Any band that reaches the ‘20th year of existence’ milestone has usually had their share of struggles with carrying on, such as gathering the sufficient motivation and inspiration to continue in not only making music, but also persisting in a rapidly changing industry. When you add to that the debilitating health issues their drummer went through, it’s a miracle HIM have managed to put out their new record, Tears on Tape, at all. The album suffers from the bands, no doubt justified, need to get back into the game quickly – but it is far from a flop.
Whether or not you like HIM and their brand of pop-laced, faux-metal rock, they have built a credible fan base with their high level of quality, and an air of nonchalant swagger personified by their Billy Idol-esque frontman, Ville Vallo. To their detractors this record will no doubt represent just another blip in a discography of pop-rock records aimed and teen goths. True HIM connoisseurs, however, track the fluctuations in HIM’s style with meticulous precision – from the early, almost doom-metal days of Greatest Love songs Vol.666 and Razorblade Romance, to the pop excursions of Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights and Screamworks: Love in theory and practice. Even their throwback album, Venus Doom, intentionally heavier than its predecessors, still had that positive, major chord sparkle that graces all the newer HIM outings, along with more upbeat lyrics (albeit still filled with references to death, blood and graves).
While again pretending to, and at times succeeding, to be heavier than its predecessors, Tears on Tape still holds that ‘’happy” if not sappy tone that has characterized the last few HIM records – it is a trend that does not seem to be regressing, to the chagrin of some fans.
After the booming introduction of Lips Go Blue, a full-on aggressive HIM track reminiscent of some of the heavier tracks on Dark Light, the record slips into a groove and remains unchanged up until the very end, and the surprisingly down-tempo, doomy W.L.S.T.D. This is one of the records major drawbacks: the songs meld together, and while some excel (Love without tears) and others flop (the title track) it takes several listens for most of these songs to make an impression and for the listener to differentiate them.
Combine this with the fact that, out of the 13 tracks on Tears on Tape, 4 are instrumental filler tracks and 4 are something akin to filler songs – songs that sound like the band put minimal effort into creating them – and you get an album that feels more like a jam session, or a masterfully produced demo. This can be a good thing, as the album is extremely easy and smooth to listen too – it feels, as mentioned, as one long song with good and bad moments.
HIM prove they still pack a punch though, with the afore mentioned All Lips go Blue being the highlight, followed by the keyboards laced Love without tears and the more rockin’ No Love and I will be the end of you. Finally, W.L.S.T.D is almost doom metal and would, without the poppy chorus, feel right at home at a Black Sabbath fan’s discography; as would many of those Sabbath-like breakdowns on this record.
Tears on Tape is a couple of really killer songs wrapped in 10 filler songs. It is a package that might disappoint some of the hardcore HIM fans – but that very group is already mindful of the fact that this album very nearly might have never existed at all. From that perspective, Tears on Tape is a
pretty good deal.