Released: January 13, 2023
The fantastic Ville Valo, former frontman of the one and only H.I.M, has resurfaced with a new solo album titled Neon Noir.
It has been roughly six years since H.I.M, the band fronted by Ville Valo wrapped up their farewell tour, and a decade since that now defunct group last released a studio album. Doesn’t time fly. Valo was a founding member of H.I.M, or His Infernal Majesty, if you wish to break down the acronym – a group that not only would become the most successful band to ever emerge from Finland, but become the soundtrack to an entire generation.
The mid-90s where a time when skateboarding ruled supreme – from video games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Skate Punk and eventually, through crazy skateboarding videos gone well out of control, like the smash hit CKY (Camp Kill Yourself) that would in time become Jackass, the television show that ruled the airwaves in the early 00’s and made MTV cool again. Albeit briefly. The rise of CKY and Jackass had several major effects – including soundtracks that brought underground or lesser known bands to the mainstream. Bands like Norway’s Turbonegro – and of course, Finland’s H.I.M.
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Suddenly, H.I.M where a household name. Their music splashed across television screens all over the world and their logo, the heartagram, became a huge sensation. Tattoo magazines would regularly feature young people with the heartagram inked permanently into their skin and H.I.M’s album sales soared through the roof. Not only had a rag-tag group of skaters found a way to reach the stars by doing stupid, stupid things – but they had brought their musical tastes along with them for the ride.
Now, off the bat, the honest truth is that anybody that was or is a fan of H.I.M is going to be into what Valo is doing here with his solo career. And that really isn’t surprising when you consider the fact that Valo played a healthy role in the creation of H.I.M’s music – and not just when it came to penning lyrics and waxing his soothing yet feral voice through his microphone. Valo had a lot to do with the writing process, including writing guitar riffs and bass lines – sometimes entire songs. So naturally, and considering that Neon Noir is entirely written and performed by Valo – there are going to be similarities.
From the opening riffs of Echolocate Your Love, it is evident that Neon Noir could have so easily have been the ninth studio album from H.I.M, and that is before Valo kicks in with his vocals. But for as many similarities that there are to his former band, there are signs of growth from Valo as well. Slower parts or more tender segments, for lack of a better word, that might not have made the cut on a H.I.M record. When you’ve played such a poignant role in the creation of a generational band though, there are always going to be traces of that that seep into whatever is done down the road. Neon Noir is Ville Valo; Valo is H.I.M.
Tracks like The Foreverlost hint at the more mainstream pop rock that was so important to the 1980’s – a time that even the album name, Neon Noir, alludes to. Again though, Valo’s past works have always have an 80’s flavor to them, well before it was the cool thing to do. There is possibly a tad more Depeche Mode, The Sisters Of Mercy or Fields Of The Nephilim infused into these new tunes. More synthesizer and keyboards that sometimes overpower the guitars – so while fans of H.I.M will find solace in these tunes, they should approach Neon Noir with the knowledge that not all is as it once was.
Lyrically, little has changed from the H.I.M days. The atmosphere and the ambience of the record – something that so many artists of all disciplines so often overlook, is also quite remarkably on par with the works of H.I.M. The main difference really is the relaxing of the more rock orientated tunes in favor of the keyboard lead passages. Think Tears On Tape colliding with The Smiths. Less distortion and more Korg. Or Roland maybe. I have no idea what Valo used to create these tunes. Alas, you get the point!
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In time, I assume the comparisons to Valo’s former work will fade away and his newer albums will be sized up alongside one another. Until then, it is only nature to hold Neon Noir up against the works of H.I.M. With Neon Noir, Valo has found a way to get through the global pandemic that has stifled us all in so many ways, and allows him to find a creative outlet once again. That alone is worth the cover charge.
Physical copies of Ville Valo’s Neon Noir are available through Spinefarm Records pre-orders now. Three variations of the vinyl version and a compact disc version as well. Treat yourself. You deserve it.
For Fans Of: H.I.M, Depeche Mode, Babylon Whores
01. Echolocate Your Love
02. Run Away From the Sun
03. Neon Noir
05. The Foreverlost
06. Baby Lacrimarium
07. Salute the Sanguine
08. In Trenodia
09. Heartful of Ghosts
10. Saturnine Saturnalia
11. Zener Solitaire
12. Vertigo Eyes