Sound — 10
All music scenes and styles evolve over time and the gothic scene of today looks more to rock and metal than the punk and dance of it's forebears. Along with such bands as Evanescence and Nightwish, HIM seem to have retained the best of past and present, the drive and power of hard rock and the emotive passion of old school goth. Buried Alive by Love fires up the album with a full on metal guitar riff, powered on by a hard drum attack and solid bass. What is refreshing and obvious almost immediately is that every player has space in the production to be heard and the vocals come over clearly. Too man albums today seem to be a free for all and the result is a lack of clarity in the production. The singer, Ville, seems to be singing from the same hymn sheet as the likes of Wayne Hussey and Julianne Regan from all those years ago. The subject matter is all very windswept and romantic, it's fantasy in the extreme, a modern take on the language of the gothic romances of regency England, but give me escapism over the realities of life any day, who wants to hear about cars and girls, guns and attitude when you can be swept into a lost world for the duration of the album. As this power house of an opening number dies it's replaced with the gentle strumming of a guitar, which on closer inspection might even be a Mandolin (hurrah from me) and the singers dulcet tones waxing whimsical before it too goes all heavy metal on you. After a big start Funeral of Hearts settles down to some rhythmic guitar work and some nice intricate lead riffs weaving through before kicking back into a big chorus. it's only a mid paced song but knows how to do the epic well, this is music that will go down well in the stadium, club or car.
Lyrics — 9
Beyond Redemption wafts in with some strange keyboard sounds, before getting up and running. The language as always is that unrequited love, tearstained kisses and forbidden desires. it's difficult to tell exactly what they are trying to tell you on many of the songs and that they probably use this sort of dialogue even when they are doing the shopping or fixing the car, but it is exactly right for the music and image of the band. Ville himself has the look of a predatory heartbreaker and after seeing the band in action you can hardly imagine anyone else fronting this band. Sweet Pandemonium is a more laid back and swaying candles in the air type of thing. The power of the guitars is kept in check by the inclusion of an acoustic guitar and the song uses it's own dynamic to create the peaks and troughs required to turn the song around. With Soul On Fire we are back with the faster thrashier intro which eventually drops off leaving the bass and drums to carry the song behind the vocals, before it powers up to power through the chorus. Some of the songs, and this is probably my only main criticism of the album do tend to follow a bit of a formula. That's not to say that they are not good songs, it's just that they tend to follow similar lines, but there is nothing wrong with knowing what it is you want do and then doing it well. By complete contrast The Sacrament opens with a solo piano riff which, even once the song reaches it's higher gear, stays at the heart of the melody. it's this use of piano to take the songs along a different plane that helps to set this band apart from some of the other bands operating in this genre. Fortress of Tears is a good example of this, piano and voice create a ballad feeling to some parts of the song which is set against epic rock anthem styling. By the time you get to the next two songs they sound a bit predictable, as I said before not bad songs, in fact songs that many bands would love to have penned, it's just that in the context of the rest of the album they give you nothing new compared with what has gone before. The Path is the final track and is one of the most passionate on the album and it seems to be a seven minute distillation of everything that the band dose best. A melancholy piano lilts into the picture, drums kick in and the guitars set up an epic wall of noise and as it all falls away the piano is left, this time with a pained and heart wrenching voice to keep it company. This song builds and falls until it leaves you stranded in a place of wailing guitar solos and howling keyboards before leaving you back in the emotive tones of the voice and piano again only to build and play out on the storm of guitars. Then as if sensing that it has plucked the heart strings enough, it ends dead.
Overall Impression — 10
There are lots of flavours mixed in this album, along side the ones mentioned, and they are the most obvious, bands such as Orion, Black Sabbath and even classical pieces all have their chance to colour the music. It is an album for old school goths, metalers and rockers alike. It's not overly original in places but a better collection of songs is not easily found. Give it a try, there is something for everyone.