Sound — 9
You can listen to the entire album on Ultimate-Guitar: Venus Doom album. You only have to check out the websites HIMclub.com or Heartagram.com to know that the band Finnish band HIM has some very loyal devotees. It's more than just the dark, Jim Morrison-like vibe that vocalist Ville Valo has at times (although there is certainly no vocal similarities) or even the darkly romantic lyrics that touches on topics like vampires or love surpassing death. There has always been an air of mystery to HIM and the latest record Venus Doom does a pretty good job at keeping that romanticism alive. Granted, HIM's brooding, epic songs may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's still hard to deny the musical talent at play on the latest record. The inspiration for Venus Doom remains in line with the poetic sensibilities of HIM's past releases. According to the band's bio on the official website, the album was directly inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy, most specifically the Inferno portion of the epic poem. Just as Dante's hell encompassed 9 circles, HIM also decided upon having 9 songs it that would potentially be as varied as circles of the Inferno. While the record isn't quite as diverse or dramatic as Dante's images of hell, it is still a beautifully executed record. There are more than a few songs that bounce between a metal-esque feel and a sweet serenade. By the end of the record, it seems like there are more songs than not in which guitarist Mikko Mige Paananen will lay down both gorgeous acoustic licks and brutal electric riffs. One of the standout tracks is Bleed Well, which is jam-packed with some fantastic moments. The song features one of the most impressive guitar hooks in the introduction, and it actually would have made a killer opening to the entire CD. Valo's vocals are consistently strong, but there is one part of the song that is shockingly good. He starts singing a low-register note, and all of the sudden he escalates until he reaches a vocal crescendo of sorts. It's the kind of singing that gives you chills and makes you understand why all the HIM fan clubs abound. Most talk about the album has revolved around a 10-minute-plus track called Sleepwalking Past Hope. The grimly titled song not surprisingly starts out with a dramatic piano intro that sets the mood of the epic number. The acoustic touch doesn't last long, and it's soon replaced with a deep, gritty guitar line. The listener is taken through several turns and twists along the way, and for a band like HIM, the song construction works perfectly. Valo doubled (or perhaps even tripled) his vocal lines for much of the song and it gives him somewhat of an otherworldly sound. Even the guitar solo has more than a few tracks layered upon it, and the overall vibe of Sleepwalking Past Hope is cinematic. On the other end of the spectrum is Song Or Suicide, a track that lasts a little more than a minute and is easily the shortest track on Venus Doom. It's 100 percent acoustic and creates just as much of an impression as the epic tracks do. There are a few songs on the album that are just not as memorable as one might hope, but the argument could be made that Valo's vocals make anything sound good -- and that's absolutely a valid point.
Lyrics — 9
One of the most alluring aspects to HIM for many fans is likely the lyrical content, which has a tendency to explore anything involving death and/or eternal love. The love songs are not just sweet poems, but rather intense blood oaths to whomever the object of affection might be. Venus Doom is full of this untraditional type of love song, with Passion's Killing Floor providing the best example of the band's style. Valo sings, My heart's a graveyard baby; And to evil we make love; On our passion's killing floor; In my arms you won't sleep safely; And of lust we are re-born. There are a lot of people who absolutely adore this intense approach to their lyrics, and HIM is one of the best bands at conveying a simultaneously creepy and seductive message.
Overall Impression — 9
Don't be scared away by the band's declaration that Dante's Inferno is a direct source of inspiration. Sure, that might seem a bit melodramatic and Venus Of Doom probably won't gain the reputation of Dante's poetry, but it is understandable why the comparison was made. There are multiple layers to each song -- whether we're talking about the number of layered vocals or just the number of sections in a track -- and there was obviously a lot of work put into recording the 9 tracks. Venus Doom represents one of the best -- if not the very best -- albums that HIM has released since it's early releases in the '90s. Although the lyrical message may be a bit too over-the-top for your average radio listener, there is obviously an audience that is hanging on Valo's every word. And even if you're not a huge fan of dramatic, gothic rock, HIM is able to present the songs in a way that could potentially have crossover appeal.