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The Dear Hunter - Act II: The Meaning Of, And All Things Regarding Ms. Leading CD (album) cover


The Dear Hunter

Crossover Prog

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5 stars This album is a masterpiece.

All the songs flow beautifully from one to the next and it has a very wide range of sounds from the aggressive sound of songs like "The Procession" to burlesquely sung vocals on "The Oracles on the Delphi Express". Every song has something memorable about it and the album uses an abundant supply of instrumentation that always demands attention. It's hard to compare this album to others because it have such an eclectic sound to it but one thing is for sure: it is amazing. The songs change so fast that it sometimes makes you wonder if this was the same song you were listening a minute ago which is (I think) makes the music so much more interesting than so much out there. I highly recommend this album to any one who would like to hear something refreshingly out of the ordinary (even by prog standards).

Report this review (#152763)
Posted Sunday, November 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The continuation of the promised 6-CD concept series from Casey Crescenzo. This time he shares some more of the instrumental duties but it's still mainly his own work. As with Act I, The Dear Hunter have delivered a CD with an array of styles from Alice Cooper through New Orleans jazz to Mars Volta-style rock. This is a full length CD and, whilst perhaps not having quite as many stand out moments as Act I, is still a fine follow up. Crescenzo again shows what a great singer he is with his range and emotive ability. Sadly, the lyrics are printed even smaller than on the first CD so I'm none the wiser as to the full story of the concept, however this doesn't detract from the listening pleasure that this album affords. "Red Hands" is perhaps the best track here, Crescenzo delivers it with a lot of emotion, culminating in the "Oh my God what have I done?" chorus. People will probably notice similarities with Coheed and Cambria in the multi-part concept series but the music is only similar in places and has a lot more variety.

I see no reason why this wouldn't appeal to fans of the afore mentioned Coheed and Cambria and also anyone who likes powerful, emotional progressive music. This will probably get my vote as the best CD of 2007.

Report this review (#152794)
Posted Monday, November 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This band was my greatest discovery for 2007. Melodic, emotional and accessible music that still maintains a high artistic integrity. This music is well textured and complex, but the intricacies are subtle. And the use of recurring themes on this record are very, very well done; like Scenes from a Memory, you will spot small lyrical and musical motifs throughout the record - not all on the first listen - and they will really enhance the experience. This record has a rare characteristic in which all of the songs are equally enjoyable as stand-alone tracks as they are together, but they are different experiences. These guys seem to be very efficient, and will be releasing records frequently. They are off to a great start and I look forward to hearing more from them. Highly recommended.
Report this review (#153944)
Posted Monday, December 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've wanted to review this album for quite awhile, especially after convincing myself that this is not only the best album of 2007, but the perhaps the most beautiful and impressive album to be released in my lifetime. However, as too often happens with great albums, my appreciation proves to clumsily translate into words.

The first thing to strike me and perhaps the most lasting aspect of the album must be Casey Crescenzo's vocals and ear for vocal harmonies. He has a fantastic range and expresses a wide array of emotions, but what truly amazes me is his timing, phrasing, and placement of the vocals. It's not often than I say I listen to the vocals over the music, but in the case of this album I certainly do. Besides his lead singing, songs are littered with elaborate vocal harmonies. Some of the absolute best I've ever heard. Their impact on the mood and the unabashed musicality of them can't be understated.

None of this however should lead you to think that musically there may be something lacking. A wonderful array of genres are tackled in Act II and melded into beautiful cohesion. Pop, jazz, swing, chamber, and Mars Volta to Coheed style prog can be heard featured throughout the album. I will speak nothing of individual instrumentation as frankly I don't find myself hearing any. The songs communicate as a complete package. The songs are very dense and layered with a variety of instrumentation. A new layer seems to unravel itself upon every listen. The complexity of the songs in this respect baffles me given the rather humble post- hardcore origins of Crescenzo in his former band The Receiving End Of Sirens. Writing such a wealth of high caliber material at such an age amazes me and certainly points towards a bright future for him in whatever medium he chooses to express himself.

In this album as well as in the proceeding EP there is no filler to be found. Casey certainly wasn't at a loss for material nearly twice as many songs were written as appear here. This easily takes the claim as the best album of 2007 for me. Anyone who takes my recommendations with any weight should purchase this and their previous EP.

Report this review (#157475)
Posted Wednesday, January 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I stumbled upon this album after seeing Mike Portnoy's album of the year list, it came in at number 5. I had never heard of the Dear Hunter, so I thought I would check it out and boy am I glad I did. It's an absolutely stunning release, with some of the most beautiful music I've heard. Comparisons have been made to the Mars Volta and Coheed & Cambria, there are definite similarities to those two bands, but there is so much more going on here. One of the best albums of 2007, this young band has a great future.
Report this review (#157866)
Posted Sunday, January 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars If this album has one thing it's range. Range in intensity with loud, in your face music, and quiet swoony songs abound as well. The instrumentation is fantastic with almost always something playing that isn't a traditional rock instrument. The additional instruments aren't there for show either, they add a lot of depth to the recording. The singing on the album is spectacular with some of the best vocal harmonies I can recall, and the lead singers voice ranging from soft to abrasive throughout the album. I actually tried very hard to find anything wrong with this recording but found nothing that irritated me or caught my attention. It can,however be on the quiet side sometimes, so if you prefer louder musics, while it's definitely here, it's not as abundant as the quiet. All in all this album clocks in at over an hour and fifteen minutes and none of it is filler, which is hard to say of other 70+ minute albums. I would recommend this album to anyone but especially fans of newer prog like the mars volta or coheed and cambria (the singing is not the same as either band). If this is just act 2 of 6. I can't wait for the next 4. This band definitely has a bright future ahead!
Report this review (#159453)
Posted Monday, January 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
Italian Prog Specialist
3 stars There's actually not much to add for this release, compared to what I wrote for the first album (an excellent mixture of modern indie/emo/alternative-rock and excellent emotional power-progressiveness and atmosphere). I must however agree with reviewer 'chopper' here: this albums doesn't contain as many stand-out moments as its predecessor. Or more precisely, they are too scattered. It's greatness lies more in the form of 'the whole is greater than the sum of its parts', as this is a very consistent offering.

The dramatic intro of The Death And The Berth quickly launches into the dense and complex first passage of The Procession. A loaded effort with an extremely powerful chorus. One of the favourites here. Heavy drumming, gentle guitar, organ sweeps and sound effects takes turn in this one and Casey Crescenzo's vocals are perfectly balanced between emotional and aggressive capacity.

And just as stated earlier, those great moments won't be plentiful. There are 15 songs distributed over almost 80 minutes, and I feel I have the right to ask for a little more. Develop ideas a little more, be slightly braver Casey! There's so much capacity in this music that there's no need to nurture the 'standard post- hardcore' sound here. It's not ruining the album, but again keeps me from awarding a The Dear Hunter record masterpiece status.

I love the structure of The Oracles on the Delphi Express. Sinister song that sends images of show numbers from old movies through my mind. Adds another dimension to the storytelling. The modernized Beatles-tinged riff on Smiling Swine has grown (and keeps growing) and the lovely vocals and atmosphere later on that track is equally good.. Relaxing, captivating and charming. Beautiful orchestral arrangements on Blood of the Rose! More of this and I'd smack an extra star to the rating. It really is that full of potential.

A very eclectic record. There's so much here for the patient listener. Lot's of layers and great instrumentation will help keeping the interest level high, and this album in your mind for many pleasant listens.

//Linus W

Report this review (#163843)
Posted Thursday, March 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
1 stars This is a travesty. What I'm seeing here is nostalgia- a mass nostalgia so great that our desire for something new to call classic progressive rock has convinced us to forget what progressive rock is.

We're so affixed to our memories of prog's glory days, with bands like Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull, and all the others that now define the original movement that we've forgotten that prog isn't a genre. A typical corporate rock group these days like Blink-182 or whatever it is now does the worst thing in the world- it takes something already established and reworks its image. What are called punk bands now are just bands that try to take the same exact sound as the original punk bands and give it a flashier image with more mass-appeal.

This is what Dear Hunter has done. Even the name is pretentious and without merit- a terrible pun on a phrase with little independent connotation. He took the sounds of the classic bands, gave them a new image, took a leaf out of Magma's book and put all of the music in a single story arc (in this case just so it seems more progressive), and then sold it as prog.

What it is is our equivalent of corporate garbage. This guy has completely ignored the essential tenet of progressive music, and that is the approach. All the art, the unity, the connectedness (no, a single story arc doesn't mean it's thematically connected), and the creativity is gone from this music. I might give this a two if I could put up with trying to pick this apart, though I doubt I'd find anything.

Report this review (#166097)
Posted Tuesday, April 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Am I experiencing thing that I did during early 80s when I heard Marillion's "Script for a Jester's Tear" in 1983 where I thought the music really blew me away followed with another great release of "Fugazi" in 1984? I remember vividly that I finally found the band's EP "Market Square Heroes" (1982) was also excellent. My experience with The Dear Hunter is now a bit different because I knew the band only after they released the second album "Act II: The Meaning of, & All Things Regarding Ms. Leading". But I was so sure about this band based on information from my prog friend, so I purchased the two albums altogether. While the first one is basically an EP, I did enjoy the music very well and I gave a masterpiece rating for the EP. Once I was satisfied with the first EP album I then continued enjoying the second album which also favors me a lot. I don't know why, the music of The Dear Hunter seems to match with my musical aspirations. It's just like when I heard Marillion at the first time. Even though style-wise there is nothing similar between two bands, musically, but the experience is very similar. I am very happy having The Dear Hunter two albums. Both are excellent.

As I was totally satisfied with their debut EP, I expected the full-length album should be in a better or the same quality with its EP. I know that this was initially was a side project by Casey Crescenzo with his previous punk band The Receiving End of Sirens which later he left to focus more on The Dear Hunter. And my expectation was fulfilled satisfactorily by the band as the music which focuses on story-telling style has successfully combined wide range of music styles and influences from The Mars Volta, The beatles, ACT, Supertramp, A.C.T., Queen - even though the influence is not that obvious. It quickly grows on me that these two albums by The Dear Hunter does fit my musical taste and I look forward to having another great follow-up album.

While at the EP album Casey used as minimum as possible on session players where he asked his brother to sit on drum stool and his mom on backing vocal department; this album involves many musicians. It can be concluded that Casey Crescenzo had put serious efforts in making the second album much more successful. The result is an ambitious music with great variety of styles and all of them flow nicely from one passage to another, from one track to another. And .. oh my God .. my ears and my mind are filled with joys during the time enjoying this album. Today, I have been listening this second album in its entirety for three times. Marvelous!

The album starts with a silent part under "The Death and The Berth" (0:38) which flows brilliantly to a sudden blast of music under "The Procession" (4:59). This second track is truly dynamic and inspiring in terms of melodies and beats. The musical riffs resulted from the combined guitar, piano and bass guitar is really mind boggling. It then flows brilliantly to the next ambitious composition "The Lake and the River" (9:29) which I presumes something connected with the previous EP. This track defines the true colors of The Dear Hunter especially in creating a combined grooves, chords, notes and wonderful nuances created. Oh by the way, the key characteristics that make the music is so wonderful is the vocal line and the flow of melodies from one passage to another. Yes, I can sense a flavor of The Mars Volta, but there are bits of A.C.T. as well.

Under "The Oracles on the Delphi Express" (4:18) the band creates a "happy go lucky" kind of music with a bit of swing jazz music (not really!) with nice beats. The music sounds like a dialogue accentuated by the voices of piano and dynamic drumming. It's really an enjoyable song. "The Church and The Dime" (4:57) is a logical continuation with the previous track in more ambient way. It also provides a break with a music that is similar to Radiohead style even though not the same at all.

"The Bitter Suite 1" starts with powerful vocal line backed with ambient piano work. It then moves nicely to mellow part as "The Bitter Suite 2" starts mellow and with nice drumwork it moves to higher tones. I can sense the style of "Got To Get Into My Life" (The Beatles) at track 8 "Smiling Swine". It's nice, really. The rest of tracks flow beautifully from "Evicted" (3:44) right way to the end "Vital Vessels Vindicate".

Overall, this is an essential album. On production, the soniq quality is not as good as the EP release. Highly recommended!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#172838)
Posted Monday, June 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
The T
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A good rock album, nothing more, nothing less.

I bought THE DEAR HUNTER the same day I also bought PHIDEAUX's last album, following the incredibly high rating and great recommendations here in PA. While I totally agree about the excellence of the latter, I only partially understand the acclaim that the former has received.

What I found in this album is very competent modern alternative rock with progressive rock tendencies. I hear a lot of influences from bands like THE MARS VOLTA (in their earlier, better days), COHEED AND CAMBRIA, but also of different bands like MUSE, and just a little bit of neo-prog bands or classic artists like PINK FLOYD.

The music is very well-played and it has very interesting arrangements, but the progressive factor eludes me at times. To be honest, there's moments when the music actually takes a turn for the more commercial side, and at several moments I was reminded of a decent pop/rock band like MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE, especially in the second half of the album, where the music approaches that flavor of pop/rock/pomp that the famous act drove to fame in "The Black Parade". Here, the songs are more complex, the textures are much more elaborated and the subject itself is deeper. But, in the end, the similarities are there.

The melodies are good but not great, even though at times they manage to shine. There's a sense of drama that permeates the album that helps make it a more entertaining experience. As for the musicianship, as with pretty much all modern semi-progressive bands, is quite good, with a vocalist that sings in the same neurotic/frenetic style of THE MARS VOLTA's, but in a lower, more bearable tone.

An enjoyable album that, in my view, doesn't tower over similar albums, and doesn't demand from me the high ratings that it has received from other reviewers. In my opinion, the next album by THE DEAR HUNTER could be much better if they cut down the number of songs (some are lacking in character) and they decide to further embark in a more straight progressive journey. For now, 3 stars, but it's really a 3.5.

Report this review (#178635)
Posted Friday, August 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Act II: The Meaning Of, And All Things Regarding Ms. Leading is the debut album from The Dear Hunter. The title suggests that there is an Act I which is also true, but it is an EP called Act I: The Lake South, The River North released in 2006 not a full album. On Act I Casey Crescenzo was the only member of the band and while there are other members mentioned on drums, keyboards and guitars my guess is that they are hired guns and not real members of the band. This is Casey Crescenzo´s band which is clear when you see that he has written all the material and plays Guitar, piano, bass, keyboards, percussion as well as sing lead vocals.

The music style is alternative rock with progressive tendencies and bands like The Mars Volta, My Chemical Romance and Panic at the Disco comes to mind even though The Dear Hunter has their own style. The aforementioned bands are all more or less emo but as with The Mars Volta, The Dear Hunter is far away from being a fully fledged emo band. It´s thankfully more a tendency in their music than a dominant part. The Dear Hunter´s music is very vocal based but there are definitely some interesting instrumental things being played here and there. The music is very melodic and Casey´s singing style makes this a very emotional experience. This can be both a good and a bad thing depending on your taste. The album lasts for 76:56 minutes which can seem a bit too long and I must admit that I liked Act I a bit more than this one, but on the other hand there are no bad songs on Act II, some of them are just a bit too similar sounding.

The musicianship is excellent. Casey Crescenzo is really an accomplished musician and his sidekicks also play their parts well.

The production is well done. The emphasis is on the vocals but everything is clearly heard in the mix.

The cover art is beautiful and in line with the cover from Act I. I think it´s a beautiful concept.

Act II is a great album even though it doesn´t really suit my normal taste. It´s way above average though and deserves 4 stars. I´ll recommend that you start with Act I though as it is a bit more accessible since it´s not as long.

Report this review (#178947)
Posted Wednesday, August 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I first heard of "The Dear Hunter" from a friend of mine who saw them perform live. I can't remember what band he said they were performing with. But from the way he described them, they sounded like a fine jewel shining in what is the otherwise murky waters of experimental/progressive rock. Sometimes it bothers me how many people seem to think that "experimental rock" and "progressive rock" are the same thing these days, so I ended up putting them off for awhile, dismissing them as another experimental rock band that was just a fad of indie rockers. One day I happened to notice that they were on PA however and ended up listening to the sample song The Lake and the River on their page. I probably listened to it a good 4-5 times in a row. The two things that surprised me the most were Casey Crescenzo's vocals and the very eclectic approach the song had. But needless to say, I was hooked immediately. I got both this album and Act I shortly after, and both have done anything but disappoint. It's amazing how many genres have been crammed into this album.

There's definitely elements of post-hardcore (since Casey was previously in the post-hardcore band "The Receiving End of Sirens"), but those influences are only noticeable from time to time. There's also progressive rock, experimental rock, a bit of folk, some nice acoustic work, and what I think are some influences from Coheed and Cambria. Although no single genre of music sticks out more than the others. This is a very eclectic album. And it touches many different emotions as well. On one song, Casey may be shouting and belting the lyrics out to higher ranges and the music is heavy-hitting (a bit lighter than The Mars Volta) and in the next song, the music shifts to Casey almost whispering with some nice acoustic instruments and violins, harp, and trumpet among others. There's really something for people of all musical tastes here. The production quality is top notch as well. Nothing I can complain about it.

Really, this album is pretty close to perfect. But if there's one thing I can complain about, it's the length. I read about how the band actually recorded 120 minutes of music for the album, but had to cut it down to 77 because they didn't want to release a double LP. Sometimes when I listen to the album, my mind tends to drift off briefly in the second half. Regardless, this is a very talented project that Mr. Crescenzo has created and I can't wait to see the 6-part concept unfold. I'll definitely be picking up Act III: Life and Death later this month. Keep your eyes on this band in the coming years because they're starting to make some huge impacts. 4 stars to a well-deserved release.

Report this review (#220618)
Posted Wednesday, June 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars 2/6 (all reviewerss from first part already on board, great) "The Death And The Berth" first sound here is so uniique, I like it from no clear to see reason. But as intro is the most suitable to set the feeling of past times. "The Procession" continues in emotional style. And I'm starting to be quite used to it. "The Lake and the River" introduces yet another way how the story can be told. It's amazing, but almost all here is new. Still new, just created by CC. Right here you can see example of how song started like something, let's call it A style. And ends with for example G. Folky like ending which remind me first album's first track. Or other tracks, they're new, but something is connecting them all. The atmosphere.

"The Oracles On The Delphi Express", my personal favourite. Crazy piano, terrifying lyrics. Reminding me Dream Theater's The Dance of Eternity. Then, even loud song, isn't so significant, as next two. "The Bitter Suite I And II: Meeting Ms. Leading And Through The Dime" lyrics can quite kick you in the guts. If I understand them correctly. Name speaks for itself. This chord in the end, when lyrics "resurface again" reminds me my past. When I used to listen similar catchy tunes over and over again, till I, exhausted, fell into sleep and dreams. This is quite melodic too, at least second part of the song, but lyrical deepness is unmeasurable. And as metaphor of sex (I believe) is adequate.

And again, "Smiling Swine" is haunting my sense of morality. Both parts, //he telescoped his hand//, said with such ease. And second part, with her addicted realization about her feelings together with crazy (one two three four) pace, well, I'm done here. Next tracks, like "Evicted" continues in tradition of cruel lyrics with nice, piano flavoured, drums driven (I know, it's strange). While "Blood of the Rose" presents tango-like (or similar dramatical dance) melody with melancholic strings. The Story continues slowly. "Red Hands" is rewrite track which was on demo tape I think. And again, strong in feelings song. And story continues.

Second masteerpiece. For story and more punk prog lovers. 5(-)

EDIT: 4(-), Well, same as with edit of first part, it loses, but even more.

Report this review (#237182)
Posted Friday, September 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
3 stars Dear Hunter's "Act II: Ms Leading" is a difficult album for me to discuss, for while overall I feel that the band's energy, compositions, and performances are all very good, there is a distinct repulsion I feel towards their vibe, which tip-toes a little too much into the "hardcore" or "emo" mainstream for me.

For starters, "Act II" is a high-energy, vaudivilleian experience, dominated by theatrics and up- front vocals. Musicianship is quite good, but there are no "wow" moments in either solo or group playing; the direction seems to be in the total effect, rather than highlights. Songs cover lots of ground stylistically-- from big, kinetic bombast to quite, delicate, and controlled melody making. The Mars Volta comparissons are (in this case) fair, although doing so sets the bar impossibly high for Dear Hunter; "Act II" is neither as intense, emotive, fragile, or well- performed as any of the key Mars Volta albums, but they do a commendable job using the popular prog/pop style to create their own voice.

The listener is definitely taken on a journey through the course of this album, the question is: will they end up wanting to go?

The answer depends almost entirely on how much one enjoys (or can endure) the vocals of Crezcendo. This is where the line in the sand is drawn, with "Act II's" pop/rock coming to the forefront throughout. Crescendo shouts for the entire album, in a style I've been told by fans is similar to the "hardcore" style of pop music (although if you listen to bands from the tech/extreme prog metal category, you'll find that description laughibly innacurate). His shouts are somtimes exciting, sometimes sloppy, and almost always uncalled for; he even belts out lyrics during the album's ballads. There is a sort of diaphramatic "ugh" that he ends phrases with which sounds very contrived, taking away some of the luster of the group's otherwise interesting instrument work.

As someone new to this style of music, "Act II" turned me off. If you're like me and have limited exposure to popular artistic pop/rock, then don't be fooled by the comparisons to Mars Volta-- Dear Hunter is much more on the pop side of things, which while artistic, will probably only appeal to fans who are already into this style of music.

Songwriting: 4 Instrumental Performances: 3 Lyrics/Vocals: 2 Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

Report this review (#271140)
Posted Wednesday, March 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars I remember the buzz when this album came out and i soon found myself buying this cd. I listened to a couple of tracks not long after I got it but put it aside because i'm not really into this style of music. So here I am a couple of years later and after about 6 listens and I still feel the same way about it. There's this strong Indie / Alternative flavour to it, very modern sounding. It reminds me mostly of MUSE maybe because of the dominant vocals in that same style. THE DECEMBERISTS came to mind a lot too. Piano and drums lead the way instrumentally but we get some harp, cello and violins helping out too.

This is a concept album at almost 77 minutes. Ouch. "Blood Of The Rose" is probably my favourite tune with the strings and horns helping out, but overall it's hard for me to even offer up 3 stars for this album. I'm going to give this to my 25 year old MUSE fan daughter who will appreciate this more than I do i'm sure.

Report this review (#275893)
Posted Thursday, April 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
The Truth
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars First I was disappointed. The I was confused. Then I started to get it. Then I loved it. Now I'm confused again.

This album is a gem, it really is. Casey Crescenzo is extremely talented and his talents do not go to waste. Act two of this massive six act rock opera is a beauty, a story about a young man's exposure to lust and the bad things in life (he of course only had known about the good things.) After his mother died, The Dear Hunter wanted to learn more about her and went to the brothel where she worked. He falls in love with a prostitue but can't bear living with her profession so he leaves her.

The album itself is very indie but has just enough progressive elements in it to give it a nice raw-yet-complex flavor. It stays more indie than progressive throughout the album so it sounds a little repitive. Emotional is another good way to describe the music. After having only good in life, I'm sure the bad things hit hard.

I'll go ahead and give this four stars, 4.4 to be exact. It's really wonderful when you ''get'' it but it takes awhile.

After the epic musical journey of The Dear Hunter's stumbles through love, loss, and depression, the piano outro that ends the first act ends this one as well. The boy is off to war.

Report this review (#293894)
Posted Monday, August 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars As I give this five stars, a lot of you sitting at home on your computers will be thinking "Haha, look at that imbecile." However, this album is practically faultless. Everything about it rings of a mixture between the classic prog rock bands of yore, and modern alternative-progressive.

For example, take the excellent "The Lake and the River". One thing you'll notice about this album is the use of the piano and in this track especially, it's been played to its strength. Dashing between Jethro Tull, Yes, Coheed and Cambria and a little bit of the Mars Volta, this track is an epic journey. The final part of it's a weird, but effective acoustic section with group vocals. It's slightly eerie.

One of my favourite things about this album is the production. In "Red Hands", easily one of the best songs on this album, it is both crystal clear, but creative at the same time.

Pink Floyd influences are obvious in songs like "The Church and the Dime" and influences from the more modern bands are on songs such as "The Procession". This album can satisfy any prog rock fan.

My personal favourite song on the album is "Vital Vessels Vindicate". Although it sounds upbeat and jolly, it is a dark and creepy song. It has a eerie feel of war about it, even though this may not strike you at first. Same is with "Black Sandy Beaches", one of the more melodic songs on the album. It is layered perfectly.

The only thing I have against this album is that occassionally, the pop-punk, emo voice can grate on your nerves sometimes, but the concept and songwriting behind it makes up for it.

In conclusion, I would recommend this album. You probably won't like it as much as I do, but there you go. It's still a joy to listen to, concept or not.

Report this review (#294862)
Posted Tuesday, August 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars In my opinion this is the undisputed masterpiece of the three Dear Hunter releases currently out. This is one of a very number of 80 minute albums that I can listen too and consider every track an absolute masterpiece. There is zero filler here; all the tracks work together and none of them are noticeably weaker than any of the others.

Musically, this falls into the sort of "pseudo-prog" alternative rock genre, probably most similar to Coheed and Cambria in terms of style. If anyone has heard Casey Crescenzo's previous project The Receiving End of Sirens that is going to be the best reference point for this, though this does, I think, have a bit more prog influence than that does.

Additionally, this is a concept album, and in fact is part of a larger concept cycle as evidenced by the "Act II" in the title. This section, I believe, has to do something with the main character ("The Dear Hunter") falling in and out of love with a prostitute he meets, but even after many, many listens I am unsure as to what exactly the story here is. That's not a bad thing, though, the music takes precedence to story, and in my opinion that's how concept albums should be.

The vocals will probably not be for everyone; Casey Crescenzo sings in a very emotional, almost raw style that has far more to do with the emo and alternative scenes than with the theatrical prog vocals of the 70s. That said, I think they are absolutely phenomenal. He is able to convey an immense amount of power and emotion in his vocals, and it works with the music and the lyrics perfectly.

Thus, I have no qualms about calling this an absolute masterpiece; from the epic "The Lake and the River" to the comparatively sedate "The Bitter Suite" to the incredibly intense "Red Hands," there is not a weak track here.


Report this review (#455438)
Posted Tuesday, May 31, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Case Crescenzo's "The Dear Hunter" project is an ambitious affair - a six album cycle detailing the life and times of its namesake, the son of a whore, Ms. Terri. Act II is the first full length album in the series (at almost 77 minutes), and includes some of the tracks recorded on the original Dear Hunter demo. It is the first real glimpse of whether or not Casey and crew will be able to pull off this ambitious project we have had, and my friends, the only reasonable reaction to this album is great pleasure that it is so well done, followed by optimism for the future of the series.

As far as modern progressive rock bands go, I think Dear Hunter are one of the better and more legitimate bands. They are recognisably prog, yet at the same time they don't really sound like any other band I have heard. There is a bit of a punk energy going on here, some indie sensibilities, and a proggy depth and detail.

This album tells the story of The Dear Hunter dealing with the death of his mother, falling in love with another prostitute (Ms. Leading) and then distrusting her because of her career. This leads to a bitter departure where the Dear Hunter escapes to war (where Act III takes place).

This is rock music but it meets almost none of the expectations of rock music. A fair sized ensemble of guests, including violin, cello, and harp, give this music a much bigger sound than you can typically achieve with a straight-up rock lineup. The music is also very tastefully blended with the concept, and the two never seem to be at odds. The band makes great use of contrast, there are tons of interesting and catchy musical themes on this album, and they even give some conceptual continuity to the series by reprising some themes from the first act (specifically the "faster save me" and "take me to the lake" themes).

The music in fact benefits greatly from the theme and I would say this Act is even more successful than Act III (which I also greatly enjoyed). The Bitter Suite, which represents The Dear Hunter falling for Miss Leading, is beautifully done, showing how and why the Dear Hunter falls in love, while at the same time never letting the listener forget that they are in a bawdy house. The next track, Smiling Swine, gives a great impression of the afterglow, while Red Hands shows the character weakness of our protagonist as well as the difficulty of loving a prostitute. All of these aspects take the music into interesting places, ranging from delicate to rowdy to aggressive and distrustful. The moment at the end of Red Hands where the Dear Hunter is consumed with guilt (Oh my god, what have I done? Now, my darling, put your clothes back on) is both tense and catchy, yet there is depth to the music as well.

Definitely a great piece of music. So far, the first three Acts have all been great and if the next three are half as good as this album, then they will be worth the time and effort. Recommended.

Report this review (#460684)
Posted Monday, June 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars When hearing an album for the first time I always consider it a good sign if I feel a little put-off, but I still want to listen to it again. That's how I felt with this one, and what threw me off was the vocal stylings (ranging from soft melodic to screaming to whiny) and the quirkiness of the sound, but strangely enough those were also the reasons that had me wanting more. I had to know if the ranging quirkiness actually meant something in the context of the album, or if this was just a collection of songs. I'm glad to say that it does mean something, and it's great.

This is the second album of an on going (three albums as of this writing) coming-of-age tale. This particular chapter explores the narrator's first sexual experience, and the subsequent romance that blossoms (as well as his recovery from his mother's passing at the end of the previous album). This blossoming only comes from his perspective, as the woman he crushes on, Ms. Leading, is a prostitute. It took me many listens to come onto the story, but it was when I did that I started to truly appreciate and love this album.

One of the greatest strengths of this album is the song writing. I believe this to be one of the few albums that gets the idea of the concept album correct; each song tells a little story, contributing to the bigger concept, with no song being shoe-horned in to progress the tale. Each track has it's own sound depending on the subject matter, and the styles change quite a bit throughout, with some recurring themes to boot. "The Bitter Suite 3: Embrace" is when our narrator finally lays with Ms. Leading, and the track starts very timid and shy, but slowly climaxes as the two remove the clothes and go under the sheets, and phases into a spacey guitar section to close. Not much longer after comes "Blood Of the Rose", which is about his discovery of Ms. Leading's profession. This track is a very sombre Spanish styled song that is filled with jealous-spiteful anger.

My favorite track on the album is "Red Hands", which definitely seems to be the hit of the album as it has more plays than any other track on Spotify. This song is the narrators true confrontation, and sending off of Ms. Leading after his discovery of her profession. This track speaks to the naivety and adolescence of the narrator, however the sentiment is no less genuine. "Because you can't be caught red handed if you're not red handed" is the repeated main lyric of the track, and with each delivery it sounds even more serrated and spiteful than the last. It sounds a bit silly because of how forward it is, but at the same time it's so genuine that all I can feel is empathy.

Most prog-heads are going to dismiss this track since it pretty much is a straight-up rocker with hardly any subtlety. The incredibly catchy chorus of this song will have anyone who doesn't run-away laughing at it's sincerity singing in repeat for days. And much of this album lends itself to this semi-poprock leaning as there are no blazing solos, disorienting rhythm changes, or stair case falling drum solos. However, this album is no less progressive for it. As I've mentioned previously, there is quite an amalgamation of styles here, and the fact that they're bundled up into such a nice rocker makes this album an excellent prog-gateway album. There is a tasty lick here and there, and a few sprinkled in atmospheric moments that could leave any budding musical taste thirsty for more.

As for me, I like to bring this with me on car rides and belt along with it. I get wrapped up into the folds of confusion, passion, euphoria, and betrayal that is weaved through each track, and always look forward to my next listen once its over.

Report this review (#621279)
Posted Friday, January 27, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is easily a five-star album. A lot of effort, creativity, great musicianship, emotional AND very thought out. I think it's the best of the 6-album concept so far (out of the 3 that exist). The first one definitely has the stand-out 1878, the strongest contender, but this album offers so much more and never quite stops growing on you. There is a lot to discover, both in the lyrics and music.

That said, on to the separate song reviews: The Death and the Berth-opens with a promising film-score like piece of music, but then quickly becomes a surreal and beautiful violin piece. This violin foreshadows what will happen later on in the album, and it stuns you with its beauty, quickly getting you ready for this musical journey.

The Procession-a neat song, one of their heavier ones. Sounds similar to the City Escape from the first album, not better or worse. It's definitely very well thought out, however, and there are surprisingly a lot of things to find here. The lyrics are also very well written and do their purpose in the story (which I will not explain here, but look it up. It's definitely interesting).

The Lake and the River-a real gem of a song. The transition from The Procession to this one is mind-blowing and fun. This song starts with a surreal wonderland like feel...or one way I imagine it is like being inside a toy box. Weird, it must be the percussion used on this track. At around 3 minutes you are treated to some awesome stuffs, then it slows down, and at 3:40 you get a menagerie of shifting time signatures, then this beautiful 5/4 beat with sick bass. The song then slows down for a bit and repeats some of the chorus (again, strong lyrics.) The last two minutes, it goes into a somewhat depressing piano theme that is quickly interrupted by...what sounds like country/folk music and some train noises in the background. This part is extremely interesting, there's not much music out there like it, and the way it speeds up and transitions into the next track is solid gold.

The Oracles on the Delphi Express-this song is pure ballroom evil. Kinda scary. Reminds one of Genesis, specifically Willow Farm or certain segments of The Lamb. Similar lyrics too, and delivered with sweet sarcastic vocals. This song is a fun ride with an interesting bass drum pattern at 1:37 and some evil King Crimson like guitar. Then at 2:07 it gets to a fun jam. Great stuff here, and so far a lot of variety on the album.

The Church and the Dime-again, the transition between this track and the previous are flawless and not even noticeable. Might as well just be one song, this whole album. It kinda is. Either way, we arrive at what I think is the weakest track, but it is not a bad one. It just seems less inspired than other ones, but includes many interesting moments nonetheless, and is lyrically essential to the story. At no point does it drag, it's actually quite fun to jam to, but as a separate song, it's not something that would turn your attention to the band. The vocals are really passionate and the brass section does add a lot though.

The Bitter Suite 1 and 2-a surreal, ethereal opening. Pay particular attention to the chord changes. The vocals and lyrics are beautiful. When the drums come in, they lay down a solid and original beat. The cool part about this song is the transition to part 2, where it gets kinda jazzy and there's this really cool rhythm. This comes in at about 3:45. Sounds like something from the streets of New Orleans and at the same time Genesis-like.

The Bitter Suite 3-again, some more surreal sounds and vocals. The vocals can be strange, sometimes they sound a little cheesy, yet sometimes they sound heavy on the heart. When you imagine the character in the story saying this, it becomes much more powerful. And who is that drummer, he's not some crazy virtuoso like Gavin Harrison or Aaron Spears or Jojo Mayer, but his drums are heavy on the heart, and he is no doubt ridiculously talented. That persistent cymbal will eat at your soul! The beautiful music in the background will cure it though. The last minute and a half of this song is the greatest part, and solid beautiful post-rock gold, with some heavy A Perfect Circle meets Radiohead type atmosphere. That bass line also becomes more prominent and perpetual even. The stop is abrupt and beautiful.

Smiling Swine-this starts off like a Beatles track and ends up like a Queen track. But this song is so much fun and that guitar tone is great. The cuttime feel is also excellent. The chorus and lyrics are great as well, very strongly written, at about the two minute mark (the Queen sounding part).

Evicted-the feel of this song is the best part. That 5/4 groove is catchy and addictive despite being in an odd time. The snare rolls are particularly great. The lyrics and chorus are amazing, and the soft guitar throughout plays these beautiful little enlightening parts. The "If you need a little cash" part, is again, really moving. The last thirty seconds are also great, these guys have a habit at making beautiful endings.

Blood of the Rose-a very unique track with a chamber music feel. It's catchy, dark, gothic, and it is so interesting that this band can mix things up so much. The track is repetitive, but it serves its purpose and never gets tiring. It's full of these confusing yet beautiful moments with the violins and cellos. And the trumpet is great.

Red Hands-This song brings the beginning of the album back into play. It is so heartfelt and moving throughout and is a track you never tire of. The way he screams out the great lyrics towards the end is beautiful. This is a simple but enjoyable track, and one of the best on the album.

Where the Road Parts-my personal favorite track, because of the part at 2:30 onward. Amazing drumming and amazing post-rock feel with brilliant lyrics/vocals and this amazing sound overall. Listen for yourself. The opening is also amazing.

Dear Ms. Leading-back to Mars Volta type music, like the second track, but with cool violin parts. There is a sweet guitar solo here. Not really virtuoso but still tricky and difficult, and always awesome. Somewhat King Crimsonish.

Black Sandy Beaches-a track that grows on you and grows as it happens. Beautiful ending.

Vital Vessels Vindicate-surreal genesis like piano. Not a really powerful ending, but it is full of allusions to this album and the previous album, and definitely opens up the way for the next.

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Posted Tuesday, October 9, 2012 | Review Permalink

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