H.I.M.: Love Metal

Lance Teegarden

His Infernal Majesty spreads gothic wings over the U.S. masses.


Love Metal

Label: Universal
US Release Date: 2005-02-01
UK Release Date: 2003-04-14
Amazon affiliate

Ten equally concise, irony-free, gothic-rock mini epics make up H.I.M.'s (His Infernal Majesty) Love Metal, a commercial rock record that finds the popular Finnish quartet fine-tuning their sound almost to the point of formula and redundancy. But songs as grand as "The Funeral Of Hearts", "Beyond Redemption", or "The Sacrament" trample this petty complaint: they bristle with swooning pop hooks, a heavy yet harmonic sound, laments about love, death, and forgiveness (if not much else), and an assured sense of songcraft. If you can get past the "heartagram" adorning the front cover of this album, there is a lot to like about Love Metal.

One of only a few hard-rock acts to have mainstream success outside their native Scandinavia (I'm told they are huge in Germany), the band has been a guilty pleasure of mine for many years. Finally landing stateside almost two years after its original release, this album stands as an amalgamation of the band's previous three records. Metal fans may snicker at the band's yearningly romantic lyrics, and may be turned off by this record's loftier gothic rock aspirations, but it's hard not to admire a record so keenly aware of its own strengths.

Throughout Love Metal there is a reliance on "quiet-loud-quiet-loud" dynamics and standard pop-metal balladry, but H.I.M. avoids cliché by filling the record with a number of inspired industrial production "tricks" and instrumental flourishes that add, rather than distract, from the record's overall pull. Aforementioned "The Funeral Of Hearts" finds lead singer Ville Valo extolling the virtues and pitfalls of love before the band kicks in behind him, rescinds, and then kicks back in again. It might be formula but it works, in large part because Valo is able to communicate the same urgency and sense of drama in his vocal delivery as the band does in backing him. Without this, some of the more portentous aspects of the band's material would fall flat on its face.

The record ranges stylistically from the atmospheric "Circle of Fear" to dirges like the opening "Buried Alive By Love," and "Endless Dark" without really a misstep. Piano and a driving rhythm section make aforementioned "The Sacrament" another standout, and a memorable chorus anchors "Soul On Fire." This is just a strong bunch of songs, perfectly sequenced, with only "This Fortress Of Tears" and "The Path" standing out as too middle-of-the-road. The rest of the record kicks and spurns to lesser effect, but it's still affecting. The record repeats its tricks over and over again but it never gets tired, like successful variations on a well-worn theme.

Still, H.I.M. is not the sort of act that conjures up a lukewarm response. People either like them or discredit them outright, it seems. Their records are hard to find here, import or otherwise, and their discography is fun to read, a jigsaw puzzle of jumbled release dates. (Another belated U.S. release, this time for second album Razorblade Romance, had the moniker "H.E.R." attached to it instead of "H.I.M." because of another band with the same name.)

This will certainly change as they've recently signed to Sire Records, who will give them worldwide distribution, and are currently recording their debut for the label. A former manager of Hanoi Rocks -- another Finnish export -- also manages them. You can draw your own conclusions, but this is a band primed to break the piggy bank, and no one is doing the whole gothic rock thing as convincingly as H.I.M. are right now.







A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.


Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.


HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.


Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.


Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.


'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.


'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.


Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.


DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.


JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.


​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.


Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times


Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.


How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.


Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.


Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.