Love them or hate them, but love metal icon HIM was a staple of not only the Finnish metal scene but also of the European and American scenes as well. Most everybody has heard, at least once, such classics as “Join Me in Death,” “Gone With the Sin,” “The Funeral of Hearts,” “When Love and Death Embrace,” or their cover of “Wicked Game,” and many ladies (and surely a few gentlemen) had, or still have, a crush on the band’s charismatic vocalist, Ville Valo. Mixing melancholy with hard-driven guitars and velvety smooth vocals, the Helsinki-based quintet managed to touch the hearts of millions around the world during their quarter of a century career, which sadly concluded in 2017 with the Bang and Whimper Farewell Tour.
Nonetheless, for the fans, their music remains timeless and they/we can always enjoy their rich and vast discography, from the dark and gloomy debut “Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666” (1997) to the classy and melodic “Tears On Tape” (2013).
Since their first releases revealed a gloomy sound, aggressive yet gentle vocals, love-inspired lyrics, and more than once had the number 666 in their titles, many people quickly labeled HIM as a “satanic band.” But what “satanic band” could sing about love and heartache with so much passion and emotion, as Ville Valo sings on their second full-length album, “Razorblade Romance”?
What makes “Razorblade Romance” such a classic album is the balanced combination of heavy guitar riffs, melodic keyboard soundscapes, candid lyrics, and vulnerable vocals. Shedding the doomy sound of “Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666” and turning the Gothic metal knob up to ten, the eleven tracks that make up “Razorblade Romance” are in equal parts atmospheric and rocking, the reason why many of them were such great live anthems that always ensured a singalong chorus from the audience (case in point: “Poison Girl,” “Right Here in My Arms,” and “Join Me”). With this record, HIM irremediably conquered the European audience, charting in six countries and going double platinum in Finland, triple gold in Germany, and gold in Austria, for the number of copies sold. As Ville Valo said in the Loud Legacy Documentary, “the industry wasn’t expecting that to be such a hit that it was,” but listening to the album now, you get the clear sense of why “the pink one” (to further quote Ville) is not only a fan and critic favorite, but also why it is such a landmark in HIM’s discography and, most importantly, why it’s an album worth exploring 20 years after its release.
As the road to success is not always smooth, after some line-up changes, which saw the band part ways with drummer Pätkä and keyboard player Antto, the initial work done at Finnvox Studios with Hiili Hiilesmaa, for what would have been “Razorblade Romance,” was discarded. With new blood in the band as Gas Lipstick (drums) and Juska (keyboard) joined, HIM started anew at Rockfield Studios in Wales, the UK, under the guiding hand of producer John Fryer. What came out of these recording sessions is an album whose title, “Razorblade Romance,” fits perfectly with the tragic love stories it displays. The many sonic nuances that run through this album – from the delicate emotions of “Bury Me Deep Inside Your Heart,” the bouncy bass melodies of “Heaven Tonight,” the Gothic shades of “Death is in Love With Us,” the rockish energy of the Billy Idol-esque “Right Here in My Arms,” the darker sensitivities of “Gone With the Sin,” the groovy piano melody of “Join Me,” to the doomy undertones of “Razorblade Kiss” – give it so much contrast and dynamism, ultimately making it such an exciting, enjoyable, and relevant album to this day.
Featuring a more polished and refined sound, the main merit of this album is that is revealed a band whose sound wove Finnish melancholy with hooky melodies that bordered on pop music, all wrapped up in an atmosphere that was dark and gloomy but never overbearing, thus pushing HIM into the mainstream scene. Still, there is an underlying pessimism throughout the album, as well as a note of heartbreak that can also be heard on some songs, giving the album depth and texture, while the vocal delivery retains the feel and raw emotions of a live show.
“This was the beginning of our going international; it was dancing on a razor’s edge because we put everything we had into the album and we didn’t know what to expect. It was like playing roulette and hoping for three sixes – and that’s exactly what happened, which is a very rare occurrence. It’s also when the decade of dementia started. Things started happening – fast.”
(Ville Valo for Metal Hammer UK, December 2017)
Breaking the curse of the sophomore album (also known as sophomore slump), teeming with confidence and hungry for success, which didn’t take long to manifest itself, HIM stepped into the new millennium with a stronghold on a music genre that was uniquely their own, spearheaded by a record that showed their strengths and played an all the right emotions. Needless to say, “Razorblade Romance” paved the way for an intense journey into the limelight.
Trivia: Since “Razorblade Romance” also charted in the USA, but the moniker “HIM” was owned by a Chicago jazz fusion band, the Finnish band had to change the name from HIM (His Infernal Majesty) to HER (Her Evil Royalty) for the US release.
Written by Andrea Crow
- I Love You (Prelude To Tragedy)
- Poison Girl
- Join Me In Death
- Right Here In My Arms
- Gone With The Sin
- Razorblade Kiss
- Bury Me Deep Inside Your Heart
- Heaven Tonight
- Death Is In Love With Us
- One Last Time
Ville Valo − lead vocals
Mikko “Linde” Lindström − guitar
Mikko “Mige” Paananen − bass
Jussi-Mikko “Juska” Salminen − keyboards
Lipstick” Karppinen – drums