Music News

Worship H.I.M.

This past summer, Ville Valo, the charismatic frontman for Finland's H.I.M., announced his engagement to gal pal Jonna Nygren, and he's got some ambitious plans for their impending betrothal.

"My main idea is to build up a church," Valo declares, his English accented with more than a smidgen of Scandinavia. "I've always loved great big weddings, with flowers and bouquets and a Victorian feel to it. But I'm not part of a church, so I can't have a church marriage unless I build a church myself."

Even though H.I.M. stands for "His Infernal Majesty," Valo isn't in thrall to Old Scratch. Rather, he sees the world in terms of oppositional forces that bring out the best in each other. "That's why the album is called Dark Light," he says of H.I.M.'s dramatic new disc. "You have to have both sides -- black and white, yin and yang, feminine and male -- and you have to be somewhere in between. For me, life is like trapeze-y dancing between sanity and insanity, and you've got to find the balance."

Finding the middle ground hasn't been easy for Valo and his mates (currently Migé Amour, Gas Lipstick, Linde Lindstrm and Emerson Burton). When the group came together in the mid-'90s, its moniker, which was chosen as a tribute to Black Sabbath, called to mind the sort of black-metal acts with which H.I.M. had little in common. "It was like, if you were playing black metal at the time, you had to dress like a penguin and sound like a Hoover and fucking praise evil forces or whatever, and that wasn't us at all," he notes. "And we also didn't want people to think we had anything to do with things like burning churches." To make the distinction clear, Valo came up with the tag "love metal," which he describes as "a tender way of saying ŒFuck you' to the black-metal community."

This phrase, which was used as the title of the 2003 H.I.M. recording, is echoed graphically by the heartagram, a symbol in which a heart is superimposed over a pentagram. The clever logo -- and the band as a whole -- has since been adopted by Bam Margera, the Jackass graduate and star of MTV's youth fave Viva la Bam, whose tireless proselytizing on behalf of H.I.M. may explain why Dark Light debuted among the top twenty discs on the Billboard album chart earlier this month. Valo acknowledges that the exposure has helped, "especially with the skater kids."

Although he's not averse to the notion of Nygren and him having kids of their own someday, Valo's got to get through their wedding first. When he's asked how he pictures the church of his dreams, he says, "The lavatories would be pub-sized, there would definitely be a bar, the glasses of wine wouldn't be so tiny, and the pieces of bread would be like proper pieces of bread -- more the size of tacos. And maybe we'd take the crucifix off the roof and put a heartagram up there."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts