There is a certain segment of rock & roll fandom that is adverse to change for any reason. Usually, it's an older generation that loves acts whose albums continue to sound the same. (Hardcore followers of Status Quo, Bon Scott-era AC/DC, and pre-synth ZZ Top take note.) Fans of Finnish goth pop rockers H.I.M. are hardly baby boomers, though. In listening to their catalog, one or two things become self-evident: either they are happy to give their fans exactly what they desire over and over again, or they are incapable of change (or perhaps both, which is a win-win). Tears on Tape proves that H.I.M. moves forward and back but remains mostly in one place. Certain albums rock a bit harder, some feature more polished production, but essentially the hooks, song structures, and dynamics have remained the same throughout their history. The twin subjects on TOT are love and death. Lead crooner/ lyricist Ville Valo has romantic love firmly at the center of his vocabulary, and celebrates its riches, mourns its loss, and meditates on its meaning. Here he examines love as it encounters the greatest of all human mysteries: the great beyond. First single, "Lips Go Blue," commences with a riff worthy of Black Sabbath, but as keyboards and guitars vie for dominance, Valo croons about literally loving someone to death in a '60s bubble gum pop melody. Speaking of Sabbath (H.I.M.'s guitarist is married to Tony Iommi's daughter), they pay formal tribute by appropriating the riff from "A National Acrobat" in "Love Without Tears." "Into the Night" starts out with a rawer guitar edge but quickly slips into melodic, romantic '80s hair metal. "No Love" attempts to shake off the lyricism in favor of full-on, riff-centric metal that is musically reminiscent of Dio's finer moments, but it doesn't succeed because of its ballad-esque hook. "W.L.S.T.D." gets closer still with its slow progression, martial drums, and atmospheric keyboards; even in his most sinister snarl, Valo is so wistful he sounds like a jilted schoolboy, and H.I.M. are incapable of writing songs without proper hooks. Tears on Tape delivers exactly what the band's fans seem to require: a tragic, nearly ghoulish fascination with love and death that marries gothic pop romanticism with heavy rock. How many records does one need like this? Here H.I.M. seem to be banking a lot; and with more than 20 years and boatloads of albums and singles, who's going to argue?
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek