Ville Valo is renowned as the lead vocalist of legendary Finnish gothic rock band HIM, and now he’s going it alone with his first solo album, Neon Noir.
Working under the moniker VV, his debut solo release comes six years after the sad final show of his former band, but Neon Noir has plenty of the old genius as well as intriguing new flourishes to occupy new and old fans alike.
Tone Deaf recruited one longtime supporter, Dan from fierce Adelaide rockers alt., to dive deep into VV’s album, and he found lots to like about it. You can read Dan’s in-depth review below, and listen to alt.’s latest searing single, ‘WRAITH’, here.
VV’s Neon Noir is out now via Heartagram Records.
HIM fans rejoice! The dark prince of love metal has returned to take you on a rollercoaster of love and death. For two and a half years Ville Valo has been locked away working on the whimsical gothic dreamscape that is his debut solo album Neon Noir.
Fans were excited when HIM’s social media changed names to Heartagram and the profile pictures changed to a familiar logo encasing VV in its core. I know I was excited when I woke up one morning to see Gothica Fennica Vol. 1’ in my Spotify. Seven years was a long time to wait for three tracks, but those three tracks were soon to become 12 when the album fully released. I couldn’t wait to chuck on my black nail polish and get my sweaty hands all over this album, and now here are my thoughts.
On first listen I am instantly transported through time to days past listening to the sweet melancholy of Ville’s brooding and poignant voice. This time there’s new and unfamiliar melodies, but with a sound so nostalgic I thought I was on my way to school and not to work.
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Instrumentally the album sounds most like the latter of HIM’s discography, taking from albums like Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice and Tears on Tape, and blending it with a sense of modernity as well as dipping its feet into an era that predates the arrival of HIM.
I can’t help but notice some 80’s inspiration entwined in the synths, the beat, and dreamy feel of the songs. Ville also reaches deep into his bag of vocal tricks, producing something that would not have been unaccustomed to a band from that era. Bands from that era where the influence is noticeable comes from the likes of Duran Duran, A-ha and The Chameleons.
The album flows smoothly from track to track creating feelings of light and dark as well as shades of grey entwined with glitter of colour. Standouts on the album for me are the second track ‘Run Away From the Sun’, which has to have some of Ville’s most catchy melodies to date, the title track with its intricate guitar work and our first glimpse of Ville’s patented low baritone vocal pulling you into his web of lush.
‘The Foreverlost’ will leave you singing the chorus for days to come, and it’s currently living rent free in my head. ‘Salute the Sanguine’ is one of the most HIM-sounding tracks on the album which straight away got my vote.
‘In Trenodia’ is the most 80’s-influenced song on the album and it’s absolutely beautiful. I can imagine it playing during that scene in a rom-com when he comes back for her in the pouring rain.
And ‘Saturnine Saturnalia’ has some amazing lyrics bound with a riff that will make all HIM fans smile as they realise how much Ville was the backbone of that band.
In summary, Ville’s album is an outright contender for album of the year – even though we’re only two weeks in. It has an amazing flow and a handful of songs that I will listen to for many years to come.
But I can’t help but notice it’s more light than dark and misses a little bit of the edginess and grit that HIM displayed in the guitar work. Some of the synth melodies feel a little recycled from each other and previous HIM tracks, so it feels a little too familiar in some parts.
It’s a solid first release for what I’m hoping will be many more to come, and I’m excited to hopefully see these live in the not-too-distant future. Neon Noir is a glowing hope in a murky world.