Ville Valo – Neon Noir (Spinefarm Records)Monday, 9th January 2023
Firm in establishing his importance on the alternative rock/metal community through his work in HIM, Ville Valo sets out on a solo career through Neon Noir. Pioneer of the Heartagram, his distinctive take on gothic/melancholic music that is captivating, moody, while endearing bears his personal stamp over the decades. Over the course of the twelve tracks Ville captures an aural prism of ideas that envelope the listener as if comforted under a weighted blanket, tugging at the body, mind, and soul through all the best melodic hooks or shifts necessary at varying tempos awash in this vibrant dynamic darkness to light transformation.
The intertwining of instrumentation from keyboards to piano, acoustic to electric guitars, bass and drums with electronic swirls painted in and out when appropriate sets Ville up for his alluring mid-range vocal penchant, doubling up harmony possibilities to hypnotic measures. Many will walk away humming (or strumming) the key sequences to highlights such as the gentle “Heartful of Ghosts” or relatively uplifting title cut. Early in the track listing Ville chooses to push the much more compact efforts, whereas towards the back end of the record a couple of six to seven-minute offerings showcase more of his brooding side musically – “Saturnine Saturnalia” specifically spacious in pacing, featuring a more cinematic, mechanical up and down nature to its musical shifts. His purity in terms of placing the right words in expressive overtones dripping in proper emotion makes each song its own standout – but of course listeners will have their favorites to return to, and for this scribe “Loveletting” and the shape shifting, electronic-enhanced “In Trenodia” are two winners, the latter sweeping in its guitar passages against the angelic vocal harmonies during the chorus.
It’s the next stage in Ville’s musical journey, one that most ardent supporters are more than happy to climb aboard. Neon Noir takes decades of influences drilled down into a coherent record that fans of alternative, gothic rock and metal should equally appreciate.