Tears On Tape - HIM

For better or worse, HIM has embraced their identity as pop metal archangels for the "Twilight" demographic. For the band to turn back to their duskier roots when they still called themselves His Infernal Majesty would end up spelling their demise at this point. HIM hit an accessible course of no return as of their second album "Razorblade Romance", even if the foundations were laid within their debut full-length, "Greatest Lovesongs, Vol. 666".

For all intents and purposes, HIM has become a de facto BON JOVI type of scapegoat for the modern metal era, glommed onto by a predominant female crowd and reviled largely by agro males. Of course, there's a lot more Goth and a fair bit of crunch to HIM's wanton "love metal", negating them from living on any prayers, unless the alms are paid at the altar of Eros, naturally.

On their eighth album "Tears On Tape", the Finnish power libertines stick to course in their first outing for Razor & Tie. With ailing drummer Gas finally on the mend, HIM gets back into rawk-serenade mode, which, of course, means a lot of harmony-driven bubblegum metal for a pierced and tattooed clique of vamp worshipers. HIM would've easily been able to groove behind "The Lost Boys" or "Near Dark" an eternity ago, much less the "Twilight" saga today, the latter of which has thrown them over for MUSE and PARAMORE on their would-be hipster soundtracks.

HIM sells more hooks than a blue light special at Bass Pro Shops, that's a given. At their best (i.e. "Love Metal", "Venus Doom" and "The Sacrament"), HIM are more than a guilty pleasure. Redundancy has been their main nemesis, however, not that it's hurt them in the sales department. HIM knows how to please their audience and "Tears On Tape", while a tad overambitious at times with some offsetting interludes, is another crowd pleaser for those branded by heartagrams and pining to be gone with the sin.

Kicking off the album with a throwback Eighties synth haunt, "Unleash the Red", that harkens the scores behind Dario Argento and Don Coscarelli horror jaunts, HIM shifts straight into their expected schemes with the driving and wallowing "All Lips Go Blue". Lothario supreme Ville Valo shifts his altos and sopranos and he drips into deeper valves of his range, all intended to seduce more than persuade. He heaves and pants melodrama in between his more controlled parts on the sweaty "I Will Be the End of You" while wrangling all of his pitches on the title cut as an homage to his favorite crooners of the Fifties and Sixties.

If there's any real fault to "Tears On Tape", it's a general predictability that's an easy sell for the band's core fans and a likewise easy shrug-off to others who'd just as soon run like hell for the nearest NILE album. The stamping and clapping accompaniment to the rowdy opening of "Into the Night" quickly gives way to a settled pop groove with repeats of the same chord patterns and Ville Valo's ornate impressions of Chris Isaak on the choruses. Theme later resurrected on "Drawn and Quartered". "Hearts at War" gives listeners hope a fleeting grab of "Too Fast For Love"-era MOTLEY CRUE on the intro riffs will send HIM onto a novel tangent, but tried and true ultimately reigns again.

Only the meaty "W.L.S.T.D.". gets out of the band's prototypes, but that doesn't mean HIM won't throw in the sugar amidst the sludge in this case. The random instrumental interjections scattered throughout "Tears On Tape" are about the only real stylistic changeups for this round. "Lucifer's Chorale" and "Kiss the Void" go against the grain and they pull this album into danker, noisome regions their primary audience is likely unaccustomed to. At least the atmospheric "Unleash the Red" and "Trapped in Autumn" serve the album's overall throb.

Dig it or veto it, "Tears On Tape" accomplishes what it sets out to do, which is to once again rally a neo-gen love train and keep it rolling with mythical stopovers at barren abbey ruins and centuries-old sepulchers, cocktails for the ride consisting of absinthe. All customized by chugging riffs, steady rhythms and a maudlin mack daddy inviting consummation of love eternal upon a bed of black rose petals. Nick Cave he's not, but Ville Valo has his shadowy shtick down to his own fine art and "Tears On Tape" pays guaranteed dividends to those who can't get enough melodic melancholy in their lives.

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