0 9 mins 1 yr

I have been a big fan of H.I.M [His Infernal Majesty] for over 20 years, and seeing Ville Valo performing as a solo artist, felt strange but, at the same time, heartwarming.

I arrived at the venue early, so early that I was only number 6. I arrived early to keep a spot for two of my friends, even though I knew I was not going to be able to join them after my pit session, but also because I wanted to interact with the other fans, the ones who, like me, had been waiting for many, too many, years. By early afternoon, a very long serpentine started, as hundreds of fans gathered, not even the rain stopped them from waiting, anxiously and excitedly, outside. Some faces were familiar, most were new, some were travelling from the EU, while others showed signs of their age. The Heartagram was everywhere, tattooed, on t-shirts, hoodies and bags, nails and faces. Some had been waiting for six years, others, like me, for over a decade.

As the doors opened, the venue packed up pretty quickly, it was a sold-out show. The stage set up was different than usual, half of it was covered by a black panel, as to hide something behind it. One support act opened the night, the Icelandic trio Kaelan Mikla. They soon set a mysterious mood with their dark sounds and the eerie screams from singer Laufey Soffía. Most may have not known the band, but I reckon it left an impression judging by the reactions throughout the performance, even if, for a few, wasn’t their cup of tea. As expected from a goth band, their performance was theatrical, with little lighting, and Soffía slowly moving and dancing on the stage like a wandering soul, waving her arms as to chanting everyone into their music. The set felt mystical and magical, singing in Icelandic added to the mysterious charm. The band offered an essential build-up to what was coming.

The lights went down, the black screens were taken away to reveal the new Heartagram at the back, slowly beating, to the intro notes of ‘Zen Solitaire’. As the intro goes along, the Heartagram lights up in pink, starting with the double point, VV (smart marketing move), to then fully light up in white. And so they arrive on stage, Ville takes his centre front spot and starts with ‘Echolocate Your Love’. While the tour was mainly dedicated to promoting the new solo album ‘Neon Noir’, he presented the crowd with some (nearly half of the set) of his best hits from the past, smartly alternating new and old, building a crescendo of euphoria, and maybe some nervousness, among his audience, waiting to hear their favourite tunes to show up. Mine (Gone With the Sin) wasn’t played but I don’t fault him, there are only so many ballads you can play at a metal gig.

His charisma hasn’t changed a bit, despite moving even less so on stage, he still managed to lead the mass, with hardly any interactions – the best testimony of it was a bra thrown at him! I was close enough to see his fun reaction, a little no-no shake of the head, and a timid smile, probably due to a little embarrassment.

While the sound of his new music was still attached to HIM’s signature, his presence felt different. He was calmer, almost godly, compared to what I remember of the performances I attended in his late 20s and early 30s. Ville Valo has reached a new level of maturity, like an expensive whiskey, sophisticated and strong in flavour.

Right from the start, the audience gave Ville Valo what he must have hoped for, a sea of people chanting every single word of ‘Echolocate Your Love’ and ‘Neon Noir’. After the two new hits, It was time for the first blast from the past, a short moment of no music with Ville singing the words ‘Love’s the funeral of hearts…‘, and so a scream that felt like a bomb resonated in the O2. ‘Right Here in My Arms’ followed straight after ‘Funeral of Hearts’ (and a sip of water), everything felt like in the old days, and further excitement built up in the room as the audience filled parts of the song for him.

‘Loveletting’ was next, a sweet love ballad and another moment of ‘quiet before the storm’, as everyone started recording on their phones and singing along to ‘two heartbeats out of sync with each other and crying, dreaming of love letting love’. And just like a wake-up call from the house alarm going off, or a rollercoaster going down, ‘Buried Alive by Love’ kicked in, with a majestic flashing show of lights that was probably way too much for those in the front rows, but so worth it. Everyone’s hearts started racing, everyone was screaming and jumping, singing out loud to ‘If I wake before I die, rescue me with your smile‘, Ville’s vocals felt very energetic, screaming high-pitched notes; and while this felt a little forced in the middle, the ending screaming was grandiose.

As the show went on, ‘In Trenodia’, ‘Wings of a Butterfly’ and ‘Heartful of Ghosts’ followed, before another great hit, ‘Join Me in Death’, one of my top 3. Again, massive audience participation, all phones up to record one of HIM’s most iconic singles, with everyone echoing ‘Won’t you die tonight for love’ and ‘this life ain’t worth living‘… who wouldn’t die of love for Ville?

‘The Foreverlost’, ‘The Kiss of Dawn’ and ‘Run Away From the Sun’ followed the same pattern, before the artist closed the night with the slow and beautifully executed ‘When Love and Death Embrace’ – I could see some fans tearing up already.

At this point, Ville and the band left the stage, some fans had to rush out to the venue to get to their last trains, and others did so because they thought the gig ended. After a few minutes, Ville went back on stage, gifting everyone with four more songs, starting with ‘Soul on Fire’, with fitting red lighting on the stage. While most had their phones up to record the song in full, others were waving their hands up in the air and jumping around. ‘Salute the Sanguine’, was up next and before it ended, the crowd grew eager for THAT one more song from the past. At this point, four words merely came out from Ville’s mouth ‘I did it all‘, and an echoing O2 followed with ‘...just for her, I did it all just for her, and love’s heart is death, for me and my poison girl…‘. Ville then took back the reins of the night, thanking his fans, and briefly introducing the band members before ending it with the beautiful and tearful ‘Saturnine Saturnalia’, the perfect ending song to soothe the souls and say goodbyes, as the Hearthagram at the back slowly ended pulsing as the last of the band left the stage.

VV setlist:

Echolocate Your Love

Neon Noir

The Funeral of Hearts (HIM)

Right Here in My Arms (HIM)


Buried Alive by Love (HIM)

In Trenodia

Wings of a Butterfly (HIM)

Heartful of Ghosts

Join Me in Death (HIM)

The Foreverlost

The Kiss of Dawn (HIM)

Run Away From the Sun

When Love and Death Embrace (HIM)


Soul on Fire (HIM)

Salute the Sanguine

Poison Girl (HIM)

Saturnine Saturnalia Words & images: Anna Marchesani (Nocturna Photography)