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HIM - XX: Two Decades of Love Metal (The End Records)

By: David E. Gehlke

[8/10] Marketing wizzes, these HIM guys. The "heartagram" was for a time, a rather ubiquitous symbol; adorning gobs of merch, helping the band infiltrate the American mainstream thanks to the "Rip Out the Wings of a Butterfly" video. It's a pretty tasteful logo when you look at it, and one of the rare designs that have actually had commercial impact. Plus, Ville Valo and team are the first (and only) Finnish band to have a Gold Record in North America, a feat that will more than likely never be accomplished again. Good for them...it could have happened to a lot worse bands.

Anyway, XX: Two Decades of Love Metal is a compilation of the band's various hits and top songs, chronicling two decades out front, well in the lead as the top Finnish Gothic rock band. Some have fussed that HIM's sound is simply an extension of countrymen Entwine and Sentenced's and to some degree, there's a thread of truth to that, for all three bands relish in their sort of drooping, quasi-plodding Goth pace. The primary differentiator is that HIM is pop virtually all the time, while the other two (especially the sorely-missed Sentenced) are more metal. Regardless, the 20 songs culled for Two Decades of Love Metal do have the occasional metal moment, most notably early numbers like "Gone With the Sun" and "Join Me in Death," which has a lyric ripped right out from Frozen-era Sentenced.

Valo's soft and supple voice has proven to be quite capable of tugging at the heartstrings of the fishnet stocking crowd, which is probably why the aforementioned "Rip Out the Wings of a Butterfly," radio-friendly "Heartkiller" and cover of Chris Isaac's "Wicked Game" continue to stand pat as the band's bell cows. The tongue-in-cheek "Your Sweet Six Six Six" is playful, while more recent cuts like "Scared to Death" and "The Kiss of Dawn" show off HIM's gracefully refined, partially edgy side.

With a new studio album expected at some point in 2013, XX: Two Decades of Love Metal effectively wraps up the first 20 years of HIM's career. Methinks it would be a stretch for any hard-lined metaller to lap up Valo's syrupy-sweet, wrist-slitted Goth odes, but hey, chicks love these guys and wherever you can find the ladies, you can probably find the dudes.


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