Review Summary: A collection of songs, to be sure, but a collection of amazing songs. The definitive He Is Legend album.
Back in 2004, I was still trying to figure out what I enjoyed when it came to music. I was well-rounded in Epitaph-brand punk rock, but I felt it was time to start branching out. Since the cynical, anti-authoritarian side of me was already well taken care of through bands like Bad Religion and Pennywise, I decided to indulge my religious side by exploring a tangent I had only barely touched: Christian Hard Rock. Bands such as Blindside and Demon Hunter were part of my musical repertoire, but that was the extent of it. Using these bands as my foundation, however, would eventually lead me to Solid State Records, and ultimately, He Is Legend (who, coincidentally, is the only non-Christian band on that label).
This c.d., "I Am Hollywood
," was the starting point for me, and it is perhaps the best introduction to this band for anyone trying to see what they have to offer. It's a rather short album, with only 10 songs clocking in at less than 40 minutes, but in that seemingly short amount of time, He Is Legend manages to showcase every member of the band, and they all bring insane amount of talent to the table to create what is perhaps one of the best c.d.'s to ever come out of Solid State Records.
Actually, that short running time may be a blessing; "I Am Hollywood
" doesn't feel overly long or dragged out, and you'll be able to appreciate every song whether you listen to the album on random or all the way through; truth be told, however, this seems more a collection of songs than a complete themed album (though it is an amazing collection of songs, nonetheless). All of the tracks on this record are distinct; a few listens will grant you the ability to name any song after only a few second's play. The c.d. keeps up a good pace despite the fact that some songs are slower in tempo. Schuylar Croom, lead vocalist/screamer and primary songwriter, paints detailed stories that use lyrical metaphors such as Romeo and Juliet, coffee-drinking monsters and lazy gardeners, among others. Lyrical repetition is put to great use on the record; chants of "I wanna see you explode!," "It's over!"
and "I am your gardener!"
work in creating an emotional impact as opposed to bogging the songs down, and this is achieved mainly due to Schuyler's impassioned delivery and inspired storytelling.
Croom himself is a very talented vocalist with a large range of pitch and a very distinct scream (that is heard in abundance in every song). He switches between his clean and his scream quite easily on the record, and this interplay can create some very powerful moments (see China White
). Of course, his scream is what sets him apart; songs like I Am Hollywood
just wouldn't sound the same with a different frontman. In fact, He Is Legend's next c.d. "Suck Out The Poison
" is often considered inferior to this album due in part to the change in Schulyar's vocals (from both natural development and alcohol); this fact only makes the singing on this record all the more memorable. The other members of the band excel at their instruments, as well. McKenzie Bell, who was the guitarist for this album but is no longer with the band, creates the main sound of the band: hardcore with a good dose of Southern Rock (the latter sound is expanded upon quite a bit in the follow-up album). Bell has some interesting dichotomies with the sound of his guitar--he does not limit himself to only the first five frets of the neck. A beautiful, distortion-free riff played on his end of the guitar might proceed into a technical tour of the neck, followed by a chugging metal riff. The drummer of He Is Legend, Steven Bache, keeps each song interesting by changing tempos in each song multiple times, and making sure every piece of his set is used extensively in songs like ...Best in Mexico
. My personal favorite member of the band, however, is bassist Matt Williams. The lines he creates in songs like The Creature Walks
capture your attention even as everyone else is doing their best work. Very few times on this album will you find him simply following the guitar riff; Williams mostly creates a backing bass line that melds perfectly into each song, yet stands distinct from the rest of the instruments. In songs like The Creature...
and Dinner With a Gypsy
his bass lines are given solo moments to shine through, and one moment in "Creature" actually has Williams finishing a riff started by Bell. Matt Williams is an amazing bassist that fits perfectly into He Is Legend, and helps distinguish their sound from other similar bands.
Every song on this album is a must listen, but as a collection of songs, there are a few outstanding tracks that stand proud among He Is Legend's best. The Seduction
, the album's opening track, is one of these: a no-nonsense opening riff that throws you right into the music, and gives you a good measure of what you're getting into. Tempo and time signature changes abound, but as one of the heaviest cuts on the record, the guitar is in the spotlight for this one. "...Hollywood
"'s only music clip was done for this song--a hilarious tale of a puppet on a quest. China White
is another standout song; it's the album's mid-tempo mid-track. Featuring haunting guitars and passionate vocals (Schuylar creates what is arguably "...Hollywood
's most emotional moment after the bridge by repeatedly screaming the lyrics "I am your gardener!"
), it is a song so grand that it's continued on "Suck Out the Poison
," where it is a stand-out track as well. Dinner With A Gypsy
, another mid-tempo song (and the longest cut on the album), features an almost jazzy (or perhaps bluesy) guitar in both the intro and outro (that might not be too out-of-place on the Weather Channel), as well as that amazing backing bass line. The chorus is among the best on the album as well, featuring an emphatic cry of "Is there no love to speak of""
with a soaring harmony in the background, guaranteed to send chills up the spine of anyone who happens to listen. One more stand-out track is the album closer and title track, I Am Hollywood
, which gets the titles of both the shortest and heaviest track on the record. The percussion drives the song, and dissonant guitar riffs are abundant. Schuylar screams his Adam's Apple into oblivion, and the breakdown is the best on the entire album. This song is, for a lot of people, the best introduction to the band, and the culmination of their talents.
Make no mistake: He Is Legend is an amazing band, and this is their best work to date. About the only criticism I can make is one that I mentioned before: the album seems more like a collection of songs than one completely unified album (though as I also said before, it is an amazing collection of songs, to be sure). Still, there's no doubt that "I Am Hollywood
" is a c.d. made by a band that is made up of extraordinary musicians. From the fun sound of Eating a Book
, to the quirky Do You Think I'm Pretty"
, to the beautifully epic Dinner With A Gypsy
" is a c.d. to be reckoned with. Personally, this album helped fully introduce me to the idea that heavier music with a lot of screaming could be just as melodic as anything else, and in turn encouraged me to explore other bands on Solid State Records such as Norma Jean and UnderOath, among others. As much as I love those bands today, though, very few of them can match the high regard and respect I have for He Is Legend and this c.d. And trust me, it is well-earned.
Personal Rating - 4.5
Public Rating - 4.5
-"The Creature Walks"
-"Dinner With a Gypsy"
-"I Am Hollywood"