Every generation has its icons, and - from Johnny Cash to Black Sabbath - our decades are defined by the sounds they produce. His Infernal Majesty is no different. Since 1992 these veteran songsmiths have peddled their unique fusion of forlorn balladry and heavy, synth-laden sounds to create a uniquely potent brew.
Formed by high school friends obsessed not only with the immortal refrains of Black Sabbath but also the gloom-laden, sardonic wit of Type O Negative, HIM have grown to become more than national icons in their native, rock and metal-loving Finland. Their trademark Heartagram has left its indelible stamp on the globe. With over 8 million records sold and the distinction of recording the best-selling single of any Finnish artist to date with Join Me In Death from 1999's Razorblade Romance, as well as being the first Finnish band to receive gold certification in the United States for 2005's Dark Light, HIM are a force like no other.
But if love metal can be seen as a subgenre of heavy music's serpentine family tree, then HIM are both its creators and foremost proponents, and Tears On Tape - their eighth studio release since 1997's Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666 cast a spell on the globe - is perhaps that melancholic style's ultimate expression. Written acoustically and then translated into the language of volume and heavy distortion, this is the stuff that latter-day classics are made of.
"Imagine a folk-singer in bed with a metal band," says Ville. "This is like an infernal vision of that."
The follow-up to 2010's Screamworks: Love In Theory And Practise, Tears On Tape is nothing less than a face-punching, heart-tugging 13-track monster of an album, and if it recalls the glories of albums like 2003's Love Metal, then it's no accident - rejoining forces with longtime producer Hiili Hiilesmaa, Tears On Tape is a love letter scrawled in large, block capitals.
"We wanted the heaviness without losing the sentimentality," says Valo. "Imagine Rambo meets The English Patient and you're almost there. It's got these big knucklehead riffs without forgetting the emotions behind them."
Recorded in Helsinki and mixed at Assault And Battery Studios in London by longtime masterer of ceremonies Tim Palmer (Ozzy Osbourne, U2, Pearl Jam), Tears On Tape is - in Ville's words, the product of "working with longtime friends that have allowed us to get to the heart of the process. We've so much history that it enabled us to concentrate on the essential, which is making good songs sound as good as possible and turning them into something massive."
From the simple, keyboard-kissed melodies of All Lips Go Blue to the Iommi-conjuring riffery of Hearts At War, this is both the heaviest and the most heartfelt of HIM's recorded output. Get ready.
HIM are: Burton (keyboards), Gas (drums), Linde (guitar), Mige (bass), and Valo (vox)