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Throwback Thursday: How HIM's Love Metal Defined Indulgence and a New Sub-Genre

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Welcome to Throwback Thursday! This is the place where we get to indulge in nostalgia and wax poetic about excellent metal of years past. This series embarks on a journey in search of albums that have primed the canvas of today's metal music scene.

For this, the fifteenth edition of this series, we take a look at an album which not only spurred a revived national obsession with goth rock, but also created a new symbol of defiance, love and the occult. Heartagrams for all with the release of…

HIM'S LOVE METAL

Release Date: April 14, 2003
Record Label:  BMG

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For those in the dark and unaware about the current status of of HIM aka His Infernal Majesty, the goth group announced their FINAL farewell tour going on now and ending in the states in just a few more weeks. You can check out our gallery of pictures from their show in Orlando this November.

HIM ushered in an entire wave of new early 2000's trends considering their affiliation with TV show Jackass and the popularity of MTV superstars such as Bam Margera. Aside from their beloved status within the skater scene and by Margera, what about Love Metal put HIM on the metal radar? Was the band worthy of recognition aside from their affiliation with these TV superstars?

Let's take a moment to reflect on where HIM fits into metal. My aim here on TBT is to identify, discuss, and dissect influential albums and artists. Love it or hate it, Love Metal is a significant album and it deserves to be talked about in relation to metal music. The record put HIM on the musical map in America, and HIM's first US tour AND UK tour was with the Love Metal album. The record hit number 1 in Germany and Finland and on the Heatseekers Album Chart in the US.

The album defiantly declared itself its own new genre of music because they essentially 'knew they could'.  According to a 2015 Loudwire interview, the band thought of Love Metal as being their own creation – something that they made and birthed for themselves and no one else.  It sounds cocky, but I don't think that the point of album was to have it be something that no one had ever heard before, per se; rather it was to focus themselves as a band and work the way they wanted to work. Their previous album, Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights, was not successful for the band in many ways. The fans didn't like it, non-fans didn't like it, and it reportedly almost broke the band apart. They wanted to emerge from the failures of the previous album and finally establish themselves with something they felt connected to.

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The emergence of a softer approach to metal was ushered in by bands like HIM. Alcest and Anathema are two more bands which come to mind who blur the lines of rock and metal (though let's be real – early Anathema was suuuuuper doomy and droning). I think doom and goth evolved beautifully with bands like these. Therefore, I think that a better way to view HIM is through a metal lens, not as the definition of metal itself. Are they metal by association? Yes. Is their musical attitude metal? Yeah, I mean they're edgy, dark, doom lords from Helsinki who were cheeky enough to combine Satan and desperate songs of love and infatuation.  Love Metal is certainly darker and edgier rock without toeing the industrial or operatic angle many goth bands fall prey to.

At one point, even bands like Bon Jovi were considered metal. Can you believe it? Time, evolution of sub-genres and the comparison of bands and their sound are what create our opinions about where groups like these fall. Maybe someday HIM will be considered some new category of music like millennium rock or something. So, to head off those who'd call HIM shit metal,  or not metal at all, just relax. They've headlined huge European metal festivals such as Tuska and have simply been a part of metal consciousness since the early 90's.

As far as their sound goes, the first word that comes to mind when talking about HIM and Love Metal is indulgence. Check out opening track "Buried Alive by Love":

I see you there, Juliette Lewis! I mean, this song rocks. It's interesting to note that according to that same 2015 interview published by Loudwire, lead singer Ville Valo barely remembers writing the lyrics for Love Metal. He was delusional with high fever.

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I really dig this song, and HIM, and Love Metal; Objectively I can understand not liking them as well. Valo is built like a anime character brought to life and has tremendous sex appeal ala Jim Morrison. The lyrics are so, SO indulgent  -"To cry is to know that you're alive". I mean on paper it's juvenile and emo and I get that it's over-the-top. Hey, the man had a fever. Even still, I'll be damned if I don't just enjoy the music.

My favorite track off the album is "The Sacrament":

Are the lyrics gratuitous? Yes.  Are the shirtless close-ups also gratuitous? Oh, yes. Absolutely. How about the motley appearance of the band: one with dreads, another with a cowboy hat and another channeling his inner Midwest guy in the winter look – does any of that make sense? No, not really. And did you see the close up of tears, because you know, feelings are going on? Yeah, yeah I saw that.

Does HIM care that those things bother you? Nope, not at all. HIM is unapologetically into what they're doing here on Love Metal. And that is quintessentially metal.

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Here's another stand-out track from Love Metal "Funeral of Hearts":

Here's another dance-y, catchy song that feels like smoking a cigarette in a hot bubble bath. Can metal songs BE catchy and still considered metal?  Yeah, of course it can.

Listen, HIM doesn't loan itself well to typical genre definitions and I think that is ultimately why the vision of their 'own genre' works. It really does sound like love metal.  It's desperate and longing and dramatic and believable – all with a darker-than-pop sound. I'd draw a line of similarity between HIM and Type O Negative. Both goth rock bands are propelled by strong leading front men. They're also relentlessly emotional lyrically, and have a way of bringing you to a place to wade in pools of introspection. When it comes to listening to HIM and Love Metal, you should expect their over-the-top, hook-filled toe-dip into forlorn love. And, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Check out some photos of HIM's farewell tour that we just posted in our photo gallery.

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If you're a fan of HIM and want to see them on tour, you'd better catch them quick. Their last tour date in the states is Friday, November 17th in NY, NY at the Hammerstein Ballroom.

As always thanks for reading. Are you a HIM fan? Did you get a chance to see them on their farewell tour? Tell me about it below!

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