Arriving at Rock City tonight I noticed an already growing crowd present for the opener Biters. Formed in 2009 , the US Glam Rockers are signed to Earache Records. Their first EP ‘Electric Blood’ (2015) and their debut album ‘The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be’ (2017) have peaked the interest of Alternative Press, Planet Rock and Classic Rock Magazine; with Nikki Six notably giving them praise.
They gave their all in a tough spot to be in; evidently everyone was there for a nostalgic night of gothic rock bangers and there was no escaping that fact. Memorable ones for me were ‘Stone Cold Love’ (2017), which has all the ingredients for a classic rock song, it’s catchy and seductive. ‘Low Lives in Hi Definition’ was more of a Rock’n’Roll vibe, lead singer Tuk Smith doing his best to get the mostly stationary crowd moving about.
The band sounded like Steel Panther but without the absurd amount of profanities and sexual references. Not quite sure they did it for me but the effort they put in was admirable.
HIM are regarded as one of the most successful alternative Finnish bands of all time, behind Nightwish. In their 26 years active as a band they have released 9 Studio albums. Tonight they played 2 from Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 66 (1997), 4 from Razorblade Romance (2000), 2 from Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights (2001), 4 from Love Metal (2003), 2 from Dark Light (2005), 2 from Venus Doom (2007), 1 from Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice (2010) and 1 from Tears on Tape (2013), with two covers. With subject matter such as love and relationships, intertwined with a darker lyrics about death and abandonment, it’s a reknowned style amongst fans. They announced they were calling it a day in March when Ville stated him and the rest of the band had troubles writing new material.
HIM arrived on stage quite non chalantly; a few blue lights illuminating them walking on and picking up their instruments while chatting in Finnish.
Sporting a sinister grin, Ville jumps straight in with ‘Buried Alive by Love’ (2003), one of the faster songs tonight, the energy picked up. Ville’s carefree body language and attitude is infectious as are the catchy hooks and larger than life riffs. ‘Heartache Every Moment’, a slightly earlier one, is a great one to sing along to. Deep and brooding stuff.
‘The Kiss of Dawn’, again some great riffs here, the pace is slow and deliberately drawn out. It’s songs like this where you realise the power of a HIM chorus is colossal, they captivate and it’s difficult not to get drawn in and loose yourself in your old angsty teenage self. The nostalgia is playing with us in some devastating ways here. ‘Tears on Tape’ (2013), a beautifully crafted song is performed with conviction.
Just when you thought nothing could improve it, the first riff to ‘Wings Of A Butterfly’ (2005) is played and everyone in the room cheers. For me this riff threw me straight back to being 15 again; high school, video games and dyed black hair. The lighting for every song wouldn’t be out of place in a stadium, large flood lights spinning out around the room gave the gig an important feel to it.The overall performance, however, maybe rushed a little. Everyone loved it however and sang it right to the end.
‘Poison Girl’ (2000), essentially a dark break-up song, is again very infectious to listen to around the shiny guitar whines. Ville’s voice is oozing from heartfelt sadness and dripping with remorse. ‘Heartkiller’ (2010), from the album that was written when Ville was sober and in rehab, the song is much less gothic and is more comparable to alternative rock with is faster tempo.
The encore consisted of a Billy Idol ‘Rebel Yell’ cover, the audience loved this one. It’s been covered from many bands worldwide and the song definitely felt like a HIM song given it’s lyrical content. ‘When Love and Death Embrace’ (1997), ended the bands Farewell gig in Nottingham on a high. It’s essentially a dark and eerie song for a hopeless romantic, the drawn out lyrics, chugging away guitar work and the synthy whine in between verses is a band who knew what they were doing very early on in their career.
Infectious from start to end. Goodbye HIM, you’ll live in our teenage memories for years to come.
Review and Photographs: Neale Hayes