Wow. It’s FINALLY here. I’ve been waiting for four years almost to the day to cram new rock into my earholes from my favourite band, HIM. Their latest effort, TEARS ON TAPE, is an out and out fantastic tour through time that borrows a bit from everything the band has previously recorded and rolls into one supremely coherent and fun sounding record. The band has obviously learned something each time they’ve released a new record and this one almost feels like the culmination of a lifetime of experimentation. It’s very clear right from the beginning that the frontman and chief songwriter, Ville Valo, was drawing influences from a multitude of other artists and previous work but none of the sounds seem “ripped off” even the slightest bit. Everything that the band does seems new and different somehow and I was delighted to discover a wide range of musical influences that were in a constant state of flux as the record progressed.
I will not say that this is my all time favourite HIM record (that honour goes to 2004′s DARK LIGHT) but TEARS ON TAPE is extremely well put together. The opening song (after a short instrumental prelude) is also one of their first singles, “All Lips Go Blue,” does a really good job taking the listener back to the beginning. The fast deep driving guitar reminds me a lot of some of the work on RAZORBLADE ROMANCE. There’s very clearly an influx of Billy Idol involved here as some of Valo’s lyrics feel a BIT 80′s pop/rock but certainly not in a bad way. Let’s face it: who doesn’t love a little “Rebel Yell” on their drive home after a long day? The guitar layering is particularly strong througout the entire record which allows the band to play up sounds from keyboardist Emerson Burton and bassist Migé Amour in a way we haven’t heard since DARK LIGHT or even before in DEEP SHADOWS AND BRILLIANT HIGHLIGHTS.
I think my favourite aspect of this album, though, has to be the variety of sounds we get while still keeping with a coherent record. One song you might have a particularly strong Black Sabbath-esque guitar sound and the next you might have a softer, almost acoustic, Neil Diamond riff. Valo makes frequent use of instrumental interludes over the course of this record to tie everything together. What’s interesting about this is, unlike many other records, it doesn’t make the record feel disjointed. On the contrary, the interludes fit right into the overall “story” of the record as a whole. Of late, the only other band I can think of that has been successful with this on any level is Sixx:A.M. and frankly theirs served a somewhat different purpose.
I’ve yet to meet a HIM song that I honestly don’t care for but there WAS a few problems with this record. First of all on the song “Drawn and Quartered,” the mixing seems a bit off. Throughout the entire song, there’s a weird gurgling effect that makes everything sound like it’s coming from under water. I thought for a minute that it might have been caused by a side-effect of listening on vinyl record (already, several of the songs had skipped) but when I played it back via an internet link, it seemed to do the same thing. The same holds true for the ordering of the tracks. Earlier, I said that the album is sort of a HIM retrospective but it doesn’t go in order. It starts off with sounds from early records like RAZORBLADE ROMANCE but shortly skips to SCREAMWORKS and goes back to LOVE METAL towards the end of the record. That’s certainly not a bad thing considering that most of the time when I’m listening to HIM, it comes up on iTunes random and all the songs are REALLY well composed but listening to the record as a coherent whole is a bit jarring when the songs don’t line up the way you want them to. On the whole, TEARS ON TAPE is an excellent example of how HIM works as a band and how enjoyable their recordings are. I’m excited to see more from HIM in the future and we’ll catch up with them on tour soon! I give this album 4 heartagrams out of 5 and I’m off to go give it another listen!