Finland’s finest purveyors of lovelorn, doom-laden rock‘n’roll, HIM were a unique proposition – sort of like Black Sabbath fronted by Roy Orbison. When the love metal pioneers announced in 2017 they were they were calling it a day, they left a million hearts shattered.
Fast forward just over five years, and metal’s most romantic frontman, self-professed “drama king” Ville Valo returned to drop his much-anticipated debut solo album, Neon Noir. What better time, then, to ruminate on his old band’s glorious career? We’ve revisited Him’s discography to definitively rank their albums from worst to best.
8. Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice, Chapters 1-13 (2010)
HIM’s seventh studio album, Screamworks received a lukewarm response from fans and critics. In hindsight, maybe its only real sins are an overly long title and being too radio-friendly, having had all the metal beaten out of it by pop-punk producer Matt Squire in favour of keys and synths. Songs like the gorgeous Disarm Me (With Your Loneliness) and the angsty Shatter Me With Hope are its standouts, but were ultimately let down by the mix, which Ville himself has previously described as being “too much like American rock”.
7. Tears on Tape (2013)
After Screamworks, the band recruited long-time producer Tim Palmer once again on what would be their swansong. Tears On Tape has a uniquely, satisfyingly HIM sound that encompasses all their influences: everything from the big, chunky riffs present on W.L.S.T.D. (a welcome tip of the hat to Venus Doom), to the Ronettes-style handclaps on the infectious All Lips Go Blue. Like its predecessor, there are plenty of great songs on here; the title track is a big, heartfelt power ballad that worked perfectly as a single, but with four of the thirteen tracks being noodley instrumental interludes, it wasn’t exactly all-killer.
6. Venus Doom (2007)
Venus Doom represents a bittersweet moment in HIM’s career. Drawing on their love of Black Sabbath to produce a record that’s easily one of their heaviest, the album that got them their first Grammy nomination also came at a tumultuous time in Ville’s personal life. Showcasing more guitar-heavy songs like the monolithic Sleepwalking Past Hope, The Kiss of Dawn and Bleed Well, the record was nevertheless mired in the pain of ythe singer’s physical and mental health battles as he struggled with heartbreak and addiction. There’s beauty in the darkness, but it was a sharp swing in a different direction from Dark Light, which is maybe why fans are divided on this one.
5. Deep Shadows And Brilliant Highlights (2001)
By the time HIM came to make their third record, they had a lot to live up to – and it shows. With its moody and striking beautiful black and white cover photo, Deep Shadows… bore fan favourites such as In Joy And Sorrow – a sweet, HIMified interpretation of wedding vows, with its music video an ode to black eyeliner – and the sweeping, melodramatic Heartache Every Moment, with lyrics like “From lashes to ashes and from lust to dust” that were just begging to be scrawled on teenage arms. Widely regarded as suffering from overproduction and too many cooks in the kitchen, most of the record’s heavy hitters are in the first half, but it’s still worth delving into.
4. Greatest Lovesongs, Vol. 666 (1997)
The band’s debut album, Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666 is essentially a love letter to their goth heroes Type O Negative and remains one of their heaviest to date, with a hefty dose of Satanic rock ‘n’ roll symbolism in song titles like Your Sweet Six Six Six and Our Diabolikal Rapture (their poor mothers!). Plus, it gave us a metal version of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game that astonishingly managed to be as seductive as the original, as well as the stunning When Love And Death Embrace – one of their best-loved songs and a favourite set closer, with Moog synthesizer wails as its refrain and a buttery vocal performance from young Ville. Other highlights include his signature demonic baritone in the chorus of It’s All Tears (Drown In This Love) and a cover of Blue Oyster Cult’s (Don’t Fear) The Reaper.
3. Dark Light (2005)
Dark Light sent HIM into the stratosphere – with a slick, glossy production that still kept their Finnish melancholy firmly intact and the addictive chorus melody of (Rip Out The) Wings Of A Butterfly, the album secured them top spots in album charts worldwide as well as a gold record in the USA. On the band’s fifth record they managed to get the balance just right: creating songs that were sufficiently accessible and pop-rock-adjacent to hit the airwaves, while maintaining their sense of weirdness and giving a knowing nod to their eclectic influences. Endorsement from a certain Bam Margera in the States certainly didn’t hurt, but writing songs like the brilliant Killing Loneliness, with its simplistic yet haunting riff, is ultimately what got them their much-deserved success overseas.
2. Love Metal (2003)
An audacious and career-defining moment came with the band’s fourth album Love Metal, a record that told the world exactly who HIM were and cemented the phrase “love metal” in the rock ‘n’ roll lexicon to forever be associated with one band, and one band only. The title, along with its impactful cover art of the Heartagram sigil against a black background, made Love Metal a real statement record, and the calibre of songs from beginning to end make it an enduring favourite. The rawness of Soul On Fire and immediacy of opener Buried Alive By Love gave it an energy that was lacking on Deep Shadows… while The Sacrament is the album’s sweeping cinematic moment. And if the opening intake of breath on The Funeral Of Hearts doesn’t make your hairs stand on end a little, you might actually be made of stone.
1. Razorblade Romance (2000)
Yep, you probably knew where we were going with this, but Razorblade Romance is still widely regarded as their best work for a myriad of reasons. The iconic hot pink album cover with the angular, androgynous and bare-chested Ville staring defiantly out with a lit cigarette and bone structure that would send hearts and other organs a-flutter; the unabashedly romantic lyrics of their own ode to Romeo and Juliet’s predicament, Join Me In Death; the heady psychedelic swoon of Gone With The Sin.
Their affinity for an irresistibly poppy chorus amidst the swathes of goth metal shines through on the earworm choruses of Right Here In My Arms and Poison Girl, and quite rightly, the record went to number one in multiple countries, including Finland, for the first time. The definitive HIM record, Razorblade Romance is an irresistible slice of late 90s goth romanticism that’s truly stood the test of time.