HIM: Screamworks

[Snowed in this morning. Bleh. Out of sheer boredom I decided to review an album that recently came out that I haven’t heard and previously had no intention of hearing. Thanks to an advertisement, that album was HIM’s Screamworks. A disclaimer: I’ve never actually heard a whole HIM album until this point, so just play it safe and assume I’m just making assumptions.]

I think someone told me once that HIM were a metal band, and I was foolish enough to believe them. That was a long time ago, of course. That was back when all the hype was built up from CKY, Jackass, and the Viva La Bam spinoff had Bam Margera hanging out with HIM frontman Ville Valo and throwing heartagrams all over the damn place. I finally heard their music and it didn’t leave any lasting impression on me in the slightest. World moves on and I don’t particularly care.

So today I found myself listening to HIM’s Screamworks: Love In Theory In Practice. To be honest, I set out with the expectations (and maybe the intention?) of absolutely hating this album. I was surprised be the results of the experiment and we can accept our null hypothesis. It doesn’t actually suck.

It’s completely obvious that HIM are becoming Americanized, making themselves out as a powerpop band like Bon Jovi rather than anything approaching metal. It’s definitely more upbeat than what I expected. Every now and then I’ll catch myself tapping my foot or nodding my head to the music. There also seems to be this dichotomy to HIM’s sound; sometimes the lyrics sound like they shouldn’t be sang in a song that sounds this upbeat and poppy. But I guess it works. I’m sure HIM had it’s share of depressing songs. It’s time to be optimistic.

Valo’s range is pretty good, as far as other singers in this genre are concerned. The screams are very few and far between, just as you’d expect from a radio rock band. The singing is just great. He knows what he’s doing with the melody. Musically, there’s more to be desired. Every now and then there will be a moment where guitarist Mikko Lindström gives a middle finger to the homophonic pop sound of backing Valo’s vocal melodies with chords and decides to write some good and memorable riffs that stick out as their own being rather than just accompaniment, as on “Ode To Solitude” and “Like St. Valentine”. There’s some good solos every now and then, but nothing that really shows off any sort of special talent. The syth is fairly simple as well and provides some extra texture to the sound. But this is pop music. It’s simplistic by design. Either that, or they just got lazy. I wouldn’t be surprised either way.

Another gripe I have is that the album, to me, feels like it’s just a mere collection of songs and it’s closing in “The Foreboding Sense of Impending Happiness” doesn’t satisfy me as much as it wants to. But somehow this album is catchy in the worst kind of way, in that I want to hate it because it is what it is, but I can’t. The catchy melodies and hooks do exactly what they’re supposed to do.

I set out on hating this album, but… I like it? Dear God, what have I done?

HIM’s Screamworks gets…

3/5

– JR

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