either the band or director Kevin Godley wanted some sort of shtick to make the video memorable. What’s the result? A goofy mechanism that rocks the members back and forth. Instead of looking cool, the video is disorientating and not pleasant to watch. While the other guys rock gently, Ville is tossed violently back and forth while holding onto the mic stand for dear life. Because he comes in and out of frame so fast it starts to make your stomach turn. In the end, the video is memorable after all; I remember to avoid it because it makes me sick.

“Wicked Game” (1998)

Somehow HIM’s second attempt at this video is cheesier than the first. The clip finds the band playing outside yet again this time fighting against bad weather. Ville is bombarded with a diva fan looking uncomfortable while ladies clad in stereotypical Goth attire (dread falls, latex, black wings) look on from afar. Some ladies dance, Ville mugs for the camera, and gets close to the love interest. That’s about it. Rather than going cheap, the director, Markus Walter, went for a stereotypical “dark” mood, which ends up looking bad. At least in the first version, the band looked like they were having fun. Here, they look pretty miserable, especially Ville who is pelted with snow in the face and then soaked with rain by the end. Luckily, by the third time, the band finally got it right.

Be sure to come back next month where we’ll look at HIM’s videos from 2001 – 2005.

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Love Metal Archives Vol. 1- HIM

Release Year: 2005

Rating: 8/10

Hopefully by now you’ve heard how Finnish band HIM will make their return this fall. To celebrate their comeback, let’s look at their Love Metal DVD. It seems the band had one goal in mind when putting this together: making sure the fans got their money’s worth. Not only will you find just about all of the band’s videos up to 2004, you also get tons of live performances and behind the scenes looks at your favorite videos. As the box boasts on the back, it’s over 5 hours of material. Unfortunately, it does seem like too much at times.

First, the music videos. You get to watch HIM’s videos from 1997-2004. There are even alternate versions of certain clips available. For instance, there are three different versions of “Wicked Game” and two different videos for “Heartache Every Moment” for your viewing pleasure. When keeping this in mind, it’s weird that only one version of “Join Me in Death” pops up since there are three as well. Personally, I don’t think many of HIM’s videos are super exciting as they all seem to be reminding the viewer how sexy Ville is (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but still it’s great for anyone who wants to have their videos in one place, especially since some of the alternate versions are difficult to find online. At this time, this is the only video collection for the band, so it’s pretty cool to have. With their return, hopefully they’ll release an updated version that includes their videos from Dark Light onward.

As a bonus, you also get more than 25 live performances. It’s great that the band included these clips to make it different from other video collections, but the issue at least for me is HIM is not a great live band. It’s not that they don’t sound good, they usually sound spot on. It’s that they aren’t that energetic or anything. They’re not a visual band like Green Day or Marilyn Manson. Ville usually just stands there looking sexy while smoking a cigarette. He sounds good, but he just doesn’t move much. Also, there are so many clips that unless you’re in a really good HIM mood, you won’t get through all of them in one sitting. Usually, one or two live clips will satisfy your HIM craving as trying to get through them all is pretty tiring.

But if the live performances don’t do it for you, not to worry because the band included extra goodies! There are the standard biographies and photos for each HIM album up to Love Metal, but there are also behind the scenes of videos, interviews with Ville and even promotion kits from BMG. This last bit is my favorite because it tells you information about whatever album it’s for, plus it has interview footage of Ville and other members of the band. One of them is just 24 minutes of the front man discussing the birth of Love Metal. Whether you want to learn more about the band or just want to see how much you know, these extras are a must see.

What I find cool about the DVD are the menus and the navigation. I like how most of the live performances, the extras, and the videos are separated by album. To find the “In Joy and Sorrow” video just look under Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights and so forth. Or if you just want all the videos to play back to back, just hit the play all videos option. You can also do the same for the live performances. Or if you want to see everything the DVD has to offer, just hit the A-Z option. Not only are the menus handy, they’re also beautifully decorated with ornate patterns and the heartagram.

My only complaint about the DVD is that it’s seems like too much at times. I guess it really depends on your mood, but sometimes it feels overwhelming. It’s like there’s way too much to get through or by the time you finish watching all the videos you won’t have enough energy to watch the bonus footage. But I think it’s better to have too much on the disc, rather than too little. There’s nothing worse than paying 20 bucks or more for a disc that lacks in extra features. At least they made sure it was worth buying.

Overall, the DVD gets 8/10. So far it’s the most definitive HIM DVD out there. It may not have every single video of theirs, but it comes pretty close. Music videos, live clips, photos, and interviews are enough to get your HIM fix. While it may seem to be too much at times, it’s still great to have all these clips on one disc. It’s definitely something you can put on anytime and find something new that you may have missed before. Now that the band is making their return, maybe they’ll release another disc like this to go along with their new compilation album.

Rank the Albums: HIM

Although HIM hasn’t been present in the music scene for the past few years, there was a time where you couldn’t get away from them. Whether it was their sexy front man Ville Valo or their romantic songs about love and death, the Finnish band was unstoppable in the mid-2000’s. They have some killer albums along with some that should’ve never been released in their catalog and here they are ranked from their absolute best albums to just the plain bad ones.

The Absolute Best

Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666

HIM-GreatestLovesongsVol666

Some fans may disagree with me here, but I think this is one of their best albums yet. If you’re familiar with their later material this album may surprise you a bit. It’s very dark, not just in lyrics, but in sound as well. A lot of the songs sound like they’re coming from the bowels of Hell. There are some great tracks here like “Sweet 666,” “Beginning of the End,” and their doom infested cover of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” It’s an impressive debut that definitely gets you talking about HIM.

Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights

Deep_Shadows_and_Brilliant_Highlights

Not only does Ville look hot on the cover, the album itself is stellar. Here, the band makes their sound bigger by bringing in different instruments. They also return to the dark sound found on their first album. The themes are very somber resulting in a moody record. It’s not the album that brought the band mainstream success in America, but it did garner them the hit singles “In Joy and Sorrow,” “Pretending” and “Heartache Every Moment.” Out of all the albums from their catalog this one is underrated.

The Good

Love Metal

HIM_Love_Metal

This is the album that made the band popular in the States and worldwide. It’s a pretty slow record with some fast paced songs strewn throughout. It also introduced the world to one of the most recognizable band logos ever: the heartagram. Some of the band’s biggest hits are found here, including “The Sacrament” and “Buried Alive By Love.” The band was also heavily endorsed by Bam Margera when the album came out. The extra exposure didn’t hurt the band at all.

Razorblade Romance

HIM-RazorbladeRomance

This album definitely has some great songs on it like the ever popular “Join Me in Death” or the rocking “Right Here in my Arms,” but it’s lacking something. Maybe it’s because the band moved away from their dark sound for their second album in favor of conventional rock music. It’s not a bad album by any means, it’s just not as good as their some of their others. Also, some of the lyrics to these songs are just corny. It’s like they were tying to be romantic yet super Gothic at the same time. It didn’t work very well. Just listen to “Heaven Tonight” to understand what I mean.

Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice

The last album released by HIM in 2010 isn’t as great as some of their early work, but it’s far better than their material after 2004. It’s not dark like their past work, but there are some good songs that remind you the band’s not dead yet. “Like St. Valentine,” “Heartkiller,” and “Shatter Me with Hope” are all rocking songs that manage to be catchy too. It actually reminds me of the stuff found on their second album.

The Bad

Dark Light

Sigh…Darklight. This is an album I really wanted to like, especially since the singles were so good. “Wings of a Butterfly” has such an infectious, trilling riff that catches your attention and “Killing Loneliness” is a bittersweet song that you can listen to over and over again. There are actually quite a number of really good songs here, but what makes it so bad is that the second half of the album is boring. The songs are long and drawn out with nothing to keep your attention. HIM has done slow songs in the past, but these were just painful to get through. Maybe if they worked on the album longer it would’ve been much better.

Digital Versatile Doom

This is the band’s only live album and it should stay that way. Look, HIM’s not that interesting live. Ville just stands there wiggling his hips every now and again because he knows he’s sexy. In their early days he used to smoke and drink onstage as well, but he decided to tone it down. It’s not that they sound bad, it’s just that they don’t sound any different from the records. The album doesn’t pump you up and get you energetic like live albums should. Not even the bonus live DVD can save this release.

Venus Doom

If there’s an album I hate more than Darklight it’s this one. Again, the singles released for the album, “Bleed Well” and “Kiss of Dawn,” are really good, but the rest of the album is just a mess. The band are all over the place here. A lot of the songs will start out really well with great music and catchy lyrics. Then it’ll suddenly change style and tempo in the worst possible way that leaves you with the question what the fuck just happened? It’s like they were cramming two songs together and failed to make them mesh well enough so no one would notice.

Die Hard Fans Only

Uneasy Listening Vol 1 and 2

These albums aren’t bad, but if you don’t like remixes or acoustic versions of songs then these aren’t the records for you. They’re full of b-sides, remixes, and alternate versions of their songs that were often found on their singles. Some of the tracks are really good like “Dark Secret Love,” but most of them are odd or just throwaways. But these are a must have for a HIM collector.

SWRMXS

Again, this is another for any collectors out, but the album itself is horrible. I know we want remixes to put a fresh spin on our favorite songs to make them new again, but there’s a limit. There seems to be no traces of the original song in any of these tracks. It’s a very confusing experience. None of the remixes are memorable and they’re hard to listen to because you try to relate it to the songs on the album. I don’t know what possessed them to release a remix album, but hopefully they won’t do it again.

Razorblade Romance- HIM

Release Year: 2000

Rating: 8/10

When comparing this 2000 release with the Finnish band’s first album there are some noticeable differences. First, this album is not as dark as the previous one. While there are still some dark subjects being referred to in songs, the music and the overall ambiance of the album feels nothing like Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666. But this doesn’t mean that Razorblade Romance is a bad album. There are some great tracks here that would go on to become some of HIM’s most recognizable songs.

This record opens with the track “Your Sweet 666.” That’s right, the same song from their first record. There are differences between the two versions. There seems to be more emphasis on the percussion and the guitar on this edition. The music in general on this track sounds more polished than the previous version. It still has that great opening riff which makes the song so memorable, but there’s something slightly different about it. The singing here is also different. It doesn’t sound as strong as the original track. In fact his singing is a bit higher and it doesn’t seem to be fitting the song at all. Personally, I like the original version. It has a haunting effect and the music feels more powerful.

One of HIM’s most popular songs is found on this album: “Join Me in Death.” It starts off with this pretty, tinkling riff provided by the piano before the guitars and drums kick in. Ville’s singing is great here as well. He mostly sings in a hushed tone for most of the track and the way he’s singing makes it sound like a cryptic lullaby. Despite the music being pretty, the song itself is quite dark with it being about a Romeo and Juliet doomed romance.

Unlike the first album there aren’t too many standout tracks here. Part of this could be due to the fact that the band re-released three songs from the 1997 album: the opening track, the “Wicked Games” cover, and “Sigillum Diaboli.” I’m not really sure why they felt the need to do this. Was it the record company? Were they trying to fill out the album? With the new version of “Wicked Games” not much has changed aside from the fact that the guitar playing seems more pronounced.

The other track “Sigillum Diabloi” is almost an entirely different song. The lyrics are the same, but they are not sung in the same way, the music is different, and song no longer has that dark feeling to it. This version is much faster and more upbeat than the previous version. The guitar playing here is still great with a speeding riff at the beginning of the song and a racing guitar solo. It’s as if they re-did the track to make it mainstream friendly, even though it was not one of their singles.

The best track on the album is probably “Razorblade Romance.” Everything about this song makes you take notice of it. The song has this sexy, seductive mood to it, which fits the subject of the song perfectly. Ville sounds as if he’s trying to seduce the listener while Lind (the guitarist) provides the sexy riff to complete the mood. Another song that captures the creepy mood of the first album is “Gone with the Sin.” It’s a slow, somber track and not only does the singing make it creepy, but the subject of the song is pretty weird too. It sounds like a love song to a dead girl. As for the other songs, it’s not that they’re bad. In fact all of the songs are pretty good. They just don’t grab your attention in the same way as the ones on the previous album did. Some can even be considered cheesy (“Heaven Tonite”). Also, the music on the previous record seemed a bit better and was varied. Here, you can tell that a guitar is playing, but you can’t hear a rhythm or style in the playing. Rather, you hear a bunch of distorted noise.

Just as with the first album, this album has a theme running through it though it may be more subtle. There are constant references to love and death in all of the songs here. But the way it’s presented makes it seem that message of the album is love is death or love leads to death. A lot of the songs mention loving the subjects misery, death, and despair. There’s even a song called “Death’s in Love with Us.” So while the darkness may not be as prevalent on this album, this theme shows that HIM has not abandoned their previous influences altogether.

Overall, I give the album 8/10. It’s not as dark as their first record, but there are still some dark subjects at play here. While there are not many standout tracks on this album, the songs are still pretty good and you could easily leave on this album without rushing to skip a song. Ville’s vocals are still fantastic and the guitar playing is great as well. It may not have the band’s best songs, but there are tracks here that are now consider HIM classics.