He’s the man who most likely defined your high school years. He’s the man who is instantly recognisable just purely from the crooning baritone of his voice. He’s the man responsible for the Heartagram design that you see everywhere – either on someone’s body as a tattoo or on someone’s online profile page (or both.) And if you still don’t know the man of which I’m talking about, then you’ve surely been living under a rock for the past two decades.
His name is Ville Valo, the former frontman of legendary Finnish goth metal band H.I.M. After disbanding the iconic quintet on New Year’s Eve 2017, he went on to pursue other ventures with a band named Ville Valo & Agents, before soon settling into the more cryptic, mysterious and elusive name of VV – a simple yet effective moniker that is essentially Ville described to a tee. And now finally, after years of meticulous planning, writing and recording, Valo is back with his debut solo album Neon Noir.
It begins with the track Echolocate Your Love, a song that is sure to get the blood flowing with its explosive intro and its equally as anthemic chorus. The blend of crunchy guitars and airy synths throughout the record heavily reminds me of something that 2015-era Bring Me the Horizon or Ghost would write. Salute the Sanguine is a track that feels the closest to your typical H.I.M. song – it’s definitely heavier and weightier than most of the songs on the record, yet it still holds true to the record’s pop-infused sensibilities. And even on Zener Soltaire, a lyric-less piece of music placed shortly before the end of the album, it achieves something that interludes usually don’t – it moves you through the power of its melody.
But if there’s one song that stands out above the rest, it’s Heartful of Ghosts – a song so beautifully seductive and yet so tragically dark at the same time that it seems like it would be a perfect fit on H.I.M.’s 2003 album Love Metal. One listen to this track and I guarantee that you’ll be left either crying or mesmerised, and if you’re not, then something is wrong.
Even the album cover to Neon Noir is effective in foreshadowing the record ahead, as it is one that resembles the sound you are to hear perfectly. A monochromatic image of Valo wearing a black beret and a veil with the letter V reflected in the dark of his mascara-drowned eyes. It captures the dark sound that you’ll experience on the album’s playback, but one that is more tinged in goth-tronica (if that is such a thing), as evidenced by the more artistic and New Wave-esque look of the cover.
In short, Neon Noir is most definitely worth the wait. In just under an hour, it serves a shining purpose that every die-hard Valo fan will appreciate and love, as well as serve as a great introduction to those who aren’t familiar with his work and want to dive in deep. Even though we are a mere two weeks into January 2023, it seems that Neon Noir is already an Album Of The Year contender. Don’t believe me? You need only to press play to change your mind.
Available January 13th via Spinefarm Records, pre-order here.
EURO & UK LEG OF 2023 ‘NEON NOIR TOUR’
13.01 – Tavastia, Helsinki (sold out)
14.01 – Tavastia, Helsinki (sold out)
15.01 – Tavastia, Helsinki (sold out)
14.01 – Stodola, Warsaw (sold out)
15.02 – Studio, Krakow
16.02 – LMB, Prague (sold out)
17.02 – Huxley’s Berlin (sold out)
18.02 – Fabrik, Hamburg (sold out)
20.02 – Paradiso, Amsterdam (sold out)
21.02 – Batschkapp, Frankfurt (sold out)
22.02 – Komplex, Zurich
24.02 – Razzmatazz, Barcelona
25.02 – La Riviera, Madrid
26.02 – Cineteatro Capitolio, Lisbon (sold out)
27.02 – Hard Club, Porto
02.03 – Alcatraz, Milan
03.03 – Backstage Werk, Munich (sold out)
04.03 – Barba Negra, Budapest (sold out)
05.03 – Arena, Vienna (sold out)
07.03 – Rockhal, Esch-Sur-Alzette
08.03 – LMH, Cologne (sold out)
09.03 – Le Trabendo, Paris (sold out)
10.03 – O2 Academy, Bristol
11.03 – Rock City, Nottingham (sold out)
13.03 – Garage, Glasgow (sold out)
14.03 – O2 Ritz, Manchester (sold out)
15.03 – O2 Forum Kentish Town, London (sold out)
Tickets available here
Review – Joe Richardson
Photo: Juha Mustonen