By Brian Tucker
Hard rock band He is Legend could have returned after five years between albums (and a new drummer) with one that just exploded. They could have pulled out all the stops and laid things on thick as if to let listeners know they were back and could still be loud. Many bands do this after time away, but He is Legend has made something more alluring, occasionally disturbing, and consistently packing a punch and not always with more decibels.
The more personal Heavy Fruit reveals a hard rock band still heavy but comfortable playing around with that sound. On heavier tracks lead singer Schuylar Croom is dynamite, delivering vocals that bruise and soar like scud missiles. Heavy Fruit begins with the gnarly crush of “No Visitors” whose throbbing bass and scorching vocals stay front and center. But the song soon veers from that, towards something frenzy and lofty atmosphere. It’s most evident in Croom’s vocals, a singer who can attack with the best of them, but on Heavy Fruit he moves around the chess board with solid results.
Later on “Time to Stain” Croom will shift to softer, stretched vocals on a tender song with lyrics like “I hope I cross your mind/I hope you find what you need.” It’s a mature song, sure, but more to the point it’s intimate. This vocal variety gets explored further with “I Sleep Just Fine” and a bit theatrical towards the end of “Bethozart” which has some really cool guitar work.
Musically, Heavy Fruit is a nuanced album, laced with howling background vocals, haunting guitar work, drumming that can be monstrous and intricate, sometimes with an electronica-like precision. The rollicking vibe of music at play here (check out the industrial metal edge and countdown frenzy of “ABRACADABRA”) keeps things uneasy, even head-scratching in the best way. Rich in melody and layered textures, Heavy Fruit veers from vampiric darkness to buried pop aesthetics.
“Miserable Company” is an album highlight – musical conflagration where a song burns bright and burns out. It begins with spooky, bluesy riffs that evolve into something that’s unstable – creaky, bent notes and giving way to buzz-sawing guitar riffs. Croom’s vocals paint psychedelic colors and the song’s outro is a slow burn, like a deliberate spooky finale.
On the surface the album feels and sounds like turmoil, violence, frustration, and pride. Its atmosphere is one of combustibility, where emotions swerve back and forth and can explode without caution. He is Legend could have been ferocious beginning to end but with Heavy Fruit the songs explore emotions and having to live through them.
Heavy Fruit is out on CD and digitally via Tragic Hero Records. Vinyl edition to follow along with a vinyl release of 2009’s It Hates You.