Admit it- we’ve all done cringy shit before to seem tough or cool. We were likely 13 or so (or maybe older, for you unlucky, vapid suckers out there) when that all started- a tender age of youthful caprice, and it didn’t help that the latest James Bond movie gave the ‘mercilessly badass’ trope an unlimited amount of appeal. Ah, the Golden Age of ‘Stunt It,’ back when we didn’t bail on a clearly fatal skateboard trick because our friends were watching; the times that we said recognizably-cringe-worthy phrases such as, “No dip, Sherlock,” as witty comebacks; the times when wheely-shoes were all the rage and you were a moron for not slipping ’round corners at breakneck speed, hands in pockets, all for the sake of an uncouth middle-school level ideological sense of ‘coolness.’ (Wait, was that just me? I fucking hate myself)- No, middle school was decidely a bad time [for most of us].
Long story short, we’ve all tried to be badass before.
However, while we all failed miserably at our desperate attempts at badassery, Legend didn’t on their new album Charging the Field. One may think it to be sketchy, as the kids say, to combine the coldest aspects of Black Metal, Death Metal, and Power Metal all in one (a far from rookie feat), but the results are actually astounding. I’m surprised because the album doesn’t come off as oversaturated or unnatural, either. And I’m glad to know that sometimes there really is an effortless art to being ‘tough.’ As a highly important side-note, holy Hell – the musicianship and balance is spot-on in this album.
At first, I figured Charging the Field could be mistaken for any generic black metal band- I suspect it was the vocals and the one-word band name that first led me astray. However, after listening carefully, I realized that I haven’t heard any style or band just like them. Like I mentioned earlier, there’s a blend of Power and Death Metal in the album, along with Black Metal spread evenly throughout. Some may even dare call it ‘Progressive.’ Within each song, the triumphant and bold rhythms, as well as the guitar’s melodies, lend to a power metal feel; you can hear the confidence and battle ethic projecting right through. Then, the really technical, fast, and heavy drums in the songs takes a hard swing towards a Death Metal theme, which hits the ears with steadfast intensity, but isn’t typically expected with the likes of Power Metal guitar riffage. That leaves the vocals, which stay completely in the style of Black Metal throughout the album, and an additional sonic feature that is- admittedly- utterly terrifying. The amalgamation is an interesting and skillful combination and- perhaps because the band didn’t lean too hard into any one style or element- the balance and cohesion was perfect.
So, to recap (in layman’s terms), Legend basically just combined everything that sounds tough as fuck without resorting to cringey, contrived tropes. i say props to them, as I find most other bands that attempt this feat to end up falling short at best.
One thing that stuck out to me as phenomenal in the album was the clear instrumentals. These are in the foreground of each song and definitely emphatic, which is in stark contrast to much of black metal, in which the instruments are tuned down, distorted, made to echo. The black metal vocals add a nice highlight to the interesting backdrop—not excessively unique, and not boring in the slightest. For the overall atmosphere, the album is contemporary but also evocative of olden warrior ethic- I can hear Vikings headbanging somewhere with Bluetooth speakers.
The only problem I had with this album was that none of the songs ended up stuck in my head. Of course, that’s a good thing with generic grating pop like Rebecca Black; here, though, I’d actually like to leave with something stuck in my eardrums. Essentially, nothing particularly sticks out as unique, at least in most of the songs. Whenever I think of “memorable Black Metal”, I think of Windir’s song “1184” (seriously, check it out), which may be somewhat different in style, but it’s a perfect exemplar of a similar genre with very unique and catchy elements. I will concede though that Legend’s “Locusts of Man” has a beautifully catchy instrumental starting around 4:00, with the keyboard and everything. My word of advice for Legend would be to play up this unique keyboard element (Windir has the bagpipes, so Legend should utilize the keys), as it would provide something that I can cling onto as I move through my iPod.
In short, Charging the Field is nothing short of great. Legend combines the toughest of the tough metal genres and still doesn’t sound oversaturated, despite that the individual songs aren’t extremely memorable. To all those who read this, heed my words,
Pick up Legend’s Charging the Field; Don’t ever say, “No dip, Sherlock,” in an effort to seem cool. (Ruth Xing)
For Fans Of: Death, Emperor, Satyricon