He Is Legend – ‘White Bat’

By Liam Knowles

When He Is Legend arrived on the scene in the early 2000s, they were a bit of an anomaly. Their immediate peers in bands like Every Time I Die and Norma Jean were still sticking to their own brand of angular metalcore, and hadn’t yet started experimenting with other genres as they have done in more recent years. He Is Legend, on the other hand, were a melting pot of metal, punk, southern rock and pop sensibilities right from the start. It worked in places and didn’t in others; there was definitely a sense that this band wasn’t quite the finished product, despite the quality of the ideas on show. Fast forward 15 years or so to ‘White Bat’, the band’s sixth full length record, and you’ll find an altogether different beast, a fully formed rock and roll monster with a clear sense of direction and a thirst for blood.

The album opens up on its title track; a staccato guitar and the tickle of a cymbal give a brief but ultimately too late warning of the Dillinger-esque mathcore pummelling that follows. This leads into a driving, energetic verse with Schulyar Croom’s unmistakable voice, sitting somewhere perfectly between gravel and silk, carrying the listener through to the anthemic chorus. Seriously, that vocal is so well-balanced and accessible, without ever crossing into cheesy territory; you’d be forgiven for wondering why He Is Legend aren’t a lot bigger than they are, but then they hit you with a guttural roar and a savage breakdown and you remember that despite their openness to melody, He Is Legend are still not for the faint hearted.

If there’s one word that you could seriously overuse when talking about this album, it’s ‘groove’. From the sludgy outro of ‘Burn All Your Rock Records’ to the downtuned riffing on ‘Bent’, there’s no shortage of moments that will give your neck a serious workout, thanks in no small part to the substantial, powerful production job. There’s also some incredibly infectious choruses, particularly on ‘Resister Resist Her’ and ‘Boogiewoman’, that really showcase the band’s ability to write solid hooks without losing their edge.

The only real criticisms of ‘White Bat’ are small, nitpicky things that will really come down to personal preferences. Mostly it’s post-production choices; there’s a strange jibber-jabber noise just before the chorus on the title track that doesn’t quite sit right, a couple of Marylin Manson-esque ‘creepy’ voices on tracks that could be taken as a bit silly, and a single moment of digitally sliced vocals that was slightly cringeworthy, but overall this is a masterful record that should surely see He Is Legend become a much bigger player going forward.

LIAM KNOWLES

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