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Hartagram Records/Spinefarm Records

January 13

Words by ERIN EDDY

Ville Valo’s name is synonymous with HIM, the iconic gothic rock band he fronted from 1995 until 2017. HIM really peaked in the years when all things emo were embraced and for a short moment in time, alternative aesthetics were the mainstream.

I’ll admit that at that time I was one of the many who were captivated by the sweetly brooding, gothic melancholia that surrounded HIM and Ville Valo. Their music was branded “love metal” and it seemed that for a while, HIM, Valo and the Heartagram symbol were everywhere, helped in part by Jackass star Bam Margera’s infatuation with the band. To this day, HIM remain one of Finland’s most commercially successful bands, despite the fact that they have disbanded.

Then times changed, and for me at least, HIM fell off my radar. Well, with the exception of Spotify ever so occasionally throwing on an old fave, but I certainly didn’t keep up with what HIM or Valo were doing past 2007.

Forward to the present day, and our esteemed editor tasks me with reviewing Neon Noir, Ville Valo’s forthcoming solo album.

Mere minutes into the record and I could feel a warmth of familiarity wash over me and I’m pretty sure a goofy smile spread across my face as it all flooded back to me just why I had enjoyed HIM and Valo’s song writing back in my younger years.

Not a lot has really changed when it comes to the style of Valo’s music. In fact, the man himself told HEAVY in a recent interview “it’s like a HIM album, but it’s played a bit worse, and it sounds more like the 80’s.” He’s on the money about it sounding like HIM, and having 80’s influences, but certainly not about it being played “a bit worse.”

Valo was responsible for playing all the instrumentation on Neon Noir himself. Mostly this came about through necessity, when pandemic related restrictions meant that he was unable to form a new band. But as the primary song writer for HIM throughout the duration of the band’s career, it’s not like this was a new skill Valo had to acquire.

The hints of 80’s goth, new wave and electronica are definitely there. When listening, I couldn’t help but feel Bowie vibes, circa the 1986 film The Labyrinth (side note – best movie EVER), and thought that if a remake of said film were to be produced today, then Neon Noir would be an excellent choice for it’s soundtrack.

Valo’s vocals are as despondently dreamy and mesmerizing as they ever were, and his lyrical styling still paints vivid pictures. There are references to mysticism and folklore that intertwine with the lyrically poetic, gothic romance Valo is a master of. He has always had this beautiful way of crooning such melancholic lyrics, yet shaping them into a sound so full of hope… Or at least portraying the sensation that denotes that even if the world is crumbling around you and the darkness is creeping in, it’s okay, you’re perishing with him, in this dramatic, almost vampiric-love-story fashion. It’s no wonder emo kids became obsessed with this guy. I wasn’t even an emo and he still captivates me and pulls me into this world.

I’ve loved every minute of Neon Noir pulling me back into Valo’s gothic orbit, and I predict that HIM fans will feel the same way. As a nearly-40 year, old gone are the days of proclaiming “I’m not okay” by posting lyrics all over Myspace, so I find Neon Noir a cathartic experience best enjoyed while soaking in a bubble bath and allowing all the sad-gurl feelings to rise to the surface and be what they want to be. What I’m saying is, if you feel like you want to reacquaint yourself with your inner goth-emo, I can’t recommend this album highly enough for you to unashamedly do so. You can indulge when Neon Noir becomes available on the very aptly selected Friday the 13th of January.

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