Holy return to form Batman! Ever since 2009’s outstanding It Hates You, He is Legend‘s albums have yielded increasingly diminishing returns – with the title of their previous offering, 2017’s Few, perfectly predicting how many people would wind up taking an interest in it. The once extremely promising act seemed doomed to forever play second fiddle to comparable acts such as Cancer Bats and Every Time I Die whose profile only grew alongside their sonic development. However, White Bat goes a hell of a way toward leveling the playing field. Not only is it easily the band’s best album in a decade, but it even takes a run at being the strongest collection of their career.
He is Legend’s evolution over their past few records has seen them move more and more toward the bluesy rock n’ roll side of their sound. White Bat, conversely, goes straight for the jugular. The album opens with the title track, which is likely the heaviest song the quartet have ever recorded and a perfect showcase for what’s in store. The track runs the gambit of the band’s many eclectic aspects: opening with a Dillinger Escape Plan-style mathcore assault before settling into a southern, hard rock groove worthy of Every Time I Die. From there the song transitions through a an expansive, melodic chorus that recalls Maylene and the Sons of Disaster at the peak of their powers – building, finally, to a colossal Deftones-esque, downbeat mosh climax. It’s instantly exciting and far outshines anything the band have released since It Hates You, maybe even ever. “Burn All Your Rock Records” is a more frantic number that sounds like either Cancer Bats or The Damned Things gone off the rails that also introduces some sludgy, Alice In Chains-style harmonics into the mix. The rest of the record is perhaps less impressive than its opening 1–2. However, each of its remaining nine offerings all represent an earnest attempt at approaching the same level of quality.
The rest of White Bat‘s offerings aren’t as high-octane but they’re all compellingly constructed. “When in the Woods” again invokes Maylene, while “Eye Teeth” comes off like Cancer Bats meets Hellyeah. Odd rhythms can again be heard on “Bent” which blends the kind of staccato grooves usually associated with Byzantine with a smooth, melodic chorus that somehow brings to mind Still Remains. It’s a more successful pairing than the hardcore breakdown chorus and butt rock ballad verses of “Resister, Resist Her”, which sound really out of place together, although even that song manages to take off once it commits to its heavier premise. Final Number “Boogie Woman” is another heavier offering, built around a down-tuned, southern groove, that feels like it would have been better served in an earlier position – especially when the uplifting end of “Skin So Soft” makes for a more fitting climax. The songs also tend to run together a bit toward the end, and the album could have probably used a bit of trimming in order to render it truly lethal experience. However, the short and melancholic “Uncanny valley” is perhaps the only really inessential song on the record – leading, as it does, into the more powerful ballad “The Interloper” – though its muddy, Alice In Chains-esque tones don’t at all sound out of place otherwise.
He Is Legend still lack that extra, individual spark that would set them firmly apart from their competitors. However, the combinations of established sounds they come up with on White Bat are surprisingly broad and frequently impressive. The band also feel far more vital on their new record than they have in a long time. The album offers up some of the tightest and heaviest compositions of their career and easily stands up to the bulk of their contemporaries’ recent output. Hopefully White Bat can spark some new momentum for the band and help push them to the top of their scene – although there’s probably enough ballistic energy contained in its title track to do so already.
White Bat comes out June 28, on Spinefarm Records.