US quartet He Is Legend describe themselves as having a cult following, but when they recently released the title track from sixth album White Bat (Spinefarm Records), it quickly reached one million streams on Spotify. That’s some cult…White Bat is a story about the conflicting feelings of a serial killer, and the band gets to the heart of it more than seems comfortable.
That lead title track is a spiky, thrashy romp with a big sound, vocalist Schuylar Croom showing a nifty turn in flicking from a lascivious roar toward true harmony during the choruses. It’s an involving track that thankfully doesn’t indulge in the full excesses of the band’s base style. The ensuing ‘Burn All Your Rock Records’ is a proper heads-down rocker, albeit infected by breakdowns and some cheesy moments: the colossal drumming of Jesse Shelley being a massive factor in that sound. An Alice In Chains-esque coda leads into the trammelling ‘When The Woods Were Young’, an initially rampant structure diluted somewhat by staccato, oft melodic meanderings which, for those who didn’t appreciate the Metalcore movement in its youth, were largely the plague besetting the style. ‘Eye Teeth’, meanwhile, is another bruising rocker in the vein of later Slipknot, a slick sound allowing the chaotic instruments to flex their muscles.
Initially, there’s a slower approach to ‘Talkin Stalker’, a Bluesy feel highlighting the howling leadwork of Adam Tanbouz, before exploding into a harsh, jagged noise takes over and ramps up the uneasy feelings. This is aided by terrific duels between riff and drums, and the clattering bass of Matty Williams. ‘Bent’ possesses a similar beginning, a soft intonation soon replaced by scything guitars and rolling, pulverizing rhythms: while that subtle direction also begins the rather spiffing ‘Resister, Resist Her’, a track issuing forth some truly uncomfortable lyrics which totally befit the tale. Dazzling leads duel while the whole maintains that sinister feel, with the oft-claimed grief, apparently suffered by serial killers bleeding through Croom’s words and delivery. Continuing the expertly-blended softer inflections, ‘Uncanny Valley’ begins with an air not unlike 10CC‘s ‘I’m Not In Love’ and, while obviously possessing a heavier vibe, it maintains its heartfelt yet disturbing trajectory.
This increasing reliance on melody evolves as the album progresses, but the really pleasing thing is how the band create an organic and emotive blend of harsh and soft. ‘The Interloper’ commences in a plaintive, haunting fashion which helps the listener to develop an uncomfortable connection with such a sick protagonist – which is obviously the band’s intention. The sound grows stronger as the track grows, making for a truly involving listen. The initial strange rhythms and melodies of the penultimate ‘Skin So Soft’ counteract this approach, but as the sound hardens it is juxtaposed with heavenly harmonies, again nearly detracting from the evil subject matter, until a monstrous coda prepares for closer ‘Boogiewoman’: a bludgeoning finale that is sadly a little clunky and lacks the invention of some of its predecessors.
Never has an album polarised me so strongly. Though possessing some of the worst traits of a much-maligned style, White Bat counteracts this by levels of creativity and staggering storytelling that will surely win over the biggest Metalcore hater and will cause euphoria in existing fans.
7 / 10