Since their inception in 2003, He Is Legend have been one of those rare few bands who constantly escape any kind of categorization. Merrily flouncing and ploughing their way through a number of vastly disparate styles and genres, including metalcore, alternative metal, psychedelic rock, sludge metal and southern rock (among others), they have refused to be defined as anything other than themselves. Few is the upcoming second record after the band’s hiatus from 2009 to 2011 (the first one, Heavy Fruit, was released in 2014) and their fifth in total. It’s due out on April 28.
To eliminate any kind of pre-release anxiety right off the bat: no, Few doesn’t sound desolate, bleak and barren, even though its monochromatic cover artwork might suggest otherwise; there’s still plenty of meaty riffs and hooky choruses to latch onto.
Diversity Is Key
We are tossed straight into the hard-hitting one-two punch of the two previously released singles “Air Raid” and “Sand”. The former opens with an atmospheric verse, instantly displaying Schuylar Croom’s charismatic timbre over clean guitars and a rumbling bass. Then He Is Legend dig out the groovy riffs and turn this opening song into a veritable rocker. Coincidentally, this is exactly what “Sand” is, too. With one of the best choruses on the record and its far-out lyricism, the song sets itself apart from its predecessor.
“Alley Cat” has a certain southern drawl to it, especially in the twitchy, flickering riffs of Adam Tanbouz and Denis Desloge; a country/western-styled mid-section make it one of Few’s highlights. “Jordan”, on the other hand, beguiles the listener with its heavy southern sludge guitars, raw vocal delivery and on-point drumming. But out of the three back-to-back tracks, “Gold Dust” has to be the most exotic and experimental. Soft percussion underpins colorful guitar motifs, and He Is Legend keep their usually rampant energy restrained before exploding into another one of their trademark infectious choruses.
Speaking of experimental, the band have apparently kept the longest, most out there track for last. “The Garden” starts off with slow, droning riffs and builds up into a bass-driven, brooding verse. Haunting background vocals add more depth to the song’s soundscape. Psychedelic lead lines appear later on, as well as a gnarly, multi-part guitar solo, which effectively concludes both “The Garden” and Few.
Grand Hooks And Small Blemishes
This is where I would’ve liked to draw my conclusions for this album, singing its modest praises once more. But sadly, there’s one major flaw with Few that prevents me from doing so. The songs on the album, while providing ample stylistic diversity, are, for the most part, very similar in structure. They focus mostly on the aforementioned hooky choruses and neglect other, potentially just as satisfying, elements in the process. When the interesting parts of an album are seemingly utilized as nothing more than mere stopgaps to eventually lead up to the choruses, things can (and will) get very stale.
And this small blemish is, in this case, what separates a good record from a great one. Few, with its more than solid individual tracks, has a truckload of potential but got sidelined by what I can only imagine to be a slight lapse in focus on the band’s part. With few less grand choruses and a little more elaboration on the record’s truly special moments, this could have been a much less infuriating experience. Nevertheless, Few shows He Is Legend in great shape, delivering yet another enjoyable entry to their discography.
Notable Tracks: “Sand”; “Alley Cat”; “Fritz The Dog”
FFO: Every Time I Die, Tomahawk, letlive.