HIM wears shattered heart on sleeve, wallowing in goth-and-alt-rock-influenced metal

There’s no crying in baseball or heavy metal.

At least that was the case back in the day.

Time was, a metal dude was not supposed to have either of two things:

1) short hair.

2) feelings.

Traditionally speaking, he was only allowed to shed a tear when someone spilled a brew on his Black Sabbath tickets or he was chopping some onions for an energy-restoring omelet after bedding your sister.

Ville Valo didn’t change all that himself, but he did play his part.

The frontman of Finland’s HIM isn’t a straight-up metal singer, per se: HIM’s dark, sensual hard rock is as indebted to moody ’80s goth and melancholy alt-rock as it is any “Headbanger’s Ball” veterans.

But with his romantic, often sentimental lyrics, Valo never shied away from sharing a different, frequently vulnerable side of himself, which few singers of his ilk ever dared to do publicly.

“I always thought that if you have the guts to sing about how heartbroken you are, that makes you way stronger than burning down a church, lyrically speaking,” Valo says from his room at L.A.’s Sunset Marquis on a recent Monday afternoon.

In HIM, Valo favors a dramatic baritone set to hard-driving guitars, resulting in a repertoire that’s visceral, emotional and carnal all at once.

He sounds kind of like a guy who should be inhabiting a castle with a bunch of scantily clad female vampires in a part of Eastern Europe where the sun seldom shines.

For an entry point into what HIM is all about, Valo cites one of the first songs the band ever played together in the early ’90s, their signature, well-traveled cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.”

“The song incorporates the Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison sentimentality and otherworldly melancholy, and then we wanted to spice it up, maybe because we weren’t too sure we could be such a bunch of sissies,” Valo says. “We needed some muscle, some meat around the bone. That’s how we found our comfort zone.”

Two decades later, the self-anointed “love metal” purveyors have developed a loyal cult following that’s nipped at the edges of the mainstream, with the band becoming the first Finnish group to ever earn a gold record in America with the 2004 reissue of its second album, “Razorblade Romance.”

“They’re like horror film fans, which I am, too,” Valo says of HIM devotees. “You know all of your horror films and the collections are ridiculous — nobody else appreciates them. It’s just being nerdy and geeky, this secret little world that you’re able to create for yourself and your friends. That’s why it’s still going on strong.

“For us, when we started out, it was amazing, because we were — and we still are — huge fans of bands like Type O Negative, Paradise Lost, a lot of darker rock bands that had a really cult following,” he continues. “So, I had the T-shirts, I had the patches, I had all the vinyl. For me, that’s the normal way to operate, to hang out in dirty, dingy rock bars and discuss the B-sides of Paradise Lost.”

And so HIM has it both ways: They’re a fairly big rock band but their music always feels more personal than populist.

A lot of this had to do with the sounds that Valo gravitated toward as a kid.

“I was brought up listening to Kiss and Iron Maiden, a lot of hard rock stuff, mostly from the ’80s, but then, on the other hand, my parents loved Emmylou Harris, Neil Young and a lot of Finnish traditional folk singers, and usually that stuff is pretty sentimental and introspective,” he says. “So it has a lot of values that are totally against what ’80s rock and roll was about, like the hair metal, which was just about excess and being as brash and bold as you can be. Those two things, that light and the dark, they both were so important to me musically.”

Still, Valo says that was never about consciously merging these disparate sensibilities.

“It wasn’t like an intellectual process,” he explains, “it was more about just going to the rehearsal place and playing, let’s say a heavy rock song, and saying, ‘Yeah, it’s great, it’s heavy, I want to bang my head, but my heart isn’t beating. I’m not getting emotionally or sensually excited.’ So that’s when we started bringing in the drama and the more melodic aspects.”

In his songs, Valo often comes across as a lovelorn fatalist, the color black incarnate.

In conversation, he’s the opposite of sullen, a swift-talking, animated presence, his voice as bright as his songs are dark.

There’s no disconnect between the two: Because he gives voice to the former, he’s able to be the latter.

“It’s catharsis, getting those demons out, taking the music seriously but not taking the pretenses of the music too seriously,” Valo says. “A lot of the stuff has been done before. In our case, a lot of good musicians have led the way and showed us the opportunity of letting our hearts sing through distorted guitars and guttural ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs.’ ”

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow on Twitter @JasonBracelin.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Buddy V - Sep 21 Confidante
Famous Infinity Mirror Room is open in Las Vegas
Yayoi Kusama's "Aftermath of Obliteration of Infinity" mirror room is open at the Bellagio in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Glittering Lights dazzles Las Vegas
The Glittering Lights holiday display is shining at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Mat Luschek/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Skybar at Waldorf Astoria lets you sip your way through Las Vegas history
Skybar At Waldorf Astoria Lets You Sip Your Way Through Las Vegas History (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stan Lee in Las Vegas for Madame Tussauds unveiling
Stan Lee Las Vegas speaks with the Review-Journal's Chris Lawrence about his love for his fans and shared universes. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ultimate Belgium Waffle Sundae at Lavo
Lavo at the Palazzo serves a 16-scoop ice cream sundae that costs $800. (Rochelle Ricahrds, Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel lLas Vegas Review-Journal)
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"The Lion King" roars into Las Vegas
New music club 172 brings loud luxury to Las Vegas
New music venue at the Rio brings rock ’n’ roll and food together at intimate club. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fans fear for Zak Bagans’ safety in Las Vegas Halloween TV special
Fly Linq zip line time lapse
Fly Linq zip line timelapse
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu (Al Mancini Las Vegas Review-journal)
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center (Janna Karel/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recycled Art and Cute Dogs at Summerlin Festival Of Arts
Recycled Art, Cute Dogs Abound At Summerlin Festival Of Arts (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jason Aldean talks about the possibility of a Las Vegas residency
Country superstar Jason Aldean discusses his feelings about playing in Las Vegas and says he'd be interested in a Las Vegas residency when the time is right at the iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 21, 2018.(John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who To Watch At Life Is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful Setup
Workers preparing Fremont street for this weekend's Life is Beautiful festival, on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The 46th annual Greek Food Festival will feed 25,000 people in Las Vegas
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zia Records Move
Zias Records is moving from its Sahara Avenue and Arville Street location to a bigger store. (Mat Luscheck/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video from Fertitta wedding Sep. 1
video from @wedstagrams of Fertitta wedding at Red Rock Resort
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like