There's a lot to adore about the Finnish band H.I.M.
This cutely ghoulish outfit not only uses the love muscle as part of its insignia, the "heartagram," but its heaving gothic pop has been referred to by the band itself as "love metal," the title of one of the group's albums.
The band has gone into the cultural pantheon through a friendship with local bozo icon Bam Margera, if you like that sort of thing.
And H.I.M. singer Ville Valo is a romantic h-throb despite his gloomy lyrical outlook and prowling baritone growl. He's a brooding stick figure who, in goth-metal regard, is prettier to look at than Marilyn Manson. The ultimate compliment to the power of Valo and the rise of H.I.M. is that he's cowriting and singing the next James Bond theme. That's shaking and stirring.
From the roar H.I.M. ushered throughout Friday's Electric Factory show, you can hear why filmmakers like these performers. From the mournful Tim Burton-like string sound of "Passion's Killing Floor" to the Exorcist-y bell tones of "Vampire Heart," theirs is a darkly arch cinematic éclat. Chugging, slashing guitars and wheedling organ noises came at no charge. H.I.M.'s wry, dry-ice theatricality doesn't stop there.
Though Valo's voice is the distilled ground-dragging essence of Bowie/Iggy liquidity on their hollow cover of "Wicked Games," he is capable of a bruised, cracked falsetto that sticks out most through the pastoral piano line of "Join Me in Death." That he sings words like "this life ain't worth living" only makes him more melodramatic.
All of this, though, happens within a pop-metal framework, which is why Bam's skateboard crowd digs H.I.M. With its twin guitar split and chirpy harmonies, "Wings of a Butterfly" could have been a hair-metal anthem if only Valo had moved from one spot - shook his head, something. And though slow and long, the goblin-rock complexity of "Sleepwalking Past Hope" was but a prog-punk textbook, filled as it is with fuzz-bass bursts and glissando guitar solos. Boo.