Review Summary: Conjuring a break out.
He Is Legend’s seventh full length album Endless Hallway
is somewhat of a frustratingly apt metaphor for the North Carolinian quartet. Over almost twenty years, He Is Legend has released album after album, establishing a rabid and loyal fanbase and a notorious reputation for being almost universally underrecognized throughout heavy music. Perhaps an underappreciation of the band stems from the fact that He Is Legend never adds too much venom to incapacitate those with an ear for a catchy refrain nor too much sugar to deter those who crave riffs soaked in piss and vinegar. Over the course of their career, He Is Legend has mastered their art of mixing and matching genres to concoct a witches' brew of bludgeoning riffs, quirky, melodic heel turns, and lyrics shrouded in the occult and macabre.
With Endless Hallway
, He Is Legend amplify their strengths and offer a dozen tunes which showcase a tighter, feistier approach to their songwriting. Opener “The Prowler” explodes with a breakneck pace as Schuylar Croom’s trusty weathered croon spits, “Apples, peaches, pumpkin pie/If you ain’t ready better testify/Rotten core, my seeds are slime/I’m unhealable to most but baby give me time
.” By the time listeners even register what has hit them, the track devolves into one last sludgy chorus. “Lifeless Lemonade” completes the record’s opening right and left hook and is anything but lifeless. Fans will be left with a contorted face akin to a toddler biting down on their first juicy yellow wedge once Adam Tanbouz’s oppressive chugging and pick scrapes wreak havoc across the song’s first half. Instead of completely choking listeners with ferocity, the bridge unfolds into almost carefree whoa-oh’s and tasteful leadwork that allow for a breath of fresh air until He Is Legend swallow everything whole in a double bass-led quicksand to close out the track.
Those familiar with the band’s overarching “The Gardener” storyline that has stretched across the band’s entire discography will be overjoyed to discover the twisted tale continues with “Return to the Garden”. Unfolding with a bouncy and possibly familiar riff to who have seen He Is Legend begin a concert in the past few years, “Return to the Garden” captures the band at their most muscular. Alternating between a faster-paced gallop across the verses, a chorus tangled in shadows and despair, and a bridge featuring barely-controlled frantic riffing, “Return to the Garden” simply captivates with overwhelming power in a similar manner to Suck Out the Poison
’s “Serpent Sickness”. Just when Endless Hallway
begins to feel overbearing, “Sour” arrives to ironically sweeten things up. From the get go, “Sour” revisits an ultra-melodic approach hardly heard since I Am Hollywood
. Bassist Matty Williams can be heard running figurative laps around his fretboard, Tanbouz weaves wistful leads across the verses, and Croom is at his melodic best utilizing a delicate delivery at one moment and a soaring cry the next. From the frenetic, white-hot fretwork of “Time’s Fake” to the southern-fried pinch harmonics of the primal “Animals”, one realization becomes abundantly clear across these twelve tracks: Endless Hallway
finds He Is Legend conjuring up their most impassioned, adventurous, and ferocious performance since It Hates You
The only characteristic that curses Endless Hallway
is the album’s brevity. Yes, although a forty-seven-minute record is anything but short, He Is Legend’s most spellbinding music has stemmed from their willingness to throw caution to the wind and explore the very limits of their songwriting. “(((louds” was an eight-minute southern metal classic featuring throat-shredding screaming, sassy female belting, and filthy feedback. “Stranger Danger” was a wild, modern rock’n’roll classic stretched over seven minutes and featured a slow-forming crescendo which erupted into an avalanche of riffage. The eleven minutes that comprise “I Sleep Just Fine” and “Beethozart” were an intense exercise in working through relationship troubles and the buildup and release of nearly overwhelming tension. Hell, those are only a few examples of He Is Legend at their most progressive and daring. Point is, the band clearly know how to craft concise, catchy tunes (See: “Sand”, “Burn All Your Rock Records”, and “I Am Hollywood”). He Is Legend also obviously know how to write lengthier, more daring songs and the band’s newer material could benefit from the addition of another wild and unpredictable jaunt or two.
As the bleak and menacing “Lord Slug” winds to a close, one cannot help but feel another pang of heartache over the fate of He Is Legend thus far. Over almost twenty years and seven albums, He Is Legend has been notoriously overlooked and underappreciated. That said, heavy music’s best kept secret should not be a secret any longer. Perhaps, ironically, with the release of excellently fierce and compelling Endless Hallway
, He Is Legend can finally break out and experience the success they undebatably deserve.