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Album Review: VV / Neon Noir

14 January 2023 | 10:49 am | Mary Varvaris
Originally Appeared In

Fans of HIM won't be disappointed with the singer's first solo album.

Ville Valo, making solo music as VV, has finally released his debut solo album, Neon Noir. The release comes after he began writing for it in 2019 and putting out an EP, Gothica Fennica Vol. 1, in 2020 with a few songs that also appear on the album (Salute The Sanguine, Run Away From The Sun and Saturnine Saturnalia).

Run Away From The Sun is a hopeful, swelling number about as far from the gothic rock or "love metal" he's known for as you can get. Salute The Sanguine recalls symphonic elements of power metal popularised by fellow Fins Nightwish, but with his familiar voice grounding audiences. The latter, meanwhile, is dark and broody and likely the closest you’ll get to a song on the album sounding like HIM. Neon Noir is packed with synths, keyboards, riffs, and a rhythm section that entrances listeners from the get-go.

The idea behind Valo releasing the Gothica Fennica Vol. 1 EP was to test the waters, he admitted in a Kill Your Stereo interview. On the album, Valo features his many influences that primarily thrived during the 80s, such as A-ha, early Depeche Mode and Erasure, Siouxsie And The Banshees, and Cocteau Twins.

Most surprisingly, hearing the poppy synths popularised by bands like A-ha and Depeche Mode and the melancholy minor-key of Cocteau Twins totally works. Valo sounds right at home in the doom-inspired Heartful Of Ghosts by contrasting mournful melodies with his lighter register. The singer explores "a teary mascara marathon between Robert Smith and Ozzy, with a dash of hope" on the album opener and highlight, Echolocate Your Love, a synth-laden number that encourages dancing. The best moments on the album are the unexpected; the swings towards massive climaxes, handclaps, and full new wave.

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The singer's baritone vocal is front and centre, besides loud electric guitars, keyboards, drums and a feeling of yearning. Following the 2017 disbandment of HIM, the Finnish group Valo sang in for 26 years, the vocalist sounds refreshed and reinvigorated after a much-needed break.

A debut album often showcases an artist's influences with hints about where they'll go next. Valo has accomplished that with Neon Noir and more - he's established himself as an artist apart from the band he was recognised in for almost 30 years. What a remarkable achievement that is.