I could barely get through this.
I was prepared to not like "Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice," the new album from Finnish "Love Metal" experts HIM, as I was not a fan of their previous works. If nothing else, the band is always well produced and has the capacity to chameleon themselves into whatever shape they want. So, I wanted to give them a puncher's chance.
And they whiffed.
Let me put in a brief caveat. I am not HIM's target audience. I am familiar with a lot of types of metal, from heavy metal and power metal to the less musical and more practical galvanized metal and corrugated metal. And yet, I don't know what "love metal" is, where it comes from, or what its tensile strength is.
I am not a sixteen year old goth girl. I do not wear black makeup. I am not remarkably overweight. I do not eat ice cream because it doesn't judge me (most of the time, anyway.) I have never watched a "Twilight" movie, read the books, nor am I obsessed with vampires of any nature. I am only marginally familiar with the works of Anne Rice. I do not hate my parents, nor do I have a deep-seated desire to shock them. I do not see the ironic value of the "heartagram."
Long and short, if you meet any of those criteria, then you might be in the running to enjoy "Screamworks." If not, you're likely out of luck.
Still, I haven't yet revealed the single most shocking revelation I stumbled upon when trudging my way through "Screamworks." If you close your eyes, and forget everything you know about HIM and just listen, you'll discover an album that bears shocking similarities to The Jonas Brothers. No, I will not take that back. Yes, I am serious. This costumed, sugary would-be metal is nothing more than a collection of digestible and forgettable love song singles that will chart and then fade. In that regard, the album is not so different from The Brill Building era, either.
I can't help but feel like HIM is the product of a peerless and strikingly successful marketing campaign, rather than the other way around. There's nothing terribly exploratory about the music. Even "In the Arms of Rain," which incorporates some nice xylophone (or the digital equivalent,) is really just another mass-produced love song with some curious window dressing.
This top-to-bottom would-be glam revival has more bark than bite, as even the album's most ambitious effort, "Ode to Solitude" fails to capitalize on the slight punk taste in the song. The album's single "Heartkiller" comes in with a riff that echoes of "Beat It," but doesn't maintain any signature qualities.
There was some potential here, but consistency was either lacking or put asunder. Songs like "Scared to Death" could have lent to a more refined, almost Foo Fighters-esque alternative metal experience, but Ville Valo's vocal inconsistency, from thin crooning to emotive wailing, put that proposition in jeopardy from the start.
So, to be fair, let me state again that I am not HIM's target audience. I am certain that legions of loyalists to the Finnish outfit will flock to and defend this album's viability. It fits the mold of their previous work, and is well produced, assembled and executed. Even with that though, this feels like a cash-in. The lack of variety and conservative nature of the musical themes leave a sour taste. The fans can have this one.