Heavy Fruit is disarming because of the assuredness with which it is performed. From the gutteral, dirge-like opening of “No Visitors” to the ending riffs of the title track, the album whips forward with the momentum of disregard. To be fair, He Is Legend have never been known for hiding their intentions, but the emphasis on grooving songs paced heavily a driving rhythm section gives the songs more emphasis than inflection. In essence Heavy Fruit is less of a question and more of an exclamation.
Lyrically the themes of isolation and disarray take the lead, as vocalist Schuylar Croom shows off his many faces. On “Bethozart” he hits the high point of his dynamic range, chanting “Bet you never thought I’d put the pieces back together / guess you never thought I’d make it out from underneath the weather”, emphasizing his overwhelming tendency to take the first person. The trend of subjective first person analysis sets the tone for the album’s strongest track, “This Will Never Work”, which hinges on Croom’s assertion that “They really ought to put me away / you know the really ought to put me away”. Confidence is key to the defiant tone of the album, but it creates an awkward stretch when the band tries to pull back on “Time to Stain”, a sorrowful, but monotonous and seemingly disingenuous track.
Because of the brash, direct nature of the performance, it’s hard to discern what Heavy Fruit really is from what it’s setting out to be at first. The first ten or so listens breeze by energetically, never truly latching but providing entertainment and kicking the listener back to track 1 a few times. From there it gets a bit muddy. Tracks like “ABRACADABRA” float somewhere between the aggro-snark of bands like Every Time I Die and the Southern rock influenced riffing of Maylene & the Sons of Disaster. Chugging, syncopated verses paired with a sharp breakdown and a wild, gang vocal finish sounds coherent on paper but in practice it feels like an unformed idea, with too many directions hinted at and not enough fully formed. At 13 songs song the “let’s give it a shot” moments of the album (“ABRACADABRA”, the listless druggyness of “The Carpet”) become evident in a front-to-start listen, and detract from the joyride-like energy of the focal arrangements (“This Will Never Work”, and the retro, shred-fest of “Be Easy,” for instance).
Heavy Fruit is an album fast out of the gate that trips over itself as it searches for something to keep the motor running. It’s not wholly unenjoyable after the initial bravado, but it becomes less of a robust offering by He Is Legend and more of something to be picked at.