HIM – Nottingham, Rock City – 15 December 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Rich Hobson and Allan Maxwell   
Wednesday, 27 December 2017 04:40

The mid-2000s were a wild time for gothic subculture. Having existed since the early-1980s, the style of goth was very much an underground subculture for almost two decades before it took off in a big way, metalheads finally cottoning on that parachute-pant like jeans, tracksuits and backwards-caps were in fact closer in style to the very establishments and toxic influences that they were so desperately trying to rail against in the first place.

 

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So, where to go? A throwback to the fashion-obsessed days of glam was unthinkable, largely thanks to the fact that the Nirvana-fronted tide of bands just wearing tees and jeans had made all things showy a complete faux pas less than a decade before, leaving a stylistic void which demanded more than tracksuits, but not so showy as feathered hair and all-leather catsuits. Enter, goth. From 2003 to 2006, goth suddenly became the main stylistic influence within the metal scene, with goth-styled bands suddenly hitting it big (Evanescence, Cradle of Filth and My Chemical Romance being major cases – but more on the latter shortly), older bands enjoying renewed interest and even bands that were completely stylistically out taking a headlong dip in the black waters (Good Charlotte and Opeth springing to mind… Opeth’s change to clean vocals is nowhere near as jarring as their dropping of the gothic aesthetic which carried them from ‘Orchid’ to ‘Watershed’). And from those waters, HIM rose to become a cultural phenomenon.

 

Whether you love them as dark new-new-new romantics or loathe them as the gothic Bon Jovi, HIM were an undeniable cultural force, the guyliner look of frontman Ville Vallo and iconic ‘Heartagram’ logo popping up just about anywhere it could (car stickers, school books, tattoos – it covered the lot like a not-so-secret marker that these people were Part of The Culture), the band’s album ‘Dark Light’ launching them onto magazine covers around the world. But, much like every other subculture before it, it couldn’t last forever and goth’s influence on metal waned rapidly as emo took prominence (told ya MCR would come up again) and metal began to incorporate more death metal and hardcore influence into its sound and style. Yet, HIM weathered this storm, the Finns carrying themselves through the wilderness for a full decade of releases and tours before announcing finally earlier this year that this would be their last. Inexplicable as the decision is (goth is, after all, making something of a comeback again, in no small part thanks to the efforts of bands like Grave Pleasures, Ghost, Chelsea Wolfe and many others), you can’t help but admire a band who decide to go out on their terms.

 

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The mid-December snow has mostly melted by the time HIM arrive in the UK, but the traffic is still bad enough that we miss the entirety of openers Biters set thanks to a combination of early doors and endless roadworks. Arrival at Rock City greets us with a sea of faces, but in stark contrast to how they would have looked a decade ago, there is a surprising amount of colour spread throughout the crowd this evening, a sign of how things have changed in the HIM fanbase (and wider rock and metal scenes) over the past decade. A sell-out tour, the room is bursting at the seams with fans who are transfixed as the band hit the stage, a hearty roar of approval very much proving that this is a band who will be missed.

 

And why wouldn’t they be? HIM boast an insanely prolific back catalogue of out-and-out anthems, the run of ‘Buried Alive By Love’, ‘Your Sweet Six Six Six’ and ‘Wings Of A Butterfly’ before the set even hits its mid-way point almost insane – after all, lesser bands would have to frontload their set with b-quality just to build up to these and make sure half the crowd don’t just disappear. There’s none of that from HIM – the band have jammed this setlist full of their hits and while a few will – inevitably – be missed out, the fact remains that this would be a very hefty ‘best of’ by anybody’s standards.

 

The crowd literally cannot get enough of the band as the set progresses, the whole room roaring along so loud that at times the band are completely drowned out. When Chester Bennington died earlier this year, it was incredible to see just how many people came out with admissions that they were one of the iconic bands of their youth, many turned on to rock music altogether thanks to Linkin Park. HIM serve much the same function for the darker aspects of heavy music, metal having struggled to produce a bona fide icon since the band rose to prominence, the crowd wearing their heart(agram)s on their sleeves as they belt out each and every tune with passionate zeal.

 

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Sonically, the band are flawless – each note rings with the power and energy that was so sorely lacking in the disappointing Metallica Wembley support slot a decade previous, the memories washed away in a sea of tune-after-tune-after motherfuckin’ tune. Similarly, Ville’s voice is exceptional, his full range on display to attest to just how distinctive a figure he has been in the rock and metal scene the last 26 years, his self-depreciative humour so perfectly in tune with the band’s aesthetic that you can’t help but grin as he deadpans “even mediocre things must end” to the crowd.

 

And yet, there is something slightly off about the performance, a lack of chemistry that seems to suck some of the atmosphere away from the stage. For every time the band hit their marks, there seems to be an emptiness to it all, a resigned sense of commitment which doesn’t really gel with just how wild the crowd are going. The band burn through more hits with the likes of a ‘Wicked Game’ cover and ‘Killing Loneliness’, the crowd getting ever more passionate, and still that sense of hollow victory rings, feeling more like a band pulling themselves back together than ending things on a spectacular high.

 

Closing with ‘Rebel Yell’ and ‘When Love and Death Embrace’, HIM end their (ostensive) last ever show in Nottingham to cheers and screams of approval, albeit cheers which feel more in tune with an appreciation of who the band were, rather than who they are. Fan or no, it feels strange to say goodbye to HIM after so much adoration has been poured into the band for so long and even stranger that it should end with so little bombast. Luckily, horror movies have taught us an important lesson; just because something is dead now, it doesn’t mean it always will be. 

 

PHOTO CREDIT: All photos © Allan Maxwell/Über Rock. Photos taken at Barrowlands, Glasgow, 14 December 2017. You can view our full gallery of photographs HERE.

 

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