The first thing that strikes you about HE IS LEGEND is the unexpected sound of Schuyler Croom's melodic vocals — a little hoarse, kinda bluesy, he doesn't sound a damn thing like you'd expect a modern metal singer to. (Nerdy-critic reference #1: he bears an uncanny resemblance to the guy from ATOMIC OPERA! Nerdy-critic reference #2: is Schuyler Croom the most wedgie-worthy name for a frontman since Chester Bennington or what?) Musically, they're hard to nail down too — there are a few moments of shrug-worthy metalcore thunk, sure, but there's a lot of straightforward rock and roll here, too, with a few southern frills, some riffy sections that just flat-out jam, and enough bits and pieces of the best aspects of the last decade of rock to make "Suck Out the Poison" as much history lesson as record.
One thing's for sure — if you're afraid of a band straying from garden-variety hardcore into more quirky and melodic turf, HE IS LEGEND will positively ruin your day. The title track is practically a gift-wrapped Christmas present for modern rock radio, with its big singalong hook and expansive, wide-open chords (think somewhere between CAVE IN and FOO FIGHTERS, seriously). Elsewhere, we get the sound of hardcore kids who grew up in the '90s, for whom HELMET and SMASHING PUMPKINS are classic rock, part of the iPod Shuffle generation and as such unconcerned with stuffing a southern boogie guitar hook next to screaming metalcore vocals and the occasional blues-inflected breakdown.
And once you give in and let the band drive, the distance between the country-fried riff in "Electronic Throat" and the '90s post-hardcore croon and chime of "The Pot Bellied Goddess" doesn't seem so far after all. The impression you get isn't that HE IS LEGEND are out to be coy and clever showoffs, but that they just wanna write good songs, and they happen to have a fuckload more influences than your average bunch of knuckleheads.
Add to this Croom's lyrics, couched in nursery rhyme metaphors in some sort of quasi-concept, and you've got a slightly surreal atmosphere going on, a batch of fractured fairy tales that satisfy the urge for all kinds of genres without owing allegiance to any of them. It's a '90s rock record made by hardcore kids, or it's metalcore as played by Johnny-come-latelies who just sold off their FAILURE and HUM CDs, or it's a bunch of tight-pants emo kids who tried to turn into a smart southern metal band and got stuck halfway into the transition.
Call it what you want, but HE IS LEGEND is just the kind of stylistic mashup we need more of, absent any Next Big Things or new styles on the horizon. They may repackage a hundred influences, but it's done with such panache and obvious enthusiasm, it's close enough to something shiny and new so as not to matter.