Screamworks: Love In Theory And Practice

Written by: PP on 19/03/2010 03:54:47

To say HIM have bounced back and defied all the critics in the last three years would be an understatement. While the over-commercial, American pop rock sounding "Dark Light" was a massive disappointment, 2007's "Venus Doom" was a dark, sombre piece that charmed the listener with its subtle catchiness, and now their 7th album, "Screamworks: Love In Theory And Practice", is close to matching the band's best work to date, the 2003 masterpiece "Love Metal". It's a record that balances the best of both worlds, leaning on radio-friendly alternative rock, but without abandoning the melancholic dark emotion of their original work. Iconic frontman Ville Valo sobered up during the writing- and recording-process of this album (the dude used to make us heavy drinkers at Rockfreaks.net pale in comparison with his 20+ beers a day appetite), which really shows in the vocal department of the record; this is undeniably the best record vocally that Valo has produced so far, both in terms of the strength of the melodies and the amount of emotion present in them.

As the title "Screamworks: Love In Theory And Practice" suggests, the album deals with the topic of love intensively. It's full of moments where Valo bursts into heartfelt semi-scream about stuff so romantic that most of us guys would blush should we ever say them out loud to our loved ones. But girls, oh trust me on this one, absolutely love hearing this kind of stuff. The sort of heart-melting, bed-of-roses romanticism that's poetic rather than cheesy, yeah, "Screamworks" is full of moments like these: "Once again we found ourselves to be lost / holding hands while straying from the path in the forest dark / Aren't you happy to see me crawl / serpentine towards the sun to you" or "Disarm me with your loneliness just like always before / deceive me out of my emptiness". You gotta give it for Valo for playing the hopeless romantic role more convincing than most of the Hollywood actors paid tens of millions to do so. Emo bands have nothing on the kind of emotion Valo delivers here, and I don't mean that in a condescending way at all, because the way Valo sings about these things makes it sound so unbelievably real for him, as if he's really living through these crazed emotions that has alpha males crying out "gay" from a passing vehicle. 'Love metal' feels like a term down-playing the emotions within this record.

On top of being some of the best love songs I've heard in as long as I can remember (I think we'll have to go all the way back to Bon Jovi / Aerosmith times), the songs also see HIM at their most radio friendly yet (discounting "Dark Light) - this without losing any of their darkened appeal. The songs are jam-packed with catchy alternative rock hooks, which are contrasted by their signature melancholic keyboards, with perfect big money production that has the songs sounding arena-sized in a strangely compact and tangible manner. There's a really strong interplay between the synths and the chord-based guitars, and the melodies in general are among the strongest HIM has ever written. "In Venere Veritas", "Scared To Death", "Heartkiller", "Love, The Hardest Way", "Acoustic Funeral (For Love In Limbo)", "Katherine Wheel", "In The Arms Of Rain", "Like St Valentine" are all either superb of very good; and on top of that you have the astonishing masterpieces in the form of "Dying Song", "Disarm Me (With Your Loneliness)", and especially "Ode To Solitude", which are the kind of songs that will lead ANY skeptic, no matter how critical of the band's image, live performance, previous material or whatever, into questioning their own judgment, leaving them unsure over whether or not their original criticism had actually any other grounds than "Dark Light" and maybe some of the band's very early material in the first place.

In fact, out of the 13 tracks on offer here, at least 11 are candidates for singles in my opinion, with "Shatter Me With Hope" being 'just okay' and "The Foreboding Sense Of Impending Happiness" being the only 'meh' or bad track on the record overall. With that in mind, "Screamworks: Love In Theory And Practice" is as close to being a seminal, career-defining masterpiece as you can be without actually being one. Had HIM not written "Love Metal" back in 2003, there's no doubt in my mind that this would be the culmination of their career, instead it'll just have to succumb to being a candidate for being in the top 5 best albums this year - or at the very least top 10. It's an incredibly affectionate, darkly emotional album, brilliantly constructed for all the broken hearts and lonely souls out there. I know you're out there.

Download: Ode To Solitude, Disarm Me (With Your Loneliness), Dying Song, In Venere Veritas
For the fans of: The 69 Eyes, Entwine, For My Pain...
Listen: Myspace

Release date 09.02.2010
Sire Records

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