Three years in the making, Tears On Tape oozes melody, memorable hooks and the perfect hybrid of rock and Depeche Mode pop sensibilities. In 2012 drummer Gas sustained a hand injury and was unable to play. During the down time, vocalist and main composer Ville Valo worked for eight months writing the material on an acoustic guitar and working out the melodies. The results are the most complete set of songs since 2005s Dark Light.
HIM are able to create songs that are insanely catchy and unforgettable. Their last two releases seemed to be missing this unique quality and both releases fell flat. This time around the band put the melodies and songwriting first instead of trying to be heavier and something they are not. They concentrate on the band's strengths and it is to their benefit.
The title track is melancholic and addictive. Inspired from '50s and '60s harmonies, the chorus is one of the best of Valo’s career. An ode to his favorite songs that inspired him when he was younger, he does an admirable job of evoking an emotional vocal line. A haunting piano creates the perfect atmosphere and just the right backdrop for the vocals.
The simple driving riff of “Into the Night” works perfectly in HIM’s hands. The chorus is Valo at his most tender and once again is pop perfection, another throwback to the vocal lines of the doo-wop era, in particular Roy Orbison. Valo’s falsetto vocals are flawless and once again show the singer at the top of his game. This song is in HIM’s wheelhouse and should be a fan favorite.
The production is handled once again by longtime collaborator Hiili Hiilesmaa. Highly acclaimed producer Tim Palmer, who has worked with Ozzy Osbourne and Pearl Jam, handles the mix. The production enhances the band's sound and pushes the vocals out front where they belong. Not overly compressed, the record has room to breath, which helps the dynamics stand out.
Out of the thirteen songs on the record, four of them are interludes that try and create segues between the songs, but they fall flat. The album would have been better served with the nine actual compositions. The songs are all incredibly strong and there is no need to break up the flow. It hinders the listen and serves more as a distraction.
Are HIM metal? Who knows and who cares? They should be judged on the merits of what they are trying to accomplish and that is writing a catchy simple tune. They succeed with what they are trying to achieve and write some of the best pop metal songs on the scene today. Tears On Tape is a return to the glory days of the band and longtime fans should be pleased with the results. It's a great rebound and a release that has put a band back on the right path.
(Released April 30, 2013 on Razor & Tie Records)