He Is Legend play an unmemorable form of hard-rock-slash-heavy-metal that incorporates elements of both without bringing anything new to either genre. Built around thunderous rhythms and jangly guitars, these songs build up and crescendo in all the expected ways, just like your dad’s rock and roll did. Or maybe your granddad’s, depending. Throw in some thin vocals, dumber-than-dumb lyrics and altogether too predictable lead breaks and you’ve got a band that follows all the rules, even as they pretend to be breaking them.
The bad news starts right away, with opening track “No Visitors”, an exercise in bombast and overkill that unfortunately sets the tone for the rest of this record. The first 23 seconds or so are pleasantly crunchy, with a snarly guitar line cranking away against the void, but once the dumb vocals kick in and the thud thudda-thud rhythms start, all hope is lost. He Is Legend seem to exist in a time bubble transported from the late 1990s, where nu-metal is still ascendant. This isn’t good for anybody.
Follow-up tune “This Will Never Work” is somewhat more successful — musically at least — as it benefits from a jaunty tempo and nimble guitar picking. More Guns ‘n’ Roses than Linkin Park, the tune is hampered by lyrics that veer from simplistic to simply misogynist. Come on guys, it’s 2014. Can’t you think of something more useful to say than “You’re a good good, too good girl / And I’m gonna bruise you / Yeah you might lose it in this world”?
“Something, Something, Something Witchy” (yes, that’s really the title) is the requisite slow-fast-slow almost-power ballad with creepy overtones (“I’ve got you baby, what can you do?”), while “I Sleep Just Fine” goes into full-on power ballad territory before devolving into two minutes of hyperdistorted thrash. None of it is terribly compelling.
With 13 tracks to choose from for your listening pleasure, there’s certainly no shortage of material here. There are uptempo tunes like “Spot Mouth” (“You’ve got me wild, honey child” — hey, rhymes like this don’t write themselves!) and “Abracadabra”, as well as slower, hey-we’re-really-sensitive-guys-after-all tunes like “Time to Stain” (“I hope you find what you need / I swear it’s me” — did I mention the rhymes?).
The news isn’t entirely horrible, I guess. Late track “The Carpet” lets the bad boy pose slip a little and indulges in the band’s predilection for pop songcraft, with surprisingly successful results. Lyrics are still eye-wateringly trite, but delivered here with a snappy verve that matches the scratchy guitar line, all wrapped into a tasty pop nugget that runs for less than four minutes. It’s far more successful than the bloated bombast that mars most of the album.
Similarly, closing track “Heavy Fruit” shows that the band is able to put together a convincing rock anthem when so inclined. Sure, there are shades of Alice in Chains in the moaning vocals, but compared to their other influences, that is no bad thing. It’s ironic that the last two tracks are the strongest ones here, but so it goes. Unfortunately, it’s too little too late. It’s tough to imagine Heavy Fruit making much of an impression on too many listeners. It’s just too familiar, and not in a good way.