He Is Legend’s White Bat is a well-crafted account of true crimes and ominous tales. It takes you running through the woods toward and away from evil, pulling you in and pushing you back with every chord. The record plays like a summer thriller with lots of danger, excitement, and a satisfying conclusion.
Guitarist Adam Tanbouz’s riffs are precise, stabbing, like a knife in the hands of a killer. His sound crushes. Listening gets the blood pumping, similar to a Michelle McNamara book or a Werner Herzog film. It’s adrenaline-producing and literary; it’s a smart recording, every note and every word chosen carefully by artists.
Each song tells its own story. The imagination races to drummer Jesse Shelley’s and bassist Matt Williams’ beat, trying to put pictures to the words and music. Singer and lyricist Schuylar Croom, an intelligent and observant writer, draws his inspiration from the books he’s reading and movies he’s watched.
“White Bat,” the title track, borrows inspiration from both McNamara’s book I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer and the Golden State Killer himself. Croom’s lyrics read “You’ll be silent forever, always clutching your heart, you’ll be silent forever, I’ll be gone, gone in the dark.” “You’ll be silent forever, I’ll be gone, gone in the dark” words first spoken by the murderer, making the song chilling and catchy.
He Is Legend’s album writing has been building to a frenzy since Heavy Fruit. Few is a banger full of deep, dark thoughts and warm riffs. This record puts all the elements and electrons from their last three records in an atomic structure that’s perfectly influenced by their 15 years of making music.
White Bat is more He Is Legend than they’ve ever been. It’s their most complete record and takes its greatest influence from their earlier work, I Am Hollywood, Heavy Fruit, and Few, it sounds like He Is Legend. White Bat is arguably their finest effort with great production that sounds best turned up loud. White Bat is heavy music played ferociously with modern ballads and a pace that builds speed like a good slasher movie. It’s a complete album that begs to be listened to in its entirety from beginning to end each time. Nonetheless, it’s full of singles, too.
The second tune, “Burn All Your Rock Records,” is the album’s anthem and likely what’s got the “kids,” “the freaks,” as Croom classifies them, taking, as the tune says, “to the streets, ‘nah nah nah nah nah,’ everyone’s singing and dancing and banging their heads.”
From “White Bat” to “When the Woods Were Young,” “Eye Teeth,” “Talking Stalker,” and “Bent” these tracks flow, with very little ebb, at full throttle. The album comes to crescendo at “Resister, Resist Her,” a tidal wave of sound at high tide, pure musical destruction. “Uncanny Valley” gives a minute to breathe, to catch up, and absorb the beauty in the darkness of their sixth full-length.
After a deep breath, regaining strength and ready to run from a storm, like a good horror’s final moments the pace is picking back up. Out of the quiet and reflective memories in “The Interloper,” accelerating forward to “Skin So Soft,” the last act of this record grabs you by the neck and delivers you to “Boogiewoman.”
White Bat finishes with quick-paced ending. It keeps running strong until dawn and free of danger, or maybe not. The last, looped notes of “Boogiewoman” are dragging, remaining, and haunting. The sound is akin to sitting in a theater, after a perfect film, not wanting the lights to come up or, in the case of White Bat, the music to end.