If you’re a fan of the sound of He Is Legend’s music, don’t get too comfortable. The Wilmington, North Carolina, rock band has made a career out of sonic swerving and switching lanes amidst chaotic traffic, refusing to land in one spot for too long. Nevertheless, each respective landing seems to produce its own, individually lauded product, the most recent of which is perhaps the band’s finest.
It’s been 10 years since He Is Legend released their frenzied full-length debut, I Am Hollywood. That album fit the time will – a fast-paced post-hardcore adventure that sat neatly on the shelf next to contemporaries like Underoath and As Cities Burn. Those days are long gone, and truthfully, the band is all the better for it.
Heavy Fruit, the band’s latest release, follows a hiatus and shares some similarities with its predecessor, 2009’s It Hates You. While that album served as a primer for a band embracing its Southern hard rock roots, Heavy Fruit expands on that notion from every conceivable angle, taking sludgy detours and using various metal influences as building blocks to add to the band’s repertoire.
Like every He Is Legend release, there’s something bubbling beneath the surface throughout the record, but on Heavy Fruit, the band appears content to let a moment simmer without forcing a boil over. Opener “No Visitors” serves as exhibit A and finds the band slowly sludging forward for nearly two minutes before vocalist Schuyler Croom takes the reigns with a soaring, melodic chorus, singing the shadowy lines, “Some say that’s the sun in a disguise / and he’s in the sky tonight / One day you can worship who you like / but you’re on your own this time”.
Throughout the album, the band transitions between faster, pop influenced numbers (“This Will Never Work”, “Smoker Scoff”) and slower, brooding tracks (“Miserable Company”, “Bethozart”) almost effortlessly. Heavy Fruit is truly a collection of the best parts of He Is Legend compacted into one solid front-to-back experience.
Croom takes each of these opportunities in stride, utilizing his cryptic delivery while adding in a new layer of vulnerability that, until now, hadn’t been put to tape. On “Be Easy”, Croom uses a gentle faltsetto atop a bouncy southern guitar lick from Adam Tanbouz, revealing even more vocal prowess than we knew existed. On the album’s lead single “Something, Something, Something Witchy”, he unleashes what may be his most explosive and melodic chorus to date.
On “Time to Stain”, the band try their hand at soft, dark radio rock and succeed triumphantly. Croom bares his broken soul on the track, singing, “I hope I cross your mind / You’re on mine all the time / I hope you find what you need / I swear it’s me”. Not quite what you’d expect from someone who has made a career crooning about vampires and witches, but a much appreciated diversion from fiction.
Heavy Fruit is a slow burn, for certain. The over-the-top moments and neurotic madness are limited here, requiring a patience not typically expected from a He Is Legend release. Nonetheless, listeners who spend some time getting to know the record will come to appreciate the band’s restraint and shape-shifting ability from track to track. Heavy Fruit is an album that deserves to be experienced from start to finish, truly a greater whole than the sum of its parts.
It’s impossible to know what lies ahead for He Is Legend, which is surely part of the allure. In the meantime, they appear to have nearly perfected their own unique brew of rock and have released one of the best records thus far in 2014.
by Kiel Hauck
Kiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.
best review of this album on the nets! thank you 🙂
Thanks for the feedback!