Over the course of two decades and eight albums, Finnish goth-rockers HIM have chiselled out a decadent niche by combining melodic power with a Byronic glower. By the early 2000s, they had become multimillion-selling metal monsters across mainland Europe, and while the five-piece never quite crossed over into the UK and US mainstream, the distinctive HIM sigil – an inverted pentagram with two points rounded off to create a heart – at least made a decent impression.
After a recent creative furlough, this six-month, global farewell tour (subtitled, with typical Finnish deadpan, Bang and Whimper 2017) will climax with a hometown blowout in Helsinki on New Year’s Eve. Faithful fans have remobilised – the UK leg is sold out – to celebrate the band’s juddering and unabashedly emotional legacy. They may hail from the land of raspy gargoyles Lordi, but with their torrid, high-wire tales of cursed and/or thwarted love HIM have almost as much in common thematically with Lorde.
The rakish Ville Valo, beaming under a black beanie, is more of a vaulting singer than a thrash screamer. But as well as lovingly tracing the florid melodies of Buried Alive By Love and Your Sweet 666, there is a hint of last-day-of-school mischief to his performance. On the sombre dirge Gone With the Sin, he goes slightly off-book to see just how low and Leonard Cohen-like he can push his vocal. Later, on the persuasive metal melodrama of The Funeral of Hearts he seems to briefly channel Elvis.
The overall mood is celebratory, and the focus is on early glories. In a show that is almost two hours there is only time for the title track from their last album, 2013’s Tears on Tape. But they do excavate their warthog-thrash take on Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game, an early but inspired cover now ductile enough to include both a monster solo from dreadlocked guitar warlock Mikko “Linde” Lindström and a prog-keyboard freakout.
The final flourish – apart from a heartfelt “thanks for having us” from Velo – is to blend a breakneck version of Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell into their Pixies-esque 1997 single When Love and Death Embrace. For HIM, there may not be any more, more, more, but in an era saturated with cash-in reunions it is refreshing to see a band devil-sign off on their own eccentric terms.