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|With their upcoming album almost ready, Ville Valo reveals all about HIM's super-heavy sounds: "It's like forlorn folk singer backed by Steel Panther!"|
It was arctic night in December when Hammer journeyed to North London's Assault and Battery Studios to find a dark ritual taking place. Freshly arrived from his native Helsinki to put the finishing touches on the long-awaited follow-up to the 2010's Screamworks: Love In Theory And Practice, His Infernal Majesty Ville Valo has been working around the clock, and with good cause. It's HIM's first studio outing for nearly two and a half years after an unexpected hiatus nearly tested the limits of the band's resolve.
The new record, which the baritone crooner is ""99 per cent certain" will be called Tears On Tape, is not yet fully mixed or mastered, but given the long wait since their last appearance on record or on the live stage, there's only one possible question: where the hell have you been?
"Why, I've been growing my hair to prepare for the metal assault," he says with a wink. OK, we had to have quite a break because our drummer's (Gas Lipstick's) hands were not well. He had to take about eight months for them to heal. While he was getting fixed we were trying to make the songs as good as possible. It was tough for everybody. So last May we started trying the old songs again, and then we started working on the new stuff.We spent all summer at the rehearsal space, and then released Strange World for the compilation (XX - Two Decades Of Love Metal) which was out a few months ago, and that was a test drive for what we're doing now. We tried all the gadgets out, but it's as with Love Metal. I think the whole album I wrote on acoustic and they were really folky. And then we played it on acoustic guitar, and then we started working on riffs and seeing what fits where, and we broought the two worlds together."
Of course, new music isn't the only thing on Ville's mind right now, as HIM find themselves without a label for perhaps the first time in their career. Make no mistake, it's by choice.
"It's a razors edge," says Ville of the uncertainty. "We're too major for a minor, but we also need someone who will appreciate all the different sides of the band. We're got a little pocket money so we self-financed the album without the endless meeting and bullshit - we went straight to the guitars and, in my eyes and ears, it's paid off. The businessmen will sort out the business and the musicians will take care of the music. It's the only way things should be."
Of the new record, he mentions familiar HIM reference points like Cathedral and Sabbath, but the real news is that producer Hiili Hiilesmaa the band behind 2003's epic-sounding Love Metal, is back in the captain's chair. He's joined by long-time producer Tim Palmer on mixing duties, and the effect has been heavy.
"Imagine a forlorn folk singer shackled to a metal band," says Ville. "This is like an infernal version of that - what was that movie which Jeff Bridges... Crazy Heart? Imagine he rolls up to a pub and Steel Panther are his backing band. It's like that."
The two tracks Ville's willing to play are far from the hairspray antics of LA's most outrageous export, and if these are representative of the album then you can expect a rawer, heavier, more experimental and decidedly more metal version of HIM that ever heard before. The synth-added refrains of All Lips Go Blue is a slow-burning dirge of epic proportions, and Heart's At War! Think the intro to Sabotage by Black Sabbath married to Christian Woman by Type O Negative and you're nearly there. Tears On Tape sounds like force unleashed and the most natural marriage of the melancholic and the deafening thus far.
"Hiili is a good friend", says Ville. "We wanted this combination of really hard-hitting guitars but to keep the melodic aspect of the keyboards and the vocals. Because we know each other we got to the heart of the process straight away. Along with Tim Palmer we've got so much history that it enables us to concentrate on the essential, which is making good songs sounds as good as possible and turning them into something massive.We want the heaviness without losing the sentimentality. It's like Rambo or The Expendables meets The Piano or The English Patient - just think knucklehead riffs while keeping sight of the emotions behind them."
Ville, we can hardly wait.
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