Review Summary: While He Is Legend have veered out of post-hardcore territory quite seamlessly, they may have also lost their 'spark'.
An odd five years ago, He Is Legend made their full-album debut with I Am Hollywood; an over-compressed post-hardcore phenomenon that simply oozed creativity. They, strangely, followed that up with a post-southern-hardcore-hillbilly-whatever release which is christened as, depending on who ask, either 'Suck Out the Poison' or just plain 'Suck'. In perhaps the most successful attempt to alienate their fans, 'Suck Out the Poison' divided music-listeners in half and left them rather confused. So, why would it be a surprise that He Is Legend would make another oddball turn into the unknown with their next album? He Is Legend's sound has been in a constant state of overhaul - reinventing and recreating their niches and nuances in the blink of an eye; rediscovering their roots and revamping their songwriting - basically any word with the prefix "re-" can be accredited to He Is Legend's journey as musicians. However, in all the band's efforts to remain both a) true to themselves and b) culturally relevant, the band may have fallen just below the bar with their latest release 'It Hates You', they may have lost that special "spark."
However, that is not to say that 'It Hates You' is a weak release in the slightest -- no, 'It Hates You' is surely a solid record. The explosive opening number 'Dicephalous' is an immediate He Is Legend classic, instantly giving initial insight into He Is Legend's latest sound: extremely catchy and genuinely unique rock with just a sprinkle of progressive tendencies thrown into the mix for good measure. With unpredictable time changes and perhaps He Is Legend's catchiest chorus yet ('You've got everybody else fooled/But we know who you are/You've got everybody else outraged!'), 'Dicephalous' is certainly a good indicator of what's to come on 'It Hates You'. Yes, if you don't like what you're hearing at this point, then it's time to abandon ship. The subsequent 'Party Time!!!' and 'Everyone I Know Has Fangs' are upbeat thrill-seeking songs that both come off as overtly quirky and, particularly with the latter song, devishly clever. The climactic and epic 'Stranger Danger' can be paired with 'Decisions Decisions Decisions' and 'Don't Touch That Dial' as the album's near-stoner-metal compositions, as each song broods forebodingly and fluidly before exploding into their respective climaxes.
Sadly, with the exception of the aforementioned songs (and the brilliant 'The Primarily Blues'), many songs find He Is Legend sinking to an all-time low. While previous releases had perhaps one, maybe two filler tracks, It Hates You finds itself churning out lifeless and potentially obnoxious songs per capita far more than it's predecessors. The oddly overdubbed 'Future's Bright, Man' heralds an awkward, extended intro, while 'Cult of She' is brimming with irritating vocal melodies. Whereas on other tracks vocalist Schuylar Croom has an ear for dissonantly beautiful harmonies and catchy hooks, he unfortunately just caterwauls like a feral streetcat without any diction or control on 'Cult of She'. Counterattacking Croom's usually acceptable performance (bid farewell to sing-scream songwriting) is the rest of the band's equally benign performance. With the exception of bassist Matt Williams, who is likely one of the most creative bassists in music today, drummer Steven Bache is rarely creative enough to steal the spotlight (although he makes ample use of a tambourine) and lone guitarist Adam Tanbouz fails to make up for the loss of guitarist McKenzie Bell (even with studio overdubbing).
The unfortunate fact is this: with each and every album, He Is Legend finds themselves shaving off a few layers of brilliance. While 'It Hates You' still contains some of He Is Legend's best material yet (certainly the catchiest), it still can't quite match up to it's predecessors. If 'I Am Hollywood' was like eating delectable gourmet pizza at an Italian restaurant and if 'Suck Out the Poison' was like ordering acceptable delivery pizza to your door, 'It Hates You' is akin to microwaving a tasteless, potentially-plastic Safeway-brand frozen pizza for you to eat off your lap while you gorge on late-night infomercials and reruns of Grey's Anatomy. While this bachelor-esque scenario isn't the worst thing ever (pizza is still involved), most sane people would rather be in the gourmet restaurant, listening to He Is Legend at their prime. Ultimately, beyond the sonic decay and song-long musical missteps, 'It Hates You' is still a capable release -- but how much longer will He Is Legend descend the proverbial staircase into mediocrity?
Stan, haha, yes. Pizza > water. I will also agree that I've done much better reviews, but alas. China White III was mentioned in the original draft, but I took it out and forgot to put it back in... whoops.
Puddles, it was amnesia. Trust me.
Phantomlimb, that's two "nonetheless"s in one page. And thank you.
Your review is a bit contradictory. You call It Hates You one of the best albums of 2009, but then compare it to eating microwaved pizza???
Personally, I thought Suck Out The Poison was brilliant. I think this is a great album, but a couple songs (namely, Future's Bright, Man) could have been left off. And I definitely agree that they need a second guitarist - I saw them live and it just wasn't the same.
I'd give this a 4-4.5, purely because I'm a He Is Legend fanboy.
The good/awesome songs are keeping this at a 3.5 for now...how long that will hold, I can't say. All the "experimental" sections just remind me of the neat clean passages from IAH without the jazzy stuff (which is what made them interesting in the first place).