HIM | ‘Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice, Chapters 1-13’
The band that invented the genre “love metal” to describe itself offers little of either here. A more appropriate classification might be “post-grunge emo” more in the vein of Candlebox, if they took themselves way too seriously. Frontman Ville Valo really wants you to know how angry/in love he is with his beloved. Like, he really wants you to know. Please, please know. If his maudlin, overwrought lyrics about the pain of heartbreak won’t convince you, perhaps a baying vocal delivery will get his point across.
HIM is clearly trying to inject some sense of drama into each track of “Screamworks.” Unfortunately, that leads to little more than unsurprising loud-soft-loud progressions and brief halfhearted guitar solos. It’s as if the band has these delusions that they’re writing arena rock, but there’s no substance to back it up. His Infernal Majesty are tragically innocuous.
It’s worth repeating that there’s nothing wrong with the album. How can there be? HIM doesn’t take any chances, for better or worse. Rather, we get a lot of safe, formulaic rock. There are some nice hooks, especially in the one-two punch of “Love, the Hardest Way” and “Katherine Wheel.” The latter even has some less-hackneyed lyrics and is perhaps the best rock reference to medieval torture devices since Iron Maiden (at least until we at Cadenza finally realize our dream and release an album called “Bloody Mary and the Anal Pears”).
The bottom line is that there are just other bands to fill in for HIM who do it better. The Used drive harder. My Chemical Romance are more dramatic. The Smashing Pumpkins have a better ear for melody. Our Lady Peace are less insistently depressing. Listen to one of those bands, or any band willing to take risks. Unfortunately, on “Screamworks,” HIM is not that band.