Tears on Tape: the return of HIM

So, HIM are back with a blinding new album, Tears on Tape. But sadly, this comes with a ‘but’. As I write, singer Ville Valo is very ill, having suffered a severe asthma attack backstage on Friday, just as the band were due to start their US tour. It appears to have been accompanied by ‘presumptive pneumonia’, and fans worldwide are sending him our best wishes for a very speedy return to full health. Of course, the tour has been cancelled, and Ville’s condition gives this release even more resonance.

I bought my copy today, the special edition that comes in a pack with a copy of Metal Hammer, dedicated entirely to the band and edited by Ville Valo himself. I’m listening to it right now.

I’ve met the band a couple of times, both at Portsmouth Guildhall just before a gig. The first time, I was writing for a traditional music website and I have particularly special memories of this show. I flashed my card at their tour manager and hoped for the best, then he sought me out in the foyer and said there was a folk band following HIM on this October tour and they would love a write-up. Was I up for it? (Does a bear shit in the woods?) So I accompanied him through several doors, sat on an amp and waited. As I recall, Cathedral were supporting, that night, and I could hear enough from where I was to not be especially sad at not being in the auditorium at that moment. Anyway, after a short while, their tour manager came back out to fetch me and led the way to a door which, when I looked up, fingers crossed, said ‘HIM’. Ohhh, yes. The one time I hoped it wasn’t actually a folk band, and there they were – all five of them, plus former member Antto, crammed into the tiny dressing room, preparing for the gig. The tour manager offered me some water, and then, even better, Ville said to me, ‘Beer?’ ‘I’d love one, thanks.’ (Smug? Me?) Antto, Mige and Ville did actually play me some folk tunes – they’d just visited Ireland – and they were fucking great! And then we talked for a bit, I tried not to go redder with every minute that passed, tried not to stare at Ville and make myself completely obvious, and made the most of every single moment I was in there.

The second time, I caught them off the tour bus. A load of teeny fans were waiting in the car park for them, and a couple of them actually approached the bus, only to be greeted by curtains being shut on them. Well, did they really expect anything else? They disappeared. A couple of girls and I hung on. And were rewarded. The band signed my CD (Venus Doom) and I made sure they knew about the write-up I’d published, as promised last time, on the (now defunct) website. Ville said yes, he remembered. That made me happy. I took a photo with him and then they went inside.

These are lovely memories that I’ll keep forever, and the reason I’ve described them here is because recalling them makes me feel fond of all the band members all over again, and, now that Ville is so ill, my thoughts are especially with him.

The new songs are truly amazing, though I really didn’t expect anything else. HIM are a group of extremely talented musicians and, in a world where so many releases are just insipid crap, that’s refreshing. Ville’s vocals are beautiful as ever. The band are on top form. The Fucking Fabulous Finns are back.

Get well soon, dear Ville. We all love you.

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