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The Dear Hunter - All Is As All Should Be CD (album) cover


The Dear Hunter

Crossover Prog

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4 stars This EP-length song cycle had an unusual genesis. It was based around musical and lyrical suggestions from a set of individuals who were (it's not clear) perhaps associates, perhaps mega-fans of The Dear Hunter. the process is described here - The whole set of six songs gives the impression of a loose time travel concept. Regardless, it ends up being a great vehicle for band leader Casey Crescenzo's eclectic, heart-on-sleeve brand of elaborately arranged symphonic rock. In addition to the great songwriting, he's a talented and intense singer and gets to really belt throughout.

The opener, "The Right Wrong," unleashes an infectious chorus hook that escapes from the usual shackles of chorus hook banality and truly soars. The first person lyrics muse on returning to the past to correct relationship mistakes. The guitar arrangements and inventive rhythm section playing are a joy.

Punch two of the EP's one-two punch is "Blame Paradise." Harmonies are all over the place in this quirky tune. Gentle Giantish musical hijinks are foiled by a twisting chorus of considerable memorability and emotional force.

The quietly pounding and textural "Beyond the Pale" meditates on fate, lamenting the unfairness of the universe. It acts as an unlikely transition into the bubbly "Shake Me (Awake)," a plain pop song with a Beach Boys bounce and a suggestion of country pop. It's full of extroverted charm and screams to be a radio hit.

The last two tracks on the album are intensely dramatic affairs with pop sensibilities pushed firmly to the side. "Witness Me" is a musical space waltz that ramps up the sense of tragedy and offers a couple of opportunities for Crescenzo's intense singing to cause goosebumps. The song closes hauntingly with a vocally harmonized mantra of "Keep dreamin'" while a low synth arpeggio ostinato outlines an eerie chord change.

The final, title track dramatically resolves the EP's opener. It's all bittersweet regret and serene beauty, culminating in a grand, martial symphonic coda repeating the title "All is as all should be" as a cathartic refrain.

There's really no way to describe Crescenzo's music and convey the full effect of it. If I called it "conceptual, symphonic rock with pop leanings," one might expect some bland, neo-proggy stuff skirting adult contemporary. To correct the misimpression, I'd say that there's more advanced harmonic and rhythmic know-how here, and a vitality evoking Queen in their prime. It's the kind of songwriting that will grab you on first listen, but repeat plays of this 25-minute gem are richly rewarded.

I'm tempted to give it 5 stars but I've settled for four. Although it's not necessarily "essential" in the epoch-making sense, the craftsmanship, inspiration and and overall enjoyability make this one special.

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Posted Monday, April 16, 2018 | Review Permalink

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