13 August 2013

'Tears on Tape'

After nearly killing myself over a stupid video game, I'm ecstatic that I could cast aside some of the worst thoughts to finally greet my favorite band's new album back in April. I remember greeting Screamworks around Valentine's of 2011 with universe-destroying period cramps that made me leave school early. (Men are so lucky...) When I checked the mail, my massive limited edition purchase sat there and my bloody angry mood crumbled into dust. Not a few hours later, a snow storm came and I had an extra day off to enjoy the awesome music.

This time, similar luck happened. I desperately NEEDED the sweatshirt I got in my preorder for my final art project. And the weekend I come home to get my things for it? Thanks for being a loyal Fangirl, me! ^_^

... But this has nothing to do with the quality of the album at all, does it?

And so, how is HIM's eighth studio album, Tears on Tape?

For one, I love the cover art. It's so bizarre with the lyrics of the chorus to "Tears on Tape" written in cryptic symbols, Malachim to be exact, within the snake. That and the heartagram surrounded by a heptagram and the abstract tiles... Oh, I can squee over this band forever and bore everyone else on the planet!

I'm done gushing... for now. ...Maybe.

... But the drummer is healthy again after that really scary nerve damage in his wrists from repetitive stress! Yay! Thank the superior being(s) he recovered before the band considered breaking up! :D

...Darn it. Shutting up. >.<

Back when I was an amateur blogger, I bashed Screamworks for it having far too many vocals that would drown out the rest of the music. Looking back, it still reigns true, though I could have been FAR more articulate.

Dear Ville, I love you darling, but you are not, were not, and will not ever be Amy Lee. You don't take up a ton of space and snatch credit for everything. Mige adds some hilarity and charm to the interviews you two have together. As much as I love your voice, you let the rest of the guys do their thing so HIM is a band, not just the singer. Thankfully there are a few atmospheric instrumental breaks and plenty of points when it's simply Ville's time to take a smoke and let everyone else do their jobs.

At least Ville unleashes his baritone growl a few times for the first time in a while. ^///_///^

Anywho, I gotta focus.
That old issue is resolved happily. But there's another.

This album is absolute, undeniable proof the guys in HIM are a bunch of music nerds. Why? Because, and I quote: "A good rock album should have one song dedicated to the lord downstairs."

...I thought it was hilarious. They're continuing the tradition that started with "Your Sweet 666". Oh, you guys are so cute!

Seriously, though. For the past four years I've seen and read many interviews where the guys reference all the bands and artists they have looked up to and enjoyed for most of their lives. But good lord, these guys sound like their ripping off of anyone and anything that ever existed... even themselves!

The titular "Tears on Tape" is a heavier, distorted remastering of "Dark Light"; "I'll Be the End of You" is a darker, grittier "I Love You" or "Beyond Redemption" with riffs inspired by "Passion's Killing Floor". "No Love" has a similar awesomely energetic intensity as "Soul on Fire". "Drawn and Quartered" is a far more optimistic and progressive "Cyanide Sun". The musical style of the entire album has the heaviness of Venus Doom, the melodies of Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666, and the complicated - if not more pretentious - lyrics of Love Metal.

As for the music videos? "All Lips Go Blue" is a goofy, black and white clone of "Rip Out the Wings of a Butterfly" with the CGI from "The Kiss of Dawn". "Into the Night" was really awesome when it was once "The Funeral of Hearts". Turn the desert into the far north of Finland, replace bricks with torches, and Presto! another ode of how cruel and sucky love can be sometimes. Only "Tears on Tape", which is one of my absolute favorite tracks, was interesting... until it had the mood and images of cityscapes reminiscent of "Scared to Death." But at least with everyone writing in Malachim in a manner similar to when I used to doodle heartagrams all over my things, I can appreciate the different approach they took here. (...shut up. I know I'm obsessed... XP)

Fans who bitched for years about them selling out since they made it to the US... I hope some of you are happy. This album sounds more like Love Metal... only gruffer and more recycled. Either they felt like doing it for old time's sake after twenty years of making music, or they're out of ideas and bored as hell.

Seriously, though. If any fan of gothic metal hears "W.L.S.T.D." and does not think Type O Negative... please seek enroll in an online course via Youtube, Groovehsark, or Pandora and re-educate yourself. Meanwhile, I'll sit back, happy that this is one of - if not the only time - I heard any trace of TON's influence on the band. At least HIM made a tribute to them after Pete Steele's unfortunate death three years ago.

To their credit, it's pretty awesome that Tears on Tape is available as a vinyl record. If only I had a turntable, I would sure as hell buy the thing and hear a non-digital version of these songs. There are various distorted sounds that would probably sound so much better in analog. A shame I can't experience it myself. Still, the album still sounds fine... to my digitally-influenced ear. But I know "Kiss the Void" would sound so much better in analog.

But there is a bit more "fuzzy" distortion than usual. The boys joked in an interview that their hearing is going bad so they play music as loud as possible, even if it turned out to be a jumbled mess than needed to be fixed later. It's not too bad here, since their last album had clean, polished pop production in contrast. Playing more aggressive and gritty rock helps keep the balance in this band's very, very odd library with their tendency to change their sound on each album.

As much as it sounds like I'm bitching, I still enjoy this album. It's still too darn soon to put it as one of their best, but it has some lasting value. I do get some hints that they are energetic enough musically to go on for a while longer. But lyrically is where I'm starting to see some problems.

The guys in HIM were always geeking out about Black Sabbath, Iggy Pop, Led Zepplin, and many other random 70s or 80s rock, metal, or pop act that they love. They always joked about getting ideas from them, re-vamping and emulating to the best of their ability, even if they get made fun of. I guess it never dawned on me as quickly and obviously as it did here. Even still, I always find one or two songs that catch me off guard and I look forward to whatever else these five men have in store next time. That's where HIM shines to me. The kind of songs they make are predictable, but how they pull it off always surprises me.

Lyrically? It's hit or miss in the sense that sometimes it's kind of clever and plays off lyrics of another random band they look up to, or it's so cheesy to being downright adorkable. Most times Ville's singing can make me forget how corny his lyrics can be, sometimes not... but I didn't complain too much. Now? Things seem a bit... stale. It's reaching the point that I can cross-reference lyrics in one song to an entire album or another song entirely. "Into the Night" made me instantly think of Razorblade Romance. Why? "Lading you two from the sharpened razor blades": then cue the "razor blade" echo. "Love without Tears" reminded me of "Dying Song"... by name dropping it and sharing the tone of desperation.

I'm probably thinking too much into this.

To be honest, this seems like the new Love Metal. The compilation of what they've done in the past. The album that gives you a dose of what they're like as a whole if you can only afford one CD. It's not as energetic and upbeat, but the melancholy doesn't flirt with doom metal levels of torment like Venus Doom stumbled into occasionally. On the other hand, I don't see radios playing these songs occasionally or even once in a blue moon. The music is stuck in the middle of what can be considered pop and what's obscure. HIM was always trapped in that awkward place, so in the end, I think the boys were being true to themselves.

Old fans, this might satisfy. I think it's the best gap between their newer and older stuff. I know some are still bitter about the jump between Love Metal and Dark Light, but I think this connects the two decently.

Casual music listeners? Eh, sure, why not? Since the pop charts have been really, really terrible lately, you might as well try something different for the sake of finding a pulse somewhere.

4.5 out of 5

... Well, I have to reconsider what's my favorite HIM album. Dang it. I LOVE THEM ALL!!!!!! *sobs*

1 comment:

Rod Hill said...

Nice read. By the way, you'll need an amp to go with that turntable for the vinyl experience...

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