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HIM

Venus Doom

Sire

Seeking to justify the virus of heartagram tattoos that their 2005's breakthrough Dark Light inspired, HIM have released another new goth metal masterpiece ("masterpiece" if their brand of love metal is to your liking, that is) in the form of Venus Doom. Bringing back the same producer (Tim Palmer) that helped popularize their Finnish sounds stateside, Ville Valo and crew have followed the path that last led them to sold-out tours -- metal that's slow and goth enough to win over non-metal fans, yet lush and dark enough to still maintain their heavier rooted listeners.

Like past albums, it's Valo's doom-filled baritone -- and seeming inability to lighten up and smile -- that first jumps out of the speakers. The music rides shotgun to the charismatically tortured frontman. Like the Morrissey of metal, he voluntarily sets himself up inside of a lonesome little box of sadness within which his only form of communication with the outside world is through poetry and song. It's beautiful at times, as on "The Kiss of Dawn":

I'm reaching for your shadow drowning/ in the kiss of dawn/ Touching the pain that you left me with/ at the kiss of dawn.

or the light-extinguishing closer "Cyanide Sun":

Should've known how hard it's to stop tearing each other apart/ Separating souls entwined in all these labyrinths of lies/ I am dead to you/ A shadow doomed/ My love, forever in the dark.

Slipped smack dab in the middle of this album is a 10-minute epic, "Sleepwalking Past Hope." It's ambitious, it's bold, and it offers up some of the best guitar work on the disc. This should be a show-stopper in concert!

HIM: www.heartagram.com