Sound — 3
Long considered a primary pioneer in Finnish metal, HIM has been offering Gothic alternative rock for almost twenty years now. They have been praised for their Black Sabbath-style doom metal heard throughout all of their albums. And it seemed that as time progressed, they seemed to get better and better, adding more heaviness and Gothic imagery to an already solid rock n' roll formula. Their last album, Venus Doom, was probably their best album up to that point. It took the classic HIM formula and multiplied it by three, making it almost an orchestra of heavy Goth rock. So by all of this, you can obviously tell that I am a huge HIM fan. And when I found out that they would release a new album entitled "Screamworks," I was ecstatic. Venus Doom was absolute nirvana for me, and when I heard that Screamworks was going to be their most experimental, I was even more pumped. I couldn't wait to hear what new sounds Ville Valo and the boys had to offer. The day finally came. February 8, 2010. I rushed to my nearest music store and found that there was just one last copy of Screamworks available. I quickly ran to the cashier, paid for the album, and went straight home. As I was opening the CD case, I knew for a fact that I was in for an experience. I put the CD into my stereo system and listened to the album. After listening to the album, I can say this. I was right about one thing: it is an experience. Unfortunately, it's not the experience I was hoping for. The band did state that Screamworks would be their most experimental, and that is indeed true. The album provides a much more pop-fueled sound, which is the major problem. It's not slightly pop, but pretty much half-and-half. And in some cases, it's more like one-quarter-and-three-quarters as the pop sounds tend to be very over the top by drowning out the overall heaviness of the guitars and reduce them to something of the likes of a sound produced by a tad harder version of The Who. As a matter of fact, the final track on this album, "The Foreboding Sense of Impending Happiness", is just pop with no guitar work at all. It's probably the most out of place song on that album (and that is saying a lot) and makes me uneasy as I even think about it. But it's not all bad, because there are actually a few songs that actually work very well with the pop sounds: "Heartkiller" & "Like St. Valentine", which combine Gothic hard rock with some nice synthesizer and keyboard based sounds, "Katherine Wheel", which bears a sound somewhat similar to some of the songs found on Dark Light, and "In The Arms Of Rain", which is without a doubt the best song on the album with its insane use of the keyboard. It's just a shame that the other songs on the album couldn't make use of great use of the pop sounds as these four did.
Lyrics — 5
Ville Valo's voice in this album is both a blessing and a curse. While Valo does maintain that deep Jim Morrison-like voice and sings about the usual death-demons-love poetry, both factors seem ridiculously out of place in Screamworks with the album's over-the-top upbeat pop sounds. Granted, the vocals and lyrics are great here, but, with the exceptions of "Heartkiller", "Katherine Wheel", "In The Arms Of Rain", and "Like St. Valentine", they just don't mix well.
Overall Impression — 4
"Disappointment" isn't even a strong enough word here. It wasn't the Gothic and depressing lyrics that bummed me out about this album, but it was just the majority of the album itself. HIM does display at times on this album that they are capable of making a decent pop-metal album similar to that of Van Halen or Winger. And while I am all for a band experimenting with a new sound and diving into uncharted territory, the band has to make sure that it's not over-the-top experimental. It happened to Metallica in the mid 1990's and it's happening to HIM now in the year 2010. In fact, this album is definitely worthy enough of being called the Load of the 2010's, and I'm not so sure that's something to be proud of.