Dark hearts around the world were shocked when Ville Valo quietly released his new solo EP, Gothica Fennica Vol. 1, me included. Like other fans, I was saddened to see HIM call it quits in 2017. They’re one of those bands that have stuck with me for a long time, so I wasn’t ready to say goodbye just yet. With the band finished, I hoped Valo would continue to release new music. And though he launched the new band Ville Valo and The Agents last year, this EP sees him returning to that familiar love metal sound.
Gothica Fennica Vol. 1 is essentially a HIM EP and that’s perfectly fine. Consisting of three songs, each has the blend of hard rock with Gothic tones and melancholy lyrics the band was known for. “Salute the Sanguine” and “Runaway from the Sun” have the same haunting, ethereal yet beautiful sound found on HIM’s final album Tears on Tape while closing track “Saturnine Saturnalia” has a harder edge and doom-laden vibe reminiscent of Dark Light and Venus Doom. While the entire EP is good, the closing track is the highlight. The soft music lulls you into a sense of calm that’s disrupted when the guitars and somber keys come in revealing lurking darkness. Similar to other HIM songs, these tracks feature pretty, mellow music filled with morose, moody undertones. Everything about the release screams HIM making you wonder if these are outtakes from an unreleased album.
It’s great to hear the spirit of the band live on in this EP and reminds me of why they were so endearing to many. Their mixture of hard rock with a hint of Goth, metal and the macabre was often a source of comfort. I always found their music strangely beautiful. They had the ability to create songs that sounded Hellish and sinister to songs that had morbid lyrics that were strangely romantic. Ville Valo’s crooning vocals made them even more gorgeous. It’s great to hear those soft, sweet vocals return on this EP.
I’ve always thought he was underrated as a singer. Not only does he have a great voice, he has an impressive range. He can go from light and sweet to demonic and deep within seconds. And the EP really highlights his unique vocals. It’s great to hear him return to this sound, but I hope he doesn’t rehash what he’s already done with the band. I would love to hear what he can do outside his comfort zone in the future.
Listening to the EP, you can’t help but wonder if Valo is launching another iteration of the band. Not only do the songs sound exactly like HIM, the EP cover features a new version of their iconic heartagram logo. After hearing it, you get the feeling that Valo wanted to keep HIM going but ended it due to a lack of interest from the other members. Will this be HIM 2.0 or will his solo output be a spiritual successor of the band? Whatever it is, I and my fellow HIM fans can’t wait to hear more. Gothica Fennica Vol. 1 is a promising taste of what’s to come. Hopefully, it won’t be too long until Valo graces us with more music. For now, let’s bask in this dark, beautiful gift he’s given us during these difficult times.
Stream Gothica Fennica Vol. 1 here.