Twenty six months straight on the road will do some strange things to your head. The act of waving goodbye to family, friends, significant others, and even a bed of your own, can have you seeing things that aren’t there. And in their place you may begin to find yourself living in an alternate universe, one that exists solely inside your mind. You may even begin to find a strange sense of refuge in fairy tale landscapes of epic battles, enchanted forests, evil maidens, and the emerald eyes of a voodoo princess.
Just ask Schuyler Dane, front man for He Is Legend. He’ll tell you what it’s like.
“The world that exists on the road is as real as anything in my imagination,” Dane confesses. “What’s the difference between a story about a man living inside a woman’s head and the fleeting events of everyday life on tour? The visions I see in these songs are pictures of my home--the road. Losing all you know of comfort and reality is what this record is about. It’s not just a collection of songs, but a visit to my abode, my dwelling place. And in that dwelling place you may find a man with flowers growing out of his hands, or you might find a widow mourning the loss of her sailor husband--who has just been devoured by a whale while at sea. Whether it’s a witch who stole the moon or a wife that was made from a corpse, every song is a methodical, magical, mystical masterpiece.”
The act of sucking out the poison is a myth, a fairy tale that will get you killed. But it’s also a fascinating, fictitious picture of redemption. Your friend, your love, is bitten by a serpent, inflicting a fatal wound. In order to save them you have to place yourself on the wound, tasting the serum, to save their life. It is a both vile and virile act, much like the sophomore release from this North Carolina quintet. Dirty, disgusting at times, but always an alluring and fascinating picture. You are drawn to it, even though maybe you shouldn’t be.
Consider the guilty pleasure of the opening track “Dixie Wolf (The Seduction Of).” Aberrant guitar dissonance rides the lightning of off-kilter drumbeats. The instruments seem to pull in one direction, while Schuyler pulls in another. A tense melody floats over the mayhem, making you feel at odds with everything He Is Legend is throwing at you. But maybe that’s the point. Dane bellows, I am the villain to you, you are the princess to me. And I got you where I want you...If I cannot have you darling, no one will. This fairy tale is ending. Rest in pieces. Dark. Disconcerting. Disastrous. Such is the case with this entire sophomore work.
“We pride ourselves in being the most random band in the universe. There is no one concept, no one rule to how we do things. We don’t agree on anything besides the music we write. Why take yourself seriously if you are in a rock band? I can’t even believe that people pay money to watch us make fools out of ourselves onstage. But still, we want everyone to come to the show and never know what to expect, besides knowing they will have a great time. This time around though, we are way more satisfied with the music we have written. I think people will come to the shows and do a little more than just swing their arms and do karate kicks.”
Perhaps the overriding theme here is depth. Beyond the thin veneer of entertainment lies a successful reach to further recesses of motivation and influence. HIL have no interest in playing the “scene” game. They are unashamed about pulling from such influences as Pantera and Sevendust. The record is as much of a nu-metal barrage as it is a southern rock avalanche. The band has made a decision that they don’t want to be pigeonholed as hardcore, or metalcore, or screamo, just because they play heavy music. And they are to be commended for this courage. This is beyond lip rings and black hair dye.
“It takes a lot for us to pull from any current influences. I love Rob Zombie, Tom Waits, and Nick Cave. I love true storytellers that can put out any kind of record that they want and it sells just because the music is good. We draw so much from the records of our childhood here. The Melvins, Neurosis, Foo Fighters, Nirvana. We wanted to pull from as many different places as possible.”
Consider the fact that this band has toured with everyone from Atreyu to Story Of The Year to Eighteen Visions to Every Time I Die to hardcore favorites Norma Jean. Their debut disk has scanned over 40,000 copies. Not bad for a band of pirates who just want to sail the open seas and loot all in their path. Still, there is so much more on the horizon for He Is Legend, with the advent of Suck Out the Poison. But they don’t want to be the largest band in the world as the only end. Ultimately, they just want to have fun and let whatever comes, come.
That goal takes commitment to something more lofty than sales...
Not unlike the stories in the lyrics themselves, there is something inside all of this that is tangible. Something you can grab a hold of, a picture that is worth more than a thousand words. And to capture these pictures in the layout, the band gave one song away to each of twelve different artists to create a package concept. Each picture is a painting, a drawing of what each artist sees in each song. The result is a collage of depictions that can’t help but take you somewhere. But where?
“When I was growing up I was in a strict Baptist environment where things like vampires and monsters were taboo. Somewhere along the way I was drawn to fixate on those things and have come to explore them, more in my subconscious mind than anywhere else. Not to say that evil is a resting place, but I think in coming to confront loss, hurt, heartache--the dark things of the rock n’ roll experience--you effectively disarm them. There is hope here, but you have to weed through all the painful things to get there. Loss is the hardest thing you can go through emotionally, and that is a large part of what has influenced this album. We have lived on the road for two years as an unbelievable fairy tale. After awhile you just naturally become a part of that fairy tale."