Album Review: The Dear Hunter – Act V: Hymns With The Devil In Confessional

Concept albums aren’t anything new, as they date back to the 50s with Frank Sinatra, but truly seemed to gain popularity with albums from The Beatles and Pink Floyd. That’s why when Casey Crescenzo, mastermind behind The Dear Hunter, said he had a story, the most fitting way to tell it was in the form of a concept album. The thing about Casey though is that he is ambitious, and his story has been unveiled over the past decade throughout the band’s five albums, spanning much longer than the aforementioned pioneers. Not only is this a complex story, it’s a meticulously detailed and crafted world that most probably didn’t expect to last this long; or stay this intriguing. Due to being recorded at the same time as its predecessor, the band wasted no time with the release of the next act as Act V is coming slightly under a year after the release of Act IV. Now, with such a quick turnaround between acts and being 11 years deep into the story of the Boy, does the band still have it?

[tw-toggle title=”About The Dear Hunter”]
Genre: Progressive Rock, Alternative Rock
Label: Equal Vision Records
Release: September 9, 2016
Connect: Facebook | Twitter
Purchase: MerchNow | iTunes
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Act V is a tale of consequence and redemption as the story’s protagonists lies have finally caught up to him and made him a victim of blackmailing, as shown by its predecessor’s closer. The album’s opener “Regress”, is a beautiful intro complemented by the use of strings and makes the idea of consequence shown between lines like “Victim to the seeds you’ve sown” and the ominous “Find relief, the end comes swiftly for you”. The intro quickly segues into the first real track, “The Moon / Awake”, which rapidly shows off the darker side of the album through the creation of a haunting atmospheric setting. Even though the record was recorded simultaneously with Act IV, The Dear Hunter have managed to make sure that Act V maintains its own identity. There’s still proggy instrumentation in the foundation, but the overall approach and sound come across much more ambitious as the songs are held together cohesively through the use of orchestral arrangements, prevailing much louder compared to prior act.

Just like “King Of Swords (Reversed)” ended up being one of the more outlandish tracks on Act IV with it’s disco-inspired groove, “Mr Usher” repeats the same feeling with its vintage big band swing sound. This continues to push the theme of ambition forward as Act V strays away from previous albums and relies more on bigger moments and other genres for inspiration. “The Most Cursed Of Hands” sees the band performing their take on blues rock while “Melpomene” is one of the more beautiful sounding tracks accompanied by a piano medley throughout the orchestra backing. Even between the bigger moments presented, there are simpler songs like “Light”, which find beauty in its minimalism. The last few songs see the album take a swift dark turn, not only in lyrical themes, but through its instrumentation. A feeling of hopelessness is abound in songs like “Blood” and show Casey’s defeated tone and doubt, further accompanied by mellowed instrumentation exploding in the songs chorus once the Boy starts accepting himself for who he is. It’s not until the album’s closer, “A Beginning”, that the Boy searches for redemption and questions if he truly deserves it resulting in a more uplifting ending, bringing forward the idea that maybe the Boy still has a chance of being good.

From the guitars that open up “Regress” to the final piano note on “A Beginning”, Act V is a journey. That said, it’s less of an actual journey in its storytelling, instead focusing on the protagonist’s emotional and moral development as he faces the consequences of his actions, downfall and hopeful redemption. The band is complemented more than ever with the use of an orchestra and the smaller scope in its storytelling offers a more personal affair than its predecessors. No one knows for sure what Act VI is going to be, but based off of their track record thus far, it’s bound to be great.

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