As clearly implied by the title, this double set celebrates twenty years of the band and will undoubtedly put Ville Valo and his crew back in the spotlight ahead of their new album due in 2013, but beyond that, the exact purpose of XX is unclear.
To who is XX pitched? HIM isn’t a band for dabbling in; their fans are devout to the point of obsession and are certain to have nineteen of the twenty featured tracks already. They may be tempted by the one new song on offer – “Strange World” – but with the option of downloading, there is little incentive for them to buy the entire album.
At the other extreme, those unimpressed by HIM thus far are unlikely to have their opinion swayed by twenty songs in the same place. Of course, there may be a few wavering in the middle ground and some young bucks discovering the band for the first time, but as a product, XX has limited appeal.
The saving grace, however, is the music itself and perhaps that’s exactly as it should be. For a few golden years around the turn of the millennium, HIM were fan favorites and media darlings. Sinister, yet more accessible than the likes of Type O and Manson, songs from that era like "The Funeral Of Hearts,” “Buried Alive By Love” and the Chris Issak cover “Wicked Game” might be soft rock in gothic clothing, but they bristle with a brooding melancholy intensified rather dimmed by the passage of time.
If HIM can capture a fraction of that vigor on their upcoming album, we could once again be listening to the great band that has sadly lost its way over the last few years.
The question marks around exactly who will buy XX remain, but the hope has to be that Ville is back on his game, because based on these twenty songs, HIM is capable of magnificence and it’s too early for a swan song.
(released November 6, 2012 on The End Records)