HIM, Skindred and Finch at the Pageant
Michael Mofsen
11/9/2005 10:27:28 PM

Since the five-piece’s 1997 debut Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666 [BMG Intl] the Scandinavian band, HIM, have been labeled ‘goth,’ even ‘black metal’ by critics, but HIM has stumbled upon a new sub genre: Love metal.

An acronym for "His Infernal Majesty," HIM is a cult band in America and their fans are rabid. They know every lyric, own all their albums and singles, and have at least one article of clothing with a heartagram--HIM’s logo, a pentagram with the heart. So of course the atmosphere at St. Louis’ the Pageant on October 24th was extremely vibrant.

This was HIM’s first time in St. Louis and their second tour in the U.S. (Their first one was last year around this time, and only in major cities.) With the release of Dark Light, HIM’s fifth album and their first international release, their music has gone mainstream and longtime fans are a little disappointed that their favorite band isn’t a secret anymore.

When the doors opened at seven on October 24th, the fan’s faces lit up. Even the gloomy goths flashed a laconic smile. Instead of the fans going straight for the pit, this group went right to the merchandise, some buying one of every product. By the end of the show, all the cool shirts were sold out.

Skindred was the first band to perform, sounding like a reggae version of Rage Against the Machine. Their singer kept stopping in between songs and trying to get the crowd jumping. Not many responded. While their music wasn’t terrible, Skindred’s heavy style didn’t really mesh with the main act. Skindred has the energy that every live act needs, but they need to find a tour with heavier tastes. The band is definitely on to something different, and might be cool to see if you haven’t heard them.

While waiting for the next act, Finch, someone in the crowd spotted almost-celebrity Don Vito in the Halo Bar. Uncle to the famous skateboarder, Bam Margera, fans went nuts and chanted his name. This just goes to show you that anyone can be a celebrity, even an incredibly overweight white souse from Westchester. Bam Margera is somewhat responsible for HIM’s success in the states. Bam started making his Element t-shirts with the heartagram logo, and viewers of MTV’s Jackass or his CKY videos began drawing the heartagram everywhere. HIM is Bam’s favorite band, and he has copied every tattoo from Ville’s body onto his. Bam has also directed some video’s for the band, including “The Sacrament” and “Buried Alive by Love.”

Finch has had a hard time on this tour. The HIM online forum mentioned that they were booed off stage at certain cities. Finch is a hardcore, emo-type band, and they’re really not bad. Maybe their previous shows just lacked energy or they got shit for making the fans wait. Whatever the reason, the St. Louis crowd seemed to enjoy Finch’s opening, with the crowd moshing, jumping, and getting into them. Near the middle of the set, though, people calmed down and waited for them to finish up their set. The singer counted down the songs left in their setlist after each song, making the fans even more eager for HIM, and each song seemed longer than it actually was. When Finch were finally done, they got the same cheer they got when they came onstage. Like Skindred, Finch was performing at the wrong concert.

Next, Don Vito came onstage and introduced HIM. Though you couldn’t understand a thing he said, the crowd still went nuts. HIM took over and opened with “Vampire Heart,” one of the best songs from their new album. Starting out with a synthesized Iron Maiden-type riff from the Seventh Son era, the song slows down in the pre-chorus with clean guitars. As lead singer, Ville Valo, sings the chorus, “Love me like you love the sun, scorching the blood in my vampire heart,” the crowd sang along with each word almost louder then Ville. He looked somewhat surprised that people knew the words already. When the song came to an end, Lindie (guitar) went right into the riff for “Right Here in My Arms” and the crowd was again Ville’s. While the band really didn’t seem to possess much energy, Ville sang with all his heart and soul. A band like HIM doesn’t need to overpower with noise, because Ville’s lyrics and sweet-but-haunting vocals are more important to the fans then the actual music.

“Your Sweet 666,” the opening track to Razorblade Romance whipped the crowd into a frenzy. The crowd jumped and sang at the top of their lungs. Ville smiled and turned right to Mige (bass), smiling too. The audience seemed to respond more to the band’s older songs as opposed to their new ones, probably due to familiarity.

With a band like HIM, every song in their catalogue is amazing in its own special way. The band played “Razorblade Kiss,” which may be a new live favorite, but never seemed to be a big hit. The whole crowd sang along with each lyric as if they wrote them down in a notebook several times. “It’s All In Tears” off of their first record, almost sounded better live then the actual studio recording. Most of the crowd didn’t seem to recognize this song, though, as Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666 wasn’t released in the U.S. until a few months ago. Before that, the album was almost impossible to buy at a local record store. Many believe that the band’s first big hit, “Wicked Game,” a cover of the Chris Isaac song, is better then the original version. HIM managed to take out the 80’s-sounding love song and turn it into their own. The band closed with their new single, “Wings of a Butterfly,” which is one of their weaker tracks but is currently getting some airplay on KPNT. Nonetheless, the crowd went ballistic.

The band played only one encore, a cover of Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man”. Although almost no one in this primarily underage audience knew the lyrics, they embraced the cover.

After the band left the stage, the crowd sifted out, still in shock that they actually saw HIM. Most of the crowd had been waiting for this moment for years, and they weren’t disappointed, despite even the fact that their set was a little short. Besides that, this concert amazed. HIM is leading the way for a new wave of mainstream goth bands now hitting the U.S. But the difference will be that HIM are the originators of that new sub genre, love metal.

Photo by Mary Parker


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