Sound — 8
Frustrating to some and captivating to others, the lifespan of He Is Legend can be described as enigmatic at best and unstable at worst. With their debut album "I Am Hollywood" containing a primary post-hardcore flavor that evoked influences of Finch and Every Time I Die, He Is Legend wouldn't continue down that road, and their follow-up album, "Suck Out the Poison" (which almost died on the vine due to the band's personal quarrels), would begin to stray away from the harsher post-hardcore sound. By the third album, "It Hates You," He Is Legend almost entirely abandoned the post-hardcore sound they began with, and displayed an amorphous composition with styles ranging from hard rock and stoner rock to sludge metal and psychedelic rock - though this experimentation in sound would pique more interest from listeners and critics rather than piss off those that wanted more post-hardcore from the band. While this new phase for He Is Legend pushed them further as a band to pay attention to, the momentum would stop in its tracks when the band announced an indefinite hiatus soon after their third album was released. After two years, He Is Legend would reunite and announce that a fourth album would come out in 2012, but they failed to meet that deadline and would stay silent about the topic until halfway into 2013, when they finally announced they would begin to record the new album. While this delay of He Is Legend's fourth album would create some aggravation (though not as bad a perpetration as other bands, like Glassjaw), it would duly create even more anticipation to see what the band would offer next, though this heightened anticipation could just as much result in a devastating fall if "Heavy Fruit" proved to not be worth the wait.
Right off the bat, He Is Legend show that "Heavy Fuit" will further establish the band's newfound calling card for gear-shifting, multi-faceted rock, where the opening track, "No Visitors," starts out as a rock-steady sludge/stoner tune, then shifts into a frantic, southern-rock-influenced riff that reminisces to the band's "I Am Hollywood" era. Primarily, "Heavy Fruit" bears a retro-rock feel to it that succeeds in standing above the pervasive banality in contemporary hard rock/alt metal - this ranges from the hearty southern-style riffs in "This Will Never Work," "Spout Mouth," "Be Easy" and "Heavy Fruit," while the smoother, lower-gear tracks "Miserable Company" and "Beethozart" are equipped with psychedelic-inspired lead guitar-lines.
But even by addressing the dominant flavor of "Heavy Fruit," the retro-rock generalization still doesn't properly describe how much He Is Legend include in the album's harvest. The stoner-inspired riffage peeks its head up again in the midst of "Miserable Company," the hints of synth usage in "I Sleep Just Fine" and "Miserable Company" provide a small dose of electronic rock influence, and the punchier guitar chords and rappy vocals in "The Carpet" add an unexpected dose of punk-funk (a la Red Hot Chili Peppers) to the album. He Is Legend even take a trip back to the heavy post-hardcore flavor in "Something, Something, Something Witchy," where the halfway break unveils a surprising bout of blastbeat drumming before going into post-hardcore bridge. From front to back, "Heavy Fruit" stays fresh and juicy the entire way.
Lyrics — 8
With the music aspect of "Heavy Fruit" standing exceptionally strong, frontman Shuylar Croom could have coasted while writing the lyrics and the album would still end up alright, but thankfully, Croom keeps his lyric skills sharpened. While anybody familiar with He Is Legend know that Croom's lyrics mostly end up in a first-person perspective addressing an unnamed other (but can usually be inferred as a romantic interest), "Heavy Fruit" carries the story of the manically toxic relationship between the narrator and his partner all throughout the album: going from trying to be the fabled "two against the world" couple in "No Visitors," to the realization of how soul-sucking the relationship is in "This Will Never Work" and "Miserable Company," to the "I just can't quit you" confessionals in "Beethozart," "Spout Mouth" and "Be Easy," to the identifying of the pain taken in "Time to Stain" and admitting to getting masochistic enjoyment from it in "Smoker Scoff," which finally erupts into the climactic outburst of "The Carpet."
On paper, the concept isn't the most original around, but Croom's lyrical prowess and delivery are what make this a story worth listening to. Whether you can attribute it to the hiatus or not, Croom's writing skills are in top form on "Heavy Fruit"; most notably in the nifty poetic finesse (like "I've a habit of hiding my addicts in the attic" in "No Visitors," "A cigarette burns, it doesn't concern my breathing" in "This Will Never Work" and "I'm working vindictively, I need you addicted to me" in "Smoker Scoff" ) and the double meanings (like "you're the X that marks the spot/but you're hidden away in ancient geometry" in "Beethozart" and "I'm gonna pull your card/your house is gonna fall" in "Spout Mouth"). Croom also includes numerous themes that connect songs together in the album; like the references of hunting connecting "Beethozart," "Be Easy," and "Heavy Fruit," and the "This Will Never Work" lyric "I sacrifice sheep, it gets me to sleep while grieving" foreshadowing the song "I Sleep Just Fine"; Croom even connects a line in "Beethozart" ("guess you never thought I'd make it out from under your weather") back to a line from the previous album "It Hates You" ("so now if I can just stand underneath your weather"). While some He Is Legend fans may be a bit disappointed that the "China White" saga didn't continue on "Heavy Fruit," it's safe to say that Croom gave the listeners even more to be thankful for in the lyrical department.
Overall Impression — 9
In regards to the theoretical butterfly effect, it's said that anyone should be thankful for the struggles they've endured if they're in a good place right now, because they wouldn't be in that good place if not for any and all moments leading up to the present, including those struggles. Though many would want to strike the elongated period of silence from He Is Legend's career, the time it took for "Heavy Fruit" to finally ripen was in every way worth it. Musically, "Heavy Fruit" travels in different directions and different gears, but it's ultimately a cohesive cornucopia. Lyrically, "Heavy Fruit" proves to be one of those albums where the liner notes aren't a formality, but rather, a cipher to study in order to further understand the album. And while He Is Legend have been known to go on for a while in their albums, "Heavy Fruit" certainly justifies the near-hour it takes up. Overall, "Heavy Fruit" shows that He Is Legend is back and better than ever; let's just hope they don't have to take another five years to make another album after this.