28th October 2013
Finnish gothic rock band HIM visited the Guildhall in Southampton a couple of weeks ago. Louder Than War’s Nick Holmes was amongst the audience, as was photographer Tess Donohoe who took all the photos on this page.
Finnish band HIM has become very familiar to me over the past decade – the result of being close to someone who is a very enthusiastic admirer of the thin white duke from the North, Ville Valo (see pic below). The first encounter was almost exactly ten years ago just along the coast at Portsmouth on a chilly winter’s night. During those years Valo and his colleagues, who collectively form HIM, have issued four albums, a couple of greatest hits compilations and have also had a go at cracking the USA. The most recent effort, “Tears On Tape”, was issued earlier this year and fell somewhere between the Black Sabbath-y dirges of 2007’s “Venus Doom” and the pop hooks of “Screamworks: Love In Theory & Practice” released three years later.
At the many HIM shows witnessed it has been a clear habit to pick rather good support bands, ranging from Welsh ragga metal outfit Skindred to Californian angsty goths Dommin. This tour was no exception. The audience at first seemed slightly bemused by American post-rock group Caspian (see pic below). A gentle melody at the start of “The Raven” tinkled sweetly before a steady wall of sound built and filled the hall, kicking off a set of truly stunning instrumental songs. It was quite possibly the most beautiful noise that echoed round this cavernous building since Sigur Ros played here on the “Takk” tour in 2006. Yes they really are that good. 9/10
By the time HIM took the stage it was apparent that either Southampton students and rockers are particularly skint or maybe the band’s popularity is not what it once was. The venue was just about half full but the performance was far from empty. Valo gave up alcohol a few years back and now is reported to be dabbling with it once more, but it does not appear to be doing much harm. In fact, he demonstrated self-assuredness and new-found confidence with a guitar on stage. Previously he did the occasional acoustic number as a solo spot, but now he plays alongside lead guitarist Linde on several songs. The rest of the band were also on top form. Drummer Gas, who suffered near career-ending problems with repetitive strain injury not long ago, was firing on all cylinders and newly-shorn bass player Mige rumbled off basslines his heavily bearded doppelgangers in Mastodon would be proud of. The sound in the old traditional style hall also helped keyboardist Burton’s melodies to stay audible in the mix as they played a set mainly drawn from their extensive back catalogue.
As well as his six-stringed prowess, Valo’s vocals were particularly strong and tracks from “Tears On Tape”, including the title track, showed a stronger and clearer range than on some previous tours. Where he had sometimes strained almost painfully on songs such as “Soul On Fire” and “Buried Alive By Love”, it sounded much smoother and natural. The night ended with what is typically a one-song encore, this time dedicated to recently passed Lou Reed. “When Love and Death Embrace” sounded magnificent and those subjects who made the effort to attend had been well and truly spoilt by both the band with the Narnian prince’s name and His Infernal Majesty. 9/10
Official video for HIM’s “Tears On Tape”: