VV – Neon Noir (alt goth, love metal)
Everyone remembers H.I.M. frontman Ville Valo for his cheekbones and his low-rise jeans (not to mention a certain symbol he came up with...), but what's really worth remembering is just how incredible a singer he is. I've always considered myself a fairly casual H.I.M. fan, but since receiving this promo back at the start of December, I've barely listened to anything since.
There are plenty of emotive crooners out there, but what sets Valo apart is the sheer power he maintains alongside his more sensual delivery. None of the imitators come close—and, believe me, I've been searching. They all either drop off into goth baritone nonsense or get so lost in the softer side of their sound that they lack the forceful passion that comes through so clearly and compellingly in Valo's delivery. I have absolutely no idea what "Echolocate Your Love" is meant to mean, but every time he sings it I am utterly transfixed.
On Neon Noir, Valo wisely does away with the whiny, self-pitying that defined H.I.M.'s later output, harking back to their earlier, darker era. Perhaps the album it has the most in common with is 2001's Deep Shadows And Brilliant Highlights, both in the variety and restraint it displays, but there's also a hints of the brooding ominousness that defined later career highlight Venus Doom (2007), and I'd wager its a more album than either. It's no Love Metal (2004) or Razorblade Romance (1999), but if Neon Noir were a H.I.M. album—and, really, it may as well be—it'd easily rank among the top half of the band's discography. What a band, and what an album.