The Dear Hunter

Act IV - Rebirth In Reprise

Written by: TL on 12/09/2015 18:13:57

The Dear Hunter is the name, both of the ongoing musical project of former Receiving Ends Of Sirens member Casey Crescenzo, and for the mysterious main character in his envisioned six-album concept story. A story that is resumed this year, with a fourth installment following an extended break since 2009's "Act III: Life And Death", during which Crescenzo has put out two releases unrelated to the story. "Act IV: Rebirth In Reprise" picks it up, however, with the protagonist assuming a different identity following the ending of World War I, and faster than you can say "The Great Gatsby", the release will start weaving you into an ambitious 75 minutes of what is arguably more of an orchestral record than a rock release per se.

Concept aside, Crescenzo is clearly skilled at both composition and singing. The arrangements on the record are richly adorned with both classical string segments as well as woodwind, brass and occasional subtle sprinklings of electronic effects. The whole thing sounds dramatic and very much as if it might as well had been intended for a musical with a scripted stage performance and elaborate set pieces. Crescenzo sings with a sharp, yet nuanced tenor, which he throws around competently while maintaining great diction, which makes it seem easy to follow the narrative if you want to dive fully into the story.

A question that instantly springs to mind, though, is whether the music presented is good enough in itself to even get listeners interested in the story, and initially at least it seems like it is. "Waves" and "A Night On The Town" stand out as firm highlights, the former delivering some catchy hook melodies set to lyrics that sound a bit like someone has been watching Titanic, while the latter spends most of its nine minutes in an extravagant, Gatsby-like party scene, only to open up in a panoramic, symphonic bridge that really manages to conjure up a historical feeling. The second track "The Old Haunt" also grows on returning visits, launching another good chorus from a more dangerous atmosphere.

These only account for some twenty out of the album's 75 minutes, however, and while they are good highlights, they can't distract from the next question, namely whether the album manages to stay engaging while unfolding the full scope of its story. And here the record does break it back, with long stretches that can best be described as typical musical material without highlight-worthy ideas to compare to the aforementioned songs. "At The End Of The Earth" and "Remembered" pass by without really catching on during the album's first half, and most of the second half also drifts by, except perhaps "King Of Swords (Reversed)".

Then there's also the fact that some of the pieces feel out of place. "Is There Anybody Here" figures as perhaps the most rock-ish track on offer, but its extended Muse-ish guitar solo towards the end mainly just feels long. "The Squeaky Wheel" has a tapped signature in the beginning that brings to mind Coheed And Cambria, yet breaks off into other parts that feel disconnected, instead of building more on that bit, and the mentioned "King Of Swords" has a serious funky disco vibe that sounds a lot more 1970s than 1930s. Finally there's the album's cover which, however detailed it looks in its own right, depicts a plague doctor figure which should belong hundreds of years earlier, and some arboreal fantasy-like houses, both leaving you a bit puzzled as to what they have to do with the 1930s setting.

Nitpicking about the historical accuracy aside, however, "Act IV" 's main downfall is that it has too little catchy music stretched over too much conceptual content. It leaves it an almost redundant consideration whether Crescenzo's latest opus is more refined technically than say, Forgive Durden's "Razia's Shadow" - an album Crescenzo even sang on himself - because the story simply does not hold onto your attention as firmly, and nor do the tracks all work as well separately. And expecting a concept record to work at face value as well does not seem so unreasonable, considering how bands like The Wonder Years or Marianas Trench, for instance, have managed to pull off great examples where you could enjoy single songs just as well as the bigger picture. It's a shame, because there's plenty of euphonies to be found in the sheer richness of the performances and the production on "Act IV: Rebirth In Reprise", but if it wasn't clear already from the fact that this concept was intended to span a whopping six albums in total, limiting himself really does seem to be the most considerable challenge weighing Crescenzo down.

Download: What Went Down, Mountain At My Gate, Snake Oil, London Thunder
For The Fans Of: Forgive Durden, Coheed And Cambria, Panic! At The Disco, Marianas Trench, Mae

Release date 04.09.2015
Rude Records

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