I had, until this week, gone my entire life without being subjected to the music of HIM. I actively avoided it throughout the early 2000s. I was sure I didn’t need to hear their output; from their self-catagorization of “love-metal” (an oxymoron if there ever was one), to the precocious, insatiable marketing of the “heartagram” logo, to their association with the king of all douche bags, Bam Margera, it appeared to me that music was just secondary support for a contrived image, and so I steered clear.
Time passed, kids grew up, and as I spent less time around mall skaters, their existence faded from mine. To be honest, I was shocked to learn they were still making music, inasmuch as that can be applied. So, with this record, part of me wanted to find out that they were great; prove my adolescent self wrong, and discover something I’d been too proud to appreciate. Another part wanted the record to be putrid filth; something so vile it would support everything I ever suspected.
What I got with Tears on Tape, however, was an album so unbelievably boring, it elicits no feelings or reactions whatsoever (which actually makes it difficult to write about).
For a group that claims to be any subsidiary of metal, the album has about as much edge as a figure 8. Yes, there are heavy guitar riffs over the entire thing, pounding drums and rumbling bass, but it is devoid of any real emotion. There is no anger, no pain, no love, no kinetic excitement; there’s nothing. I cannot find a single track with even a hint of energy behind it, which makes this album great fodder for the stereotype of Scandinavian music lacking passion. Any time the melody verges on a hook or could almost be considered catchy, it flat lines, letting the listener slip back into comatose indifference. The numbing lull is certainly complemented by the fact that the whole record sounds as if it is being broadcast from a faraway FM tower; there is a fuzziness to every song that seems to suggest it could suddenly be consumed by white noise, which would probably be more interesting, actually.
The lyrics are just as uninspired and bland as the rest of the release. As suggested by the title itself, they are the sort of self indulgent, melodramatic thoughts one could expect from a hormonal 8th grader. Occasionally, the band hints at something deeper, such as the realization that everything is not perfect in love (“Love Without Tears”), but ultimately fails to explore the territory with any kind of mature vision.
Listening to the record straight through is a truly exhausting experience, and by “No Love,” it finally evokes a strong response – I had to fight with every fiber of my being to avoid turning it off – but this more based on exposure than musical merit. Upon actual completion of the collection, my mind felt like a mushy bowl of cold grits.
It will please established fans, but it will anesthetize everyone else.