Living in Finland, one needs to distance oneself from society to form any sort of personal opinion of HIM. For christssakes, the prime minister is asked by the press to comment on the recent sacking of Nightwish singer Tarja Turunen and on its effects on Finnish music exports. This latter development has at least temporarily reduced the national gloom pop triumvirate to a duo; Ville Valo and Lauri Ylönen (The Rasmus) with their respective bands are now followed with doubled intensity as they carry the blue and white flag to new continents.

"Dark Light" is clearly about planting that flag (albeit with a huge heartagram sprayed all over it) firmly in US soil. In contrast to the dynamic changes of pace on "Love Metal", the group's perhaps best effort yet, all the songs on "Dark Light" border on the ballad. And while choruses are characteristically memorable, they would benefit from a shift of focus from "love" to "metal". Ville Valo can claim the artistic integrity of his band (as he did in his Release Spotlight here) until hell freezes over, but this time I'll bet my socks off that there has been some managerial input into what "Dark Light" should sound like. Instead of Finnish metal mastermind Hiili Hiilesmaa, the group has recruited the services of mainstream producer Tim Palmer, and the songs are molded in a predictable, single-friendly shape.

"Vampire Heart", "Wings of a Butterfly" and "Behind the Crimson Door" are catchy anthems of gothic pop, but even they lack the directness and power I crave, no... demand, from the rock band I know HIM actually is. The powerful opener "Buried Alive by Love" from the last album is the obvious point of reference here. I don't know how much longer HIM will be able to keep churning out the ridiculous gothic kitsch of their lyrics, but the best way to frame them and divert attention elsewhere would be to simply rock harder.