He Is Legend

Heavy Fruit

Written by: AP on 25/08/2014 20:54:07

It wasn’t turbulent; it was simply sudden. Barely had the promotional cycle for 2009’s cult classic "It Hates You" even begun before it was snuffed out and nearly wound up as the headstone to He is Legend’s career. Three months in its wake, the Wilmington, NC born rockers froze into indefinite hibernation, with vocalist Schuylar Croom’s decision to fill in for Dallas Taylor with Maylene & the Sons of Disaster shortly thereafter, signalling, for many, the definitive and untimely demise of a band whose potential was never truly given the opportunity to unfold. Fortunately, that hiatus was short lived: two years later, on Halloween, 2011, the band awakened to play a hometown show at the Satellite Bar & Lounge, with Croom declaring that a new album would surface in the following year. That promise was obviously misguided, or perhaps in their slumber He is Legend lost track of time, for it is now the year 2014. But at last, the long-awaited comeback record is now available for purchase, under the title “Heavy Fruit"; pop, post-grunge, alternative metal & blues meet once again.

He is Legend was never a band to revel in cop-out instancy, and here too, they insist on keeping faith with their ideas and practices. The majority of the 13 tracks that comprise "Heavy Fruit" betray a foundation of meticulous song writing that allows each song to fledge and mature, often at length, proportioning quirky designs, strong verses and absorbing choruses into roughly equal amounts. Opening track "No Visitors", for instance, distills its lasting value from its sheer bombast and Croom's playful lyricism ("...a habit of hiding my addicts in the attic..."), whilst the unforgettable "This Will Never Work" immediately in its wake, tugs the other way with rowdy Southern fried punk'n'roll riffage that sounds like ramming the sardonic groove of Every Time I Die down the throat of 70's hillbilly sleaze rockers Black Oak, and a pre-chorus full of deviancy, which finds Croom insidiously singing "You really ought to put me away, you know. You really ought to put me away..." against a choir of falsetto refrains and then slithering in with another flirtatious play on rhyme with:

Cigarettes burn, it doesn't concern my breathing. I sacrifice sheep, it gets me to sleep while breathing. I'm a little insane but I can't complain this evening. All I've got to say is, you've got a way with leavin'.

That the song then also soars into a potent and radio friendly chorus of "You know as well as I know: this will never work. But we keep coming back (for torture)", offers further credence to the claim that He is Legend have an exceptional knack for balance and jarring transitions, and that means listeners are in luck, because there's hardly a need to wait for pinnacles - they're to be found in virtually every aspect of the song in question, not least in the bizarre and off kilter, yet endlessly intriguing lyrics.

Of course the marriage of all those elements is not the exclusive way here, with both "Miserable Company" and "I Sleep Just Fine" exposing a deeply introspective facet to the album. The former dampens into a slow, resonating stoner piece with spacey, blues ridden guitar twinkling in the background like the blanket of stars illuminating a desert sky at night, the sense of enormity producing a strange, evocative sort of calm. The latter booms in defiantly with another excellent chorus in

No more alibis, I'm done with all your lies. Come clean, come clean, set yourself free. You've got us in a bind, I'm not that blind. Come clean, come clean, let me be,

Croom stretching to impressive power and his compatriots guitarist Adam Tanbouz, bassist Matt Williams & drummer Sam Huff weighing in with muted call-and-response backing vocals of "When you act crazy like this / It makes it hard to resist / letting these holes swallow me", the stadium enveloping size of the thing producing an absurd contrast to the song's conclusion. Indeed, the collapse into dissonant cacophony around the 04:10 mark descends like Thor's Hammer from the sky, growing more and more distorted with each passing second until there's nothing left but a maelstrom of noise and you thinking, "What the actual f**k?"

It's an approach fans of the Dillinger Escape Plan will instantly recognise (mind you, only those picks from the band's discography that infuse anthemic bits into their chaotic cores), and one which also finds residence later on in "Bethozart". But above all, it is in Croom's juxtaposition of a pleasant yet wry singing tone and the disturbing nature of his lyrics that He is Legend betray similarities to Dillinger. He bears a certain resemblance, in voice and muses, to the enigmatic Greg Puciato: unpredictable, and always with a certain murderous intent in the smile, a certain gleam of psychosis at the corner of the eye. Don't be fooled by the warm, proggy bass that introduces "Something, Something, Something Witchy"; the chorus, though one of the record's most longevious, is full of mischief:

Once bitten, twice chewed; you're mine now... Yeah, you! Once bitten, twice chewed; I've got you, baby, what can you do? You keep your eyes on me, and I won't take my mouth off you.

Indeed, the amount of expert song writing, the intrigue, and the richness of cool details pumped into the first six songs is as overwhelming as the length of this article at this point, and as one might expect: no, He is Legend cannot quite sustain the momentum at times. "Spot Mouth", "Time to Stain" and "ABRACADABRA" all pass by without much fanfare, with especially the second feeling like a pointless intermezzo - an unwavering passage through some droning airy vocals, with no real highs or lows; and the other three, though incorporating some interesting elements like Pepper Keenan style, baritone Southern singing in the former, and bravado and cheerleader chants spelling out the song's title in the latter; these come across merely as hasty attempts to patch up two ultimately dross songs.

The three are nestled around the groovy, classic rock inspired "Be Easy", which sports a wild rhythm section full of unexpected twists and turns that instantly catch your ear; but it isn't until the jazzy instrumentation and spirited uplift of "The Carpet" that the quality is restored, and respite from a period of dormancy truly arrives. But in all honesty, despite the nuggets of redemption near the end, "Heavy Fruit" is a front heavy album, with those songs He is Legend weren't perhaps quite sure about, but which nonetheless subscribe to the red chord running through the album, only inflicted on the patient listener. "Heavy Fruit" is at its best when crowd friendly infusions of pop are fused into a subtle air of lunacy and the feeling that something is not quite right here... As such, the conclusion offered by the aforementioned "Carpet" as well as the upbeat title track does feel a little misplaced, for all their warmth and positivity. But with 8 out of 13 songs delivering one strong punch after another, that is not a factor that should cause you to abstain from checking out what is an impressive return of He is Legend to cult stardom.

8

Download: This Will Never Work; Miserable Company; Something, Something, Something Witchy; I Sleep Just Fine; Be Easy, The Carpet
For the fans of: Boy Hits Car, The Damned Things, Maylene & the Sons of Disaster
Listen: Facebook

Release date 19.08.2014
Tragic Hero Records

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