Ville Valo at the Royal Albert Hall: “Whatever he does next will need to be special to upstage this”

The former Him lynchpin brings his VV project to a graceful close at London’s most prestigious music venue

Ville Valo onstage in 2024
(Image: © Chiaki Nozu/WireImage)

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You couldn’t ask for a fancier funeral than this. Ville Valo’s VV venture effectively died its death last September, when the ex-Him leader announced he’d be doing just one more tour under the moniker before passing into new musical planes. That final run crescendos tonight, amid the Italianate splendour of the Royal Albert Hall, which will soon be filled with the sound of gothic love songs.

Before that, though, it’s ZETRA who welcome tonight’s largely black-clad crowd. The UK synth-rock duo haven’t even released an album yet, but they’ve already signed to heavyweight label Nuclear Blast (home of Nightwish, Machine Head and Sabaton) and toured with a plethora of stars. The pair prove that they’ve earned such support using songs like Call Of The Void, which channel the moody yet melodic stylings of The Cure through an electronic filter. They look as striking as they sound, as well, face-painted and barefoot with a vortex-like backdrop. Factor in a subdued guest spot from Svalbard screamer Serena Cherry and the end result is a hypnotic half-hour.

EIVØR is similarly immersive, albeit for opposite reasons. The Faroese songstress deals less in tight-knit compositions than she does pure, arresting atmosphere. Her pulsing electronica, tribal percussion and ambient strings give this solo act more in common with Wardruna and latter-day Myrkur than goth metal, but she seizes the Albert Hall’s attention regardless. Eivør’s voice, as powerful as it is elegant, swells among the organs and balusters. Meanwhile, she switches from the guitar to the bodhrán between songs, impressively bridging Scandinavian folk with modern-day sounds. It’s such a stunning display that, after the singer closes by announcing she’ll return to the UK this October, she’ll more than likely see several of the faces here for a second time.

When Metal Hammer recently interviewed VILLE VALO about this very show, he said his set would be a no-frills affair to let the Albert Hall do the dazzling for him. Indeed, the Finnish goth idol and his VV bandmates are backed only by some lights, a disco ball and a looming Heartagram sculpture as they emerge. But – when you’re here, marking the bittersweet end of an era with a canon of songs as rich as this frontman’s – that’s more than enough.

Ville barely says a word throughout these 90 minutes, instead torrenting through a series of modern goth classics and material from 2023 album Neon Noir that’s sturdy enough to stand alongside them. Right Here In My Arms and Rip Out The Wings Of A Butterfly are early crowd-pleasers, the audience shredding their vocal cords as Ville stays perched at the front of the stage, all smiles. This swan song set for the VV era also highlights the range of the vocalist’s career, recent ballad Loveletting swiftly getting juxtaposed by the hammer-headed riffing of Him’s Buried Alive By Love.

The apex of the emotion is saved for the encore, which begins with a lovelorn Gone With The Sin (“Oooooo, my baby, how beautiful you are”) and finishes with the always-evocative When Love And Death Embrace. The Him favourite inspires the entire auditorium to lift their phones while the stage’s spotlights shine on the disco ball, illuminating every nook of this evening’s spectacular venue. Ville departs with an understated speech, thanking his fans for “letting me be a middle-aged man singing about love and death”, before marching away into the unknown. The black-hearted romantic will return, but whatever he does next will need to be fucking special to upstage this.

Ville Valo setlist: Royal Albert Hall, London – May 10, 2024

Neon Noir
Right Here In My Arms
Run Away From The Sun
Rip Out The Wings Of A Butterfly
Salute The Sanguine
The Kiss Of Dawn
Buried Alive By Love
Heartful Of Ghosts
Join Me In Death
The Foreverlost
The Funeral Of Hearts
Echolocate Your Love
Poison Girl
Saturnine Saturnalia

Gone With The Sin
In Trenodia
Killing Loneliness
Baby Lacrimarium
When Love And Death Embrace

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.