March 2017 brought sad news for HIM fans. The self-described ‘love metal’ band from Finland announced that they would be splitting up following a final farewell tour at the end of the year.
Despite their inactivity for some time, the news still came as a surprise, considering they had already announced they would go into the studio again soon. But alas it was not meant to be. In an interview in Metal Hammber UK, Ville Valo later explained that the guys were just not into it and after a serious band meeting, they decided it would be better to part ways.
Although many fans expressed devastation at the news, I was just happy that there would be a final tour. Between 2003 and 2009 I saw this band live 15 times in total (most of which were in 2004, including a jaunt to Helsinki for their traditional New Years Eve show). If you ask anyone who knew me then, they will tell you how much I was ridiculously obsessed with HIM. The obsession declined around the time they started breaking into the U.S market in 2006, but they have remained special to me and I still follow guitarist Linde’s projects with the same enthusiasm (because besides cool uncle Burton, Linde is the best 😉 ).
So once the tour dates came around last November-December, I was more happy than sad. In the bands words: “it shall not be a weepfest but a celebration of love metal in all its lovecraftian glory!”. For me personally, the celebration went much further than seeing a band perform
9th circle one last time (that’s a HIM-reference/joke btw). It was about reconnecting with old friends and reminiscing about the good ole days of a fandom that took me (literally) to new places. I would even credit them as instigating my love of Nordic things and my discovery of the European rock/metal scene, from which I’ve enjoyed concert/festival travel ever since.
The Bang and Whimper Tour as it was to be named, began for me in Hamburg in November 2017. They played 2 shows, both of which sold out immediately. The venue, Docks, is a good midsize venue, typically suited to a band like HIM, that keep stage production and antics to a minimum but allow for that concert ‘intimacy’. For that reason I’m glad they didn’t opt for a larger venue, even though I’m sure they could have sold one out. (In the early 2000s they were mainstream-big in Germany and I know plenty of ‘casual’ fans who would check them out just because they wouldn’t have chance to again).
That brings me to my one gripe about this tour; it was announced too last-minute and as a ‘last chance’ deal that meant it sold out too fast. It made contacting and coordinating ‘reunions’ with other fans hard and I was already running out of vacation days to travel for more shows. Still I’m thankful I got to attend all the shows with one of my best, Linde-lover fan friends, who is now also a grown-up like me. At least being grown-ups means we could afford to also see both shows in the Netherlands, in Tilburg and Amsterdam’s legendary Paradiso venue. Having played these venues throughout their career, seeing a Dutch HIM show was a sort of pilgrimage in itself. Paradiso is an old church and is especially beautiful, even though Valo joked that being in there was making his blood literally boil.
The first night in Hamburg brought back all the memories of waiting around outside before the show. It was freezing cold weather, yet fans were still queuing outside from at least 11am. I’m glad to say I am (no longer) that mad, but just trying to keep warm in the nearest Burger King and casually walking around the venue and nearby hotel in the hope of bumping into the band was still ingrained in our fangirl/boy minds. Hanging around after the show and forming alliances with other waiting fans was even more fun, especially when you realise you also used to chat on the same online forums back in the days of dial-up internet (I never said I was cool).
The shows themselves were as good if not better than expected. A metallic framed heartagram adorned the stage, reflecting different colours and moods of the set. Valo was possibly on his best form. Being used to him chain smoking and drunkenly screeching his way through some songs, I always expect him to be hit and miss live. To be honest I am more a fan of when he rambles nonsense between songs (the guy could have a career as a stand up, seriously. He sounded almost like Eddie Izzard when he poked fun at someone shouting out that it was their birthday in Hamburg -“Who celebrates a birthday at a funeral? that’s pretty fuck up!’). He’s ditched the mic stand though and the stage lighting is from behind, giving him a shady appearance and the feeling that he’s really observing the crowd. Some nights he’s more animated than others. He’s talking bollocks (pretty sure he described it like that) and pretending to marry Mige and Linde during In Joy and Sorrow on the 2nd night in Hamburg. But he’s more visibly agitated in Amsterdam after ‘fucking up’ the hearing in his ear in Luxembourg, but I appreciated his efforts to continue.
While much of the audience scramble to get closer to and swoon over Valo, throwing bras and knickers at him (wouldn’t be a HIM show if a bra wasn’t thrown), I stick to Linde’s side of the stage every night and the man nails it every time (obviously). In my opinion he is one of the most underrated guitarists, though that is perhaps due to the less technical nature of HIM’s songs, but his signature distorted tone is nevertheless there. Seeing him on stage now, he eludes much more confidence in his playing and body language than before. He plays extra solos, licks and tricks at every opportunity and Wicked Game becomes a pleasure to watch each night, as an almost overplayed HIM-cover is given a new make over with an awesome solo and a chance to catch his plectrum (which I eventually do!). It’s also this part of the set when Burton, Mige and new drummer Jukka Kröger are introduced and given some attention. The lighting and smoke on the stage unfortunately don’t give us much chance to see Burton back there on the keys, but I still spot him occasionally playing up for the crowd.
The setlists each night were quite similar and combined a perfect ‘best of’ set, leaning more towards Razorblade Romance and Love Metal era songs but with at least one track from each album. The first night in Hamburg was unfortunately a little shorter, but the second night made up for it with the addition of old classics Razorblade Kiss, Stigmata Diaboli (from their first EP release 666 Ways to Love and rerecorded as Sigillium Diaboli, a bonus track for Razorblade Romance) and ending on When Love and Death Embrace.
As previously mentioned, my obsessive fan days were over before the bands later releases and I almost missed their last album Tears on Tape entirely. However the title track is the only one they play each night mid-set. Though on first listen I found the tune a little corny, it ends up becoming the song of the tour for me. It’s like a slower paced goodbye song (if you don’t pay attention to the lyrics) and compared to all their other shows I’ve been to, it is unique to this tour.
They end each night with a roof raising edition of Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell. It might not seem fitting to perform a cover at the end of a farewell set, but HIM fan knows this cover well. They performed it when they first started touring (perhaps due to having fewer songs) and it seems a perfect party/’dance around’ song to finish on a high.
I come away with some (slightly overpriced) merch, that I hope will help fund their next projects. In the Metal Hammer interview Ville mentions how Linde called him for the first time in years to ask him if he was sure this was the right thing to do -He made our quiet Linde pick up a PHONE! But I know he and former bandmate Gas are already working on their next project (I’ll post more on that soon) and I’m looking forward to what comes next for them all, as I’m sure this won’t be the last we hear from any of them.
HIM, thanks for the memories and see you on the reunion tour! 😉