As far as concept albums go, few are as committed as The Dear Hunter are. It all started a decade ago when Casey Crescenzo left The Receiving End of Sirens. One album soon was extended to a 6-album story set at the turn of the 20th Century, revolving around the birth, life and death of the central character, The Dear Hunter.
Act V: Hymns with the Devil in Confessional follows last year’s Act IV: Rebirth in Reprise and according to Crescenzo in a statement, that this “will be the final ‘rock’ record in the Act series.” And yet album opener ‘Regress‘ could barely sound further from the territory of rock music, with harps, violins and soaring, dreamy vocals ruling the show. That is all interrupted however by ‘The Moon – Awake‘, a fantastic industrial rock-tinged slice of prog rock for the ages. It will take you through the motions with its brash, twitching opening, to a jazzy conclusion, all via epic breaks and angelic vocal lines.
‘Cascade‘ brings a shoegaze characteristic to proceedings, whilst ‘The Revival‘ explores everything from blues rock to jazz in one of the record’s most upbeat numbers. But all through this album, nothing feels like it has been given anything but 110% effort. Each song is a journey of its own, and the vast assortment of instruments and the stellar arrangements are testament to this. Although it has only been a year since their last release, the time has been taken to make this a polished product.
The theatricality of it all may seem overbearing to those who don’t regularly listen to prog rock titans such as Coheed and Cambria, but the production value and scope of Act V… add so many more interesting layers and brings a new aspect of life to it all. The links between songs and little fillers help the record flow which allows the listener to envision this whole journey that The Dear Hunter is on, as well as new characters such as Mr Usher, whose own track ‘Mr Usher (on His Way to Town)‘ has it’s own modern swing and big band sound that is endearing and ensnaring. This is a story that you can really get involved with and begin to build emotions to each central character. ‘The Haves Have Naught‘ confirms that this is a musical in audio-exclusive form, and actually, should it have the backing, which it certainly could, it would not be unreasonable to speculate that Crescenzo could turn this into a stage production somewhere along the line. The multi-instrumentation and sheer size of this project lends itself to something larger than an album.
At 15 tracks, all of which run longer than 4 minutes, this is a mammoth album, and is not the kind of thing where you could listen to the odd song here and there. This is an album that requires dedication and some time taken out of the day to enjoy it in all its wonder. While the casual rock fan may not have the time to do this on a regular occurrence, the payoff is extraordinary and well worth the time invested. This is a full visceral experience, and now we can only wait and see how this marvelous tale wraps up with Act VI, whenever that may be.