What better day to go see Finnish love-metallers, HIM than on Hallowe’en? Exactly. That’s why we sent Catherine Morris, our resident Finnophile along to Koko to review…
6 things we learnt watching HIM in Camden
1) HIM are back at the top of their game. The Finns have gone from strength to strength since their rather tentative first show of the year at Helsinki’s Helldone Festival and a more confident performance at Download this summer. This evening’s Hallowe’en show is easily their best of 2013. Playing to a sold out KOKO, the boys appear without much fanfare against a backdrop of the iconic Heartgram and the ominous tones of album intro ‘Unleash the Red’ before launching straight into ‘All Lips Go Blue’, an up-tempo, danceable opener with an infectious, Ronettes-style refrain of “blue-ooh, blue-ooh, blue-ooh”. Lovely.
2) Ville Valo appears to be more at ease than ever on stage, beaming down at rows upon rows of fans in skeleton onesies, birds’ nest hair and ghostly pale faces – as well the ones that came in costume [groan, sorry] – goofing around with the microphone and looking overjoyed every time the audience screams his lyrics back at him. As usual, he says little in-between the songs, except to sing a little bit of ‘This Is Halloween’ from The Nightmare Before Christmas, to squeals of delight as everyone’s teenage gothic dreams come true. When he does start to speak more, he interrupts his own train of thought in that typically self-deprecating Finnish manner, declaring that he’ll just let the music do the talking instead.
3) Guitarist Linde Lindström gives good riff. At their core, HIM are simply a supremely talented bunch of metal musicians, and tonight they prove as much by indulging the audience in a lengthy but seriously cool psychedelic interlude in the middle of ‘The Kiss of Dawn’. It’s a welcome diversion from what’s otherwise a pretty standard, all-killer-no-filler setlist that hasn’t changed for a while – you can’t win ‘em all – ‘Buried Alive By Love’, ‘Join Me In Death’ and ‘The Funeral of Hearts’ are all in there, of course.
4) ‘Wicked Game’ works brilliantly as part of a doom mash-up. No, really. During their version of the Chris Isaak track, which was one of the first songs they became well known for in Europe, the boys unexpectedly incorporate the crushing main riff from Tears On Tape track ‘W.L.S.T.D.’, and it’s bloody amazing. As someone who had been hoping to hear the song in full, this is a stroke of genius and more than makes up for its absence.
5) The appeal of HIM’s music – at least, to those who don’t just see a piece of man candy channelling their collective angst in a bunch of pretty songs – is their marriage of romance and riffs as heavy as the brooding singer’s heart, which translates to something kind of like Sabbath fronted by Roy Orbison, especially on tracks from Tears On Tape. Ville picks up his guitar several times, one of which is to perform the album’s gorgeous, anthemic album track, which is essentially a power ballad that everyone sings along and gets a little bit weepy to. Awww.
6) HIM freaking love mirror balls. By the time the band have returned to the stage for their encore, the atmosphere inside the opulent KOKO is that of a really gloomy school disco. But it’s perfect for mournful closing track ‘When Love And Death Embrace’, from the band’s first full-length record Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666, and ends the night on a bittersweet, nostalgia-tinged note. While they’ve come a long way since those days, they’re still undeniably HIM, and undeniably a fantastic live band.