Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
It’s been five years since Finnish rock megastars H.I.M. hung up their Gothic rock velvet chains for good, their 2017 New Years Eve show the closing chapter of a glittering and hugely successful career.
Here we are half a decade later and it’s time for frontman Ville Valo to emerge once more from the shadows and, with his new, abbreviated moniker, he’s launched the first salvo of his latest project upon us in the shape of ‘Neon Noir’.
Whilst Valo have always tended to lean more into the romantic with H.I.M., he really explores that side in this new release, having dubbed it ‘Love Rock’ and the band’s heavier moments are replaced by a sweep that speaks of lace, more than leather.
Don’t be fooled though, this isn’t a gossamer thin album and there’s a toughness here amongst the lighter vocal style but certainly don’t expect Black Metal stylings.
Overall, given his ear for big hooks and melody, ‘Neon Noir’ has more of Ghost in its DNA than anything wildly darker and brutal.
Opener ‘Echolocate Your Love’ mixes things up from the off, wistful and passionate vocals float across sections that stretch from lightly rocking to a heavier section, the whole sounding like a Scandinavian The Cure at times.
Melody is everything here and there’s some really nice touches in the production throughout as Valo calls you into his dazzling world of snowy plains, mysterious castles and dark corners.
The lush backing vocals and dancing acoustic guitar on the album’s ethereal title track and the sweeping power of ‘Loveletting’ are modern rock as written by Mary and Percy Shelley, the poetic cadence of both the music and lyrics something to drift away to.
‘The Foreverlost’ heads more into Eurorock territory and ‘Salute the Sanguine’ turns up the heat and the volume a few notches, the latter the toughest track on the album as flashes of guitars and drums punch through the silken veil.
Those needing a break from the wonderfully and knowingly camp Grand Guignol stylings of Tobias Forge and his Nameless Ghouls would do well to seek out ‘Neon Noir’ as something to calm their senses but still get their fix of sing-along choruses, irresistible tunes and the feeling that something wicked this way comes. Both VV and Ghost are born from the Edgar Allen Poe book of scares but whilst the latter is more in your face, Valo aims to seduce, a Dracula to Forge’s Victor Frankenstein.
An album of gentle class, grace and style, ‘Neon Noir’ is a very welcome return from Valo that will charm many but beware, there are fangs just below the surface, ready to bite.