H.I.M – ‘Screamworks - Love in Theory and Practice, Chapters 1–13. Special Edition’ (Sire) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Johnny H   
Friday, 26 February 2010 06:58

HimIf ever a band had grounds to complain about having its musical mojo torn out by the introduction of the UK's smoking ban back in July 2007, it has to be Finland's very own ray of dark light H.I.M.


Going to a H.I.M show up until that point was something close to what it must have been like to have clocked on as a laboratory beagle back in the seventies. The band's enigmatic frontman Ville Valo being something of a perma-human smoke bomb back then, with his onstage chain smoking as much a part of the band's show as their gothic keyboard tinged rock.


However, the band's musical mojo disappearance over the last few years is in fact much easier to explain and sadly nowhere as near comedic. It appears that with the pressure to follow up the band's commercial breakthrough in the US with 2005's 'Dark Light' album, the band sort of rebelled against this new found fame by releasing the more guitar heavy 'Venus Doom' and as a result they started to get their heads back together as a band. 


'Screamworks' then is H.I.M's sixth studio album to date and sort of sees the band return to the formula that saw them first break the UK with 'Love Metal' back in 2003. The album's lead single 'Heartkiller' being a perfect example of Ville and the guys at their best, melding keyboards, guitar, and breathy vocals into an instantly memorable chorus that immediately leaves its mark on you.


Likewise 'Scared To Death', 'Dying Song' (with its high pitched vocal hook that oddly reminds me of long defunct UK rockers Mansun) and 'Love The Hardest Way' are all fine examples of this formula, it's just that it all appears a bit samey until the hooks do finally sink into your flesh after a few listens.


Of the thirteen tracks on offer here, only one track is longer than four minutes this time around, and that is the Chris Cornell tinged mid paced ballad 'Disarm Me'.


The riffs are still very much upfront on the likes of 'Katherine Wheel' and 'Like St Valentine' but the trademark keyboard hooks are also very much back in the mix.


Perhaps I'm the only one who misses the days of 'Dark Shadows and Brilliant Highlights' when the keyboards played a much more upfront part in H.I.M's sound. So for me album closing 'The Impending Sense Of Impending Happiness' dipping into electro rock territory is a more than welcome musical diversion and hopefully a sign of more things to come in this direction.


This special edition version of 'Screamworks' also comes with a second disc 'Baudelaire In Braille', that gives you the thirteen album tracks in a stripped down and largely acoustic format.  This actually adds something for those seeking insight into the band's song writing process, and also for those yearning for the days when H.I.M were more about the song first and riff second. Tracks like 'Acoustic Funeral' and 'Dying Song' in particular have an extra frailty in this environment and are perfect soundtrack for some headphone listening in a dark room accompanied by a bottle of red wine (non alcoholic for Ville of course).


So is 'Screamworks' any good then, I hear you yell? Well the answer is "Yes most definitely, in parts", but it does also have that 'didn't I just listen to this a minute ago' feeling about some tracks that disappears after a few listens. 


It's no 'Razorblade Romance', but thankfully it's no 'Venus Doom' either. I tell you what, let me have a cigarette and I'll get back to you.