When I heard that HIM decided to end their journey in 2017, I was devastated. Yet, silly me wasn’t able to get her hands on tickets for the farewell tour, so I was even more heartbroken. So what else could I do? You got it, I thought I could rank their albums. It wasn’t an easy task for sure. Especially with a band like HIM, it wouldn’t be very wise do make a gut decision, so I tried to come up with a fairly useful decision matrix. Yes, I have an Excel sheet and all. This is serious business to me. I won’t bore you with the mathematics behind the process, but I will give you a little insight. Basically, I came up with criteria and rated every criterion from 1 to 10 to determine its importance. Then, I rated every album in every single category from 1 to 10. During the ranking process, I considered:
1) Lyrics: How well-written are the lyrics? Are the lyrics intricate or are they rather basic?
2) Emotional value: Do I associate important events with one of the records, or do the songs on it mean a lot to me on a personal level?
3) Hits (that one is self-explanatory)
4) Atmosphere (that one, too)
5) Coherence: Does the album feel complete, do the songs flow into each other nicely?
6) Ville Valo’s vocals: They vary on every record.
7) Music quality: How complex are the songs, how much variety do HIM offer on an album?
Ranking HIM’s studio albums was a beautiful trip down memory lane. The crazy thing about HIM is that their music seems to evolve with the listener. When I discovered them as a teenager, I was obsessed, but only now do I seem to really understand their music. It has been my companion for over five years now and it will remain very close to my heart for the rest of my life. This is my homage to a band that went down in history as one of the greatest rock acts of the 2000s and my personal favorite band of all time. So without further ado, let’s get started with the ranking.
worst: Deep Shadows And Brilliant Highlights (2001)
For anyone who knows HIM, this is no surprise. It is well known that HIM were pushed by their label to write a new record very soon after their successful predecessor “Razorblade Romance”. But because HIM have always done things in their own pace and the time wasn’t quite right for a new album, “Deep Shadows And Brilliant Highlights” unfortunately turned out to be their weakest record. From an objective standpoint, one could argue that this album is just bullshit. I think that there are two or three really good tracks here like “Pretending” and “In Joy And Sorrow”, though. But yes, no matter how much I love HIM, I have to admit that there is nothing extraordinary about “Deep Shadows And Brilliant Highlights”.
Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666 (1997)
“Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666” marks the very beginnings of HIM. Their influences are quite obvious on this record, and it is very exciting to hear where they come from and what they have achieved until this day (or rather, the year of 2013). As much as I adore the atmosphere and the vibes of this record, it shows very little of the band’s identity. It feels somehow put-on and not very original. Also, it doesn’t contain a lot of intricate songwriting and many covers. It hurts my heart, but I have to rank this record quite low.
Dark Light (2005)
“Dark Light”, to me, is HIM’s most beautiful record. Not the best, but the most aesthetically pleasing. The overall theme is, as the album title suggests, more airy, or similar to dimmed light – I’m thinking of songs like “Dark Light” or “Play Dead”. Unlike on other HIM albums, Ville Valo predominately showcases his middle range. It is almost ironic (but actually fitting) that “Dark Light” ends on a very sinister note with “In The Nightside Of Eden”.
For some reason, I always associate this record with winter. “Killing Loneliness” is the perfect soundtrack for snowy mornings when it’s still dark outside, but you can see the snow reflecting the street lights. Or I just happened to listen to that track a lot in winter, I have no idea (Wow, great, you just ruined the moment!). Either way, it’s sad that “Dark Light” doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, but the issue is that HIM have some even greater albums. It’s probably just not outstanding enough, but still a very enjoyable record.
Screamworks (Love In Theory And Practice) (2010)
For “Screamworks”, HIM tried something new, and I get why many fans don’t like this album. On the one hand, it somehow lacks that certain atmosphere that is typical of HIM, but on the other hand, it’s HIM’s most straight-forward record and that is exactly what makes “Screamworks” a very honest album. You may ask: Where is the darkness? To those people, I say: Look at the lyrics and you will find some dark stuff …
There are many reasons why “Screamworks” is everything but a fail to me, as it shows HIM as a band that is willing to grow. Ville Valo focuses on his higher range in particular and presents some very impressive work – probably his most controlled vocals ever. “Screamworks” is perfect for days when you feel sluggish and getting out of bed doesn’t feel like an option. After listening to tracks like “Like St. Valentine” or “Heartkiller”, the world looks totally different again.
Razorblade Romance (1999)
Ah, my first HIM record. I used to listen to this album on repeat. “Razorblade Romance” is packed with hits and energetic tracks like “Poison Girl” or “Right Here In My Arms”, and let’s not forget about HIM’s greatest hit “Join Me (In Death)”, a bittersweet semi-ballad I love to this day despite the fact that HIM played this song over and over and over again live …
Also, “Razorblade Romance” is one of those albums that can make any person fall in love (with basically anything and anyone) instantly. It is the record that made HIM famous in Europe and also many girls’ hearts leap for joy, and rightfully so.
Tears On Tape (2013)
“Tears On Tape” is HIM’s last record and their homage to their musical idols. You’ll find all kinds of influences here, but well-incorporated into the typical HIM sound. Even though it didn’t shake the world, it is an absolutely well-made record. Additionally, I can’t deny its impact on me. It was the only record I actually bought when it was released and I saw HIM live for the first and last time on the tour supporting “Tears On Tape”. It lacks hits or any kind of big, imposant tracks, but it represents the work of a band that has evolved over time and knows exactly how great music is written. You don’t necessarily need hit after hit to write an excellent record. Also, the atmosphere on “Tears On Tape” is very old-school and the fact that it flows and flows and suddenly stops with the sound of someone taking out a cassette tape out of a cassette tape recorder blows my mind every time. It’s crazy how I can get lost in this record and even though I know what happens at the end of the last track, I’m surprised once more every time.
Love Metal (2003)
“Love Metal” is exactly the record Ville Valo described in interviews: It is the ultimate hard rock/metal album. It is influenced by countless bands. You get faster-paced tracks like “Buried Alive By Love”, epic heavy metal songs like “The Path”, but also many semi-acoustic songs like “The Sacrament” and even beautiful ballads like “The Funeral Of Hearts”. I absolutely adore the fact that HIM put some longer tracks on this record, namely “The Path” and the bonus track “Love’s Requiem”. These songs are the epitome of bittersweetness and desire.
“Love Metal” is an album for the broken-hearted; for times when you are in need of comfort from melancholy, and for rainy afternoons and long journeys on the train. If I had to pick an album to show someone what HIM is all about, I would choose this one. It describes the typical HIM sound to the core. “Love Metal” is one of my favorite albums of all time and a record that is very close to my heart.
best: Venus Doom (2007)
The release of “Venus Doom” marks HIM’s peak of creativity. It is not only a masterpiece from a songwriting standpoint, but also displays so many emotions, both through music and lyrics. “Venus Doom” contains so many highlights, but probably one of the most outstanding songs ever written is on this album – “Sleepwalking Past Hope”, one of HIM’s few epics. On the same note as the tracks “Love’s Requiem” or “The Path”, it has its very own atmosphere to it and it is very easy to get lost in it. There is nothing better than listening to “Venus Doom” on my Dad’s (and now my) old hi-fi equipment on a night in and bathing in all the soothingly bittersweet sorrow that is being offered on this record. “Venus Doom” truly makes you forget the world around you for a while, and that’s what great music should do.