After taking a two year break from touring, HIM, the legendary Finnish love metal band, finally decided to return to the stage. They also revived a tradition that, until 2010, was the peak of the year for fans all around the world: the band’s very own New Year’s Festival, Helldone.
On four nights in a row, they performed at Tavastia-Club in Helsinki with their friend-bands, starting with the 28 of December, and escalating until the 31st, into a full-blown New Year’s Eve party. The event quickly sold out and fans from all corners of the vast universe traveled to Finland to reunite with their favorite act.
Maximum Rock Magazine went to Helsinki to see the gig on the third day of the festival, which was Sunday, December 30th. The first concert was reviewed widely by the Finnish national press and the texts were far from praising.
„Helsingin Sanomat” called the gig a a catastrophe. According to the magazine, Ville Valo kept forgetting the lyrics, he interrupted some songs and sang out of tune. The words used by the magazine to describe the lead singer’s on-stage persona were „odd and nervous”.
„Ilta Sanomat” reported that Ville gave a speech to the audience blaming the people for not dancing, and he also awkwardly admonished the band telling them how bad their sound was. Obviously, HIM’s comeback must have been stressful for the guys. Knowing this, I arrived at Tavastia with mixed feelings: can the band improve its performance in just a few days?
When I got to the venue, the club was already packed with dedicated HIM fans. More and more people were flowing in, dressed in black, and wearing „heartagrams”, which created a feeling of anticipation. Soon, the warm up acts started to play.
Both bands, Jericho Fuzz and The Skreppers offered a strong performance, and between the sets Jyrki from The 69 eyes acted as a DJ, looking cool as hell, like always. The people were enjoying the show, but it was clear that this night was all about the main act.
And when midnight struck, the big show started. HIM arrived on stage while the audience was screaming and the last member to walk in was, naturally, Ville Valo himself. The band started the gig with the new single, „Strange World”, which was originally written and performed by the American artist Ke.
HIM sounded tight and Ville sang well; he smiled and made good contact with the audience. From the beginning, it was clear that this gig would be far better than the ominous first one. The new song was followed by a series of hit singles: „Right Here In My Arms”, „Wings Of A Butterfly” and „Heartkiller”. Tavastia was filled with raised hands and the band seemed to be having a blast on stage.
The sound was great. Everything could be heard well and the band played very focused. The reason why HIM took such a long break was that their drummer, „Gas” Karppinen, experienced nerve damage which affected his hands, making it impossible for him to play his instrument. In order to recover, the musician needed to rest, so the band decided to wait for him to get better, instead of going on without him. Fortunately, Gas’s health issues seem to be long gone now!
His playing was violent, balanced and sat tightly with Mige’s fat bass lines. The guitarist, Linde, deserves extra points for an extraordinarily good show. He definitely remembered how to entertain a sold out Tavastia and his solos were the highlights of the gig. Burton put the cherry on top of the show from behind his keyboard set by introducing to the audience some vintage gear from the 80s. His moog leads are truly the foundation of HIM’s melancholic sound.
All in all, the gig was very entertaining and the band held it well together. Their set had an impressive collection of hits like „The Sacrament”, „Wicked Game” and „The Funeral Of Hearts”. Too „bad” that the guys have so many hits; this abundance led to the decision of omitting a few consecrated hymns – for example, „Join Me (In Death)” was left out that night, along with „Sleepwalking Past Hope”, a song that was meant to be the closing piece.
The new tune, however, „I Will Be The End of You”, was not forgotten and its performance elicited strong reactions from the crowd, who enjoyed to be teased with bits and pieces „torn” off the upcoming album, „Tears On Tape”.
As well as the band did improve after their first gig at Helldone this year, it has to be mentioned that Ville’s performance was not his best. He had tune issues and the high register vocals were insecure and thin. Towards the end of the show, he seemed to be getting more and more uncomfortable on stage. He sang almost entire songs with his back or side to the audience and his conversation was directed more towards the band.
Luckily, the audience consisted mostly of hard core HIM fans, that made a tradition out of attending Helldone; they were very supportive and the mood remained positive all through the concert. Also, the gig ended a bit surprisingly. Ville said quietly in Finnish to the band: “Just one more song, and then we go home, right?”, and the gig seemed to be cut a bit short. They played „When Love and Death Embrace”as an encore and disappeared from the stage, saying that they will take a short brake. They didn’t show up again, even though the audience wanted more.
This comeback must have been difficult for HIM, but despite the minor slips during the gig, they performed well. They’re negotiating a new record deal now and hopefully we’ll get to hear some new music from them soon. I’m sure they will be back on their feet in no time, and, as Ville himself stated recently, it has been a while since HIM’s last tour and he just needs a bit of practice to get himself back into his usual scenic self: the charismatic singer that we have all known for years.
The band’s new album, „Tears on Tape„, has been rated as one of the most anticipated new releases of 2013. Quoting Ville on the matter seems like a good idea, as it gives the fans even more hope: “It’s exciting in a good way, like, the butterflies in my stomach are the size of fucking giant bats! So that’s a good sign. It means we really care about what we’re doing.”
Editor’s note: It need not be forgotten that artists are human beings too, and slips will occur from now and then, even in the case of experienced performers. Being emotional on stage only shows that the musicians care about what they are delivering to the audience. Remember: a true fan will support his band during the most difficult of times. Maximum Rock Magazine considers that the attitude of the Finnish press was biased and malicious.