Lovemetal

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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Rank the Videos: HIM 2001 – 2005

Before saying goodbye to HIM, I’m looking back at their videos an ranking them from best to worst. In the second part, we look at their videos from the Love Metal to Dark Light era. While most of their early videos were rough and kind of hard to watch, they improved by the time HIM had their American break. The videos still aren’t perfect, as you’ll see from the Bam Margera directed ones, but they’re visually pleasing and more creative than their previous efforts. Some attempt to tell stories while others are more shameless Ville eye candy. So, let’s take a look at HIM’s videos from 2001 – 2005 ranked from best to worst. Where does your favorite video land?

“Wings of a Butterfly” (2005)

Directed by Meiert Avis, this is HIM’s most stylish video. Filmed in Los Angeles’ Union Station, the clip opens with their iconic heartagram circling the night skies like the bat signal. We then travel up to a tower where the band performs in a dark location and Ville plays with random equipment that may have come from a mad scientist. The video ends with Ville on top of the tower as it’s submerged in water. Not only is the video filled with cool shots, it has an overlay of grainy effects making it look like lost footage or an old movie. It’s definitely their most visually pleasing video to date and remains a highlight in their videography.

“Buried Alive By Love” (2003)

This is the first of four videos Bam Margera would direct for HIM. Set in a lavish LA theater, HIM performs on stage while actor Juliette Lewis watches from the wings. She starts to give Ville some coy looks and start a game of cat and mouse. They finally meet up and walk out the theater hand and hand. Simple concept, but it looks really cool. Not only is the setting beautiful, the clip has this grainy, super 8 quality to it giving it a vintage feel. Though it’s a notable HIM video there are some awkward shots, like Ville looking sick when the camera is spinning around him or how he outstretches his arms with dead eyes not really sure what to do with himself.

“The Funeral of Hearts” (2003)

HIM traverse the icy landscapes of Sweden encountering strange, mythical people along the way in this clip. The first video from the Love Metal period is strange, yet beautiful. Of course, there are the gratuitous shots of Ville looking adorable in his trademark beanie and eyeliner. Along with this are shots of mysterious tribespeople covered in different colors looking like they’re conducting some sort of ritual. You can’t really tell what’s going on, but it’s this enigmatic air that makes the video so intriguing. You want to piece together the story and since HIM doesn’t spell it out for you, it’s open to various interpretations. The video ends with an amazing shot of the heartagram made out of burning bushes. Though after that is a shot of the album, which is lame.

“The Sacrament” (2004)

I still considered this my favorite song and video by HIM. Directed again by Bam Margera, the video is a mix of HIM performing in what looks like a grand mansion and a lonely woman longing over the loss of Ville. It’s straightforward, but there’s something beautiful in the cold scenery and the simplicity of it. Though this is the point where Margera’s video staples come through: saturated colors making Ville as white as a ghost, multiple shots of Ville walking by himself with a brooding look on his face, and a woman sitting on an ornate couch waiting for her lover. And just like the prior video, there are some questionable shots here, like one of Ville’s crotch. Watching this again it’s clear Margera isn’t the best director. He’s a skateboarder, so no one really expects him to be. Him directing these videos were his way of doing something for his friends and being associated with the band, which he seemed to badly want.

“In Joy and Sorrow” (2001)

 This is the best video from the Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights era. It starts off as a simple performance clip with plenty of sexy Ville to look at. As the band keeps performing, the lights and equipment around them begin to freak out and emit a  blinding light, including Ville’s mic. It seems the spirit of a (dead?) lover is the cause of this as we see for a brief second. By the end, her apparition appears next to Ville who just keeps on singing. Directed by John Hillcoat, the video is pleasing to watch. Not a lot happens, but the light tricks and Ville’s cool illuminated mic makes it stand out from typical performance clips. Also, this is when Ville cemented his go-to look: long stringy hair, thick eye makeup, silver bands, and the “Your pretty face is going to hell” coat. This is the Ville millions of HIM fans would eventually fall for, myself included.

“And Love Said No” (2004)

The final video directed by Bam Margera feels like a random collage with no theme. The clip is filled with various shots of Ville outside and inside of a church along with random graphics and effects. Some of these shots are beautiful, like Ville singing in the forest or the heartagarm that seemingly appears out of thin air. Other shots look horribly dated and weird, like calligraphy flourishes that weave in between the band or the fading shots and swirls appearing in random places. It seems Margera wanted to go for a notebook feel since the video closes with a book shutting, but he doesn’t pull it off. Again, not a terrible video, but not very satisfying.

“Solitary Man” (2004)

Yet another video directed by Bam Margera. At least it’s an improvement over his previous efforts. Still, it’s nothing too special. It’s primarily a performance video mixed in with recycled footage from Margera’s Haggard movie previously seen in “Heartache Every Moment.” There’s also new footage of a random woman strutting around in her underwear. The video doesn’t do too much but does offer fan service since Ville is singing sans shirt. It’s not a terrible clip, but it’s pretty unremarkable. At least Margera opted to focus on the entire band instead of only extreme close-ups of Ville.

“Heartache Every Moment” (2001)

This is your standard live performance video. It shows various clips of the band in concert mainly focusing on Ville Valo with some occasional shots of the crowd. Multiple clips playing at the same time along with a run through of all of the band’s symbols try to shake things up, but it’s still a vanilla video. Skater and Ville Valo wannabe Bam Margera directed a second version which features a different live performance from the band mixed with clips from his Haggard movie. It’s slightly more entertaining because you’re watching a condensed episode of Viva La Bam. Anyone else think Margera’s love of HIM was a bit weird? He even names himself Valo in the movie. Better watch out, Ville. You could have a Single White Female situation on your hands.

“Close to the Flame” (2002)

Yes, it’s another boring live performance clip. HIM “performs” the song in a darkened venue with a funnel of smoke streaming out of Ville’s mouth. Throw in some customary shots of the band on stage and that’s the whole video. To make it even worse it doesn’t even feature a live version of the song. It’s just the studio version pumped out over footage of a live performance. If the video was actually them playing the song in concert, it had a chance to be more interesting. As it is, it’s just boring especially since the band doesn’t do much on stage.

There are only a few more videos left to cover. Come back next month for the third and final part of Rank the Videos when we look at HIM’s videos from 2005 – 2013.

 

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.

Dark Light- HIM

HIM_-_Dark_LightRelease Year: 2005

Rating: 7/10

I’ve never been a huge fan of this album, as some of you may know. While there are a number of great songs here, most of them are dull and unremarkable. Oddly enough this is HIM at their brightest and softest. A lot of the songs are mellow with bright sounding riffs. Rather than having hard rock inspired tracks, most of them are somber and and even at times relaxing. This doesn’t make the album any better or worse, but it’s a noticeable difference from their previous release. While it’s not their worse records it is far from their best.

As I mentioned before the album starts out really strong with memorable songs, such as the opening track “Vampire Heart.” I love this riff because it sort of sounds like a high pitched version of the Michael Myers theme. Something about it pulls you in to the song and it’s one of the best found here. As usual there are many dark and melancholic images to be found here, such as one of my favorite lines “I am the nightmare waking you up.” Also, Ville just sounds really good here. It’s as if you can hear his presence as a singer grow stronger and stronger on each record and it comes out really well here. Another great song and one of their most well known is “Wings of a Butterfly.”

“Wings of a Butterfly” has one of HIM’s best and most memorable riffs. It grabs you and it’s so damn catchy; it really makes you pay attention to the song. The image of ripping off the wings off a delicate creature is so gruesome and cruel. It takes something beautiful and makes it ugly, something the band does very well with their other songs. Also, this is where we begin to hear the brighter sounding HIM. It’s interesting how the riff sounds very bright, instead of really dirty and hard like most of their music. While I wouldn’t call it their best song, it’s still one of their finest.

“Under the Rose” and “Killing Loneliness” are both good songs for different reasons. What’s interesting about the former is the opening sounds so pretty even when the distortion comes in. This is pretty different for the band. While none of their songs are super brutal not too many of them can be described in this way. Thanks to the music and the lyrical content the track has an overall light and flowing vibe to it. HIM have always been good songwriters, but what makes this song so great is the lyrics paint a story as you’re listening to it. You can visualize everything Ville is saying. “Killing Loneliness” on the other hand, has a great somber piano riff that sets the tone for the entire song. This is another one of their darkly beautiful singles. It’s another one of those tracks you fall in love with.

It’s at this point where the album falls flat. While the songs on the second half of the record aren’t all terrible, most of them are dull, too slow, or just don’t stand out. “Dark Light” has this really bright sounding music that ends up sounding cheesy. If anything it sounds like something a boy band would use for one of their soft, sensitive numbers. While some of the lyrics aren’t bad, the chorus sounds corny and forced, as if Ville doesn’t believe in the song himself. There is a cool guitar solo during the bridge, but it’s not enough to save this track. “Behind the Crimson Door” is not bad, but again the music is so light and bright it’s borderline corny. There are some good lyrics here, such as “To watch the summer killed by fall,” but there’s nothing else remarkable about the track.

As I mentioned before this is where HIM seems to tone down their music on the album. None of their songs have been super hard core, but a lot of the riffs and music are dirty and full of distortion. Here, the riffs are varied with a lot of the music coming off as mellow and soft. While it does work for some of the tracks, it does cause the album to lag a bit. It’s fine that they slowed it down for this record, but what could’ve made the album better is if they included faster songs to keep it moving and to stop it from getting boring.

Overall, the album gets 7/10. While there are some great songs here and some that are their most popular, most of the record grows dull after awhile. The tracks are not remarkable, nothing about them stands out, and some of them sound corny. HIM takes things slower here and while this isn’t bad, but after awhile the slow numbers grow tiring and get boring. If the band would’ve mixed some of their harder material with their softer songs the album would’ve fared better, but unfortunately this effort isn’t their greatest.