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The Dear Hunter

Crossover Prog

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The Dear Hunter Act III: Life and Death album cover
4.06 | 336 ratings | 23 reviews | 38% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2009

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Writing on a Wall (1:39)
2. In Cauda Venenum (5:29)
3. What It Means to Be Alone (4:50)
4. The Tank (4:39)
5. The Poison Woman (4:51)
6. The Thief (5:01)
7. Mustard Gas (4:13)
8. Saved (4:42)
9. He Said He Had a Story (3:39)
10. This Beautiful Life (4:05)
11. Go Get Your Gun (3:16)
12. Son (2:16)
13. Father (3:25)
14. Life and Death (5:46)

Total Time 57:51

Line-up / Musicians

- Casey Crescenzo / vocals, guitar, banjo, bass, piano, organ, synth, producer
- Andy Wildrick / classical, acoustic & electric guitars, backing vocals
- Erick Serna / guitar, backing vocals
- Nate Patterson / bass
- Nick Crescenzo / drums & percussion, backing vocals

- Austin Hatch / clarinet, baritone saxophone
- Pasquale Lanelli / saxophone
- Dave Calzone / trombone
- Andrew Mericle / trumpet
- Samantha Conway / French horn
- Charles Lidell / cello, double bass
- Angela Preston / violin, viola
- Mark Adelle / violin
- Lynn Mira / harp, celesta

Releases information

LP Triple Crown Records ‎- TPC 103091 (2009, US)

CD Triple Crown Records ‎- 3091 (2009, US)

Thanks to ayakazoob for the addition
and to kempokid for the last updates
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Buy THE DEAR HUNTER Act III: Life and Death Music

THE DEAR HUNTER Act III: Life and Death ratings distribution

(336 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(38%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(37%)
Good, but non-essential (15%)
Collectors/fans only (8%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

THE DEAR HUNTER Act III: Life and Death reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars 3/6, not everyone on the board. Yet, but I'm sure they'll come soon. So, erm, ahoy. Or aye aye captain, or something.

"Writing On a Wall" (Oh, oh, oh, what a start), hummed first part of the song is soon changed for one of the best intros I've ever heard. And no, I don't write this to every album. So perfectly mood-setting. Rushes instantly into "In Cauda Verenum" which is completely opossite track. Musically of course. And again, I have feeling of emotional influences. Like tentacles from darkness, it's binding his (Casey) work. But 2:48-2:57 are sign of peace in mind. But no, we'll not be set free so soon. Only 4:00 till the end of the song, there is something very weird. Like Hawaian melodies combined with previous century's melodic work. Very hallucinating. Better not take these drugs anymore. And shrooms

///////////OLD REVIEW/////////// Oh, this is very fine piece of music. I still wonder what makes it so "tasty". I think it's the melodic side (weird ones sometimes, hard ones sometimes, but still melodic, no discord voices, not much psychedelic things). They start "like" any other new rock band with fast pace and screaming to microphone. But this music is different, we all (who listen to it) know it. When somebody likes emo music because of melody, but at the same time is ashamed by this "emo" thing and things connected with it, he has an alternative in this. I don't want to say this E-thing about The Dear Hunter, but it's like good and bad side of the melody, OK ? And it has nice retro parts. Not 70s retro, it's even older. Very catchy album, but not good to listen to it as ambient music, it's too demanding your attention. Which it will fulfil by the way. And why I rate it with five stars ? It's easy, I cannot find any flaw.//////////////////////////////

Review by MovingPictures07
5 stars I had only heard one song from the Dear Hunter before hearing this album, and I wasn't particularly impressed. Fortunately, I gave this album a chance and was absolutely stunned. This has to be one of the best modern albums I've ever heard!

The whole album is one piece really---and, as I understand it, the first three albums are all part of a soon-to-be 6 part play. The lyrics and concept are extremely intriguing, very deeply written, and thus I don't think I'll ever figure out all of the intricacies to the story... but it doesn't matter. The music is wonderfully produced and played.

The album has somewhat of alternative sound, almost like a much more proggy version of Muse, only infinitely more enjoyable and artistically deep. The vocals are amazing, and the musicianship is proficient, as well as being completely full of soul.

Needless to say, I will definitely be checking out the first two releases by this band, and I suggest this to anyone who wants to hear a fresh sounding album that is heavily enjoyable.

This is nothing short of a masterpiece, and a glorious example as to why 2009 is quickly becoming one of my favorite years for music ever.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The Best Prog Album of 2009!

Oh man .. don't trust my words! You just need to prove it until you guide your mind to similar rating like I have given to this latest album by The Dear Hunter 'Act III: Life And Death'. My straight forward suggestion is: go to youtube or the band's myspace and try 'In Cauda Venenum' and decide what you gonna do. You don't need to read this lengthy, novel-long review as it wasyes your time. Just make a decision now!

I have known this band quite late when they already released their second album 'Act II: The meaning Of, And All Thing Regarding Ms. Leading'. But I also purchased the debut EP 'Act I'. I think their music is quite original in style even though, whenever I listen to The Dear Hunter, I kind like associate them with Cirque du Soleil (the circus music) or Sweden's A.C.T ... the one that I call it as cabaret in prog rock. This last album 'Act III: Life And Death' I purchased just couple weeks ago because I thought I was more interested in new album of IQ and Dream Theater. I did not include purchasing 'Act III' because I thought it's predictable. I was wrong! Style-wise, it is similar with previous two albums. But when I look at the subtleties of the music, it is so intricate to me. Despite great music offered with this CD, I also love the CD package in digipak with 14 loose postcards inserted inside the CD inlay. It's unique and enjoyable as I listened to the CD while reading the lyrics as printed in each individual post card: one lyric per post card. It's so innovative.

I cannot afford not to write track-by-track review ...

Writing on a Wall (1:36) is an inspiring opener that successfully sets the whole tones and nuances of the concept album. It kicks off beautifully with an acapella that reminds me to the Islamic nuance in some mosque activities where I ever joined. It contains solid nuance using choirs, beautiful piano notes strengthened with bass drums as well as snare sounds in marching style. What a fabulous opening, really! Not only that this is a suitable opener for the storyline but it also has a catchy melody. It serves wonderfully as Pseudo Silk Kimono opens Marillion's Misplaced Childhood, or take the other extreme example in power metal music (if you like it) like "Regalis Apertura" that opens Kamelot's Karma album. But this time, the opener has wonderful lyrics: 'Ooooohhh .....Come away young man where the ground is red and you need a mask to breathe. Oh it's been so hard but you'll like the change if you just roll up your sleeves ..'. Mann ....this is really great!

In Cauda Venenum (5:29) flows seamlessly from the opening track with an energetic music depicting angry mode that serves, at the same time, as motivator to get ahead with war. The music is like a rock opera played by the band in big band setting using brass section as well as other standard musical instruments like guitar, bass, drums, piano and keyboards. The composition is really top notch with fast tempo, great harmonies resulted from instruments being played, beautiful accentuated vocal line plus energetic choirs. The music is full of inspiration and the style is something that I rarely found before. The Dear Hunter is really creative in creating the new kind of music. Casey's singing quality is of high quality where he can scream and sing low register notes with clear words coming out from his voice. The music is dynamic as it has various tempo and style changes that make the overall composition sounds really brilliant. The great sonic quality of the CD helps elevate the energy of the music. Lyric-wise this song seems like the start of the war : "And now with our hands aligned these arms move tonight. And we cry 'we can not allow this, This is terrible' with all the sentiments remembering home and loved one : 'Oh when I think about your eyes'. Overall, this track is the best one amongst all excellent tracks provided here with this album. The melody is catchy and full with accentuation, the harmonies are great and the structural integrity of the song is solid like an iron!

What It Means to be Alone (4:16) moves seamlessly from previous track with a mellow style. Stand individually, this track might not be attractive as a stand-alone song. But as this song is used as part of the whole story, finally I find joy in listening to it. It moves in medium tempo mood with piano and string section as rhythm section and vocal that tells the story about the choice that does not seem much especially with this condition: 'Run scared from this cruel and bitter world. This has only begun, as the bombs are bursting off'. I know, I cannot view this song as a stand-alone one because each song in this album serves like a connecting chain from one song to another, telling the whole story of the concept album. As each scene (represented by a 'track') is printed nicely on dark brownies post card, it helps build the nuances of the album. I like this brilliant album of inserting fourteen loose postcards in the CD sleeve.

The Tank (4:39) starts nicely with string section of violin and cello followed with drums and energetic vocal backed with choir line. The song is structurally dynamics even though not that energetic. Casey's capability as singer is really great as he can manage his screaming as well as normal singing nicely. The music style reminds me to those of A.C.T. I am emotionally drowned when the lyrical part reaches this : 'And still he moves on. Arm and iron conquer heart and soul". As the music moves up with intricate vocal line that moves to higher register notes with this part 'And what of those in silent disconnect?' until it reaches ' ...Relief is just gone tear its time away..'. The music returns then to chorus line beautifully. It's really fabulous composition.

The Poison Woman (4:18) is a happy-go-lucky song with cheering-up mood as the vocal moves dynamically with a catchy melody backed with choir line. The tagline melody sung by vocal is really great while the accentuation from one segment to another has been crafted wonderfully so that it moves in catchy and memorable notes. Piano, banjo and bass guitar play important role in this great track.

The Theif (5:01) seems to depict helplessness in facing unfavorable situation where no one really wants to give hands. The frustration is expressed in the lyrical phrase: 'Love seems abandon when cash is king'. The music is quite experimental in nature. It starts with guitar rhythm followed with a music in floating style followed with vocal work. The experimental nature is demonstrated through the sounds of guitar effects as well as those produced by keyboard. The keyboard effects in the middle of the track is coupled with bass guitar solo. The vocal line also demonstrates high register notes in screaming style but still acceptable to my ears.

Mustard Gas (4:09) kicks off suddenly with a screaming vocal yelling 'Here they are. The wicked. A panic floods the field' backed beautifully with string section and bass guitar, guitar and drums. At minute 1:40 the music changes dramatically into another style with banjo as rhythm section creating very good segment of music. The combination of catchy melody, balanced harmonies from instruments used in the album and changes of styles throughout the track has made this track very attractive.

Saved (4:25) is an acoustic setting that, for me, provides a musical break as the music is quite simple with minimum instruments. It requires only acoustic guitar, piano and vocal in ambient mood. The melody moves nicely from one segment to another with sometimes backed by choir line. There are percussion work at the end of the song. The lyric is quite intriguing with the anecdote : 'The private does what the general says. The general does what the president says. The president does what the first lady says ... So so they say'

He Said He Had a Story (3:31) is a very attractive song which blends the harmonies, melodies and style changes beautifully from start to end. The most important component is the melody as the story telling goes with the vocal line. The accompanying music changes according to the mood as the vocal represents the plot of the story. The most enjoyable part is when there is a soft guitar riff combined with drum work or those with string section. It's really a memorable song. I like the one after Casey sings 'What was your name?' followed with music riffs. It's so greaaaaattt ...!

This Beautiful Life (4:05) moves wonderfully with excellent vocal accentuation accompanied with dynamic music that supports the storyline. Again, through this composition The Dear Hunter has successfully blended the changes in styles, ups and downs of the story, melody and harmonies in its best way. It's hard to deny the virtuosity of Casey and his brother and friends here with this song. I am really amazed with this, really.

Go Get Your Gun (2:48) is another example of how genius Casey is in crafting this piece of music and positioning it right here in the album after previous ups and downs. This is another happy-go-lucky song that cheers you up and it's very inspiring. I am thinking of playing this song in one of my management workshops that I regularly conduct as part of my profession. It's really a great song, especially with its fast tempo and happy mood.

Son (5:39) is a sad song that starts nicely with an acapella followed with a piece of music that comprises acoustic guitar rhythm section and vocal in mellow style coupled with vibraphone to enrich the texture of the music. As far as melody, this is an excellent one as well. It flows nicely and almost unnoticeable to the next track Father (4:48) which continues the sad ambient. These two songs sound like a one integral part. Well, actually all 14 songs in this album form a cohesive whole as one storyline.

Life and Death (5:46) is basically a mellow pop song but it has meaningful lyrics. It serves its role really well as an ending chapter of the whole story. The most meaning full one is the parts where it has 'We all have hearts. We all have homes. But when we die. We die alone?'. If we all remember this, we will of course only do good deeds as a saving in an account for life after death. Even though there is no complexity in terms of the arrangement as it typically comprises piano and vocal followed later with other instruments but still maintaining slow tempo. The Dear Hunter seemed to conclude the story in mellow mood after the second track 'In Cauda Venenus' runs in an energetic and dynamic way. It's a beautiful concluding track.


It's definitely a masterpiece progressive music album and must be the best prog album of 2009. The music is quite original in nature even though we cannot deny there must be influences from legendary bands especially on its basic elements from the like of The Beatles. But that's OK, there is no band not being influenced by The Beatles, I believe. But the composition is really masterpiece as it has catchy melody in each song it contains while the sum of the whole parts forms a cohesive melody that supports the storyline. Performance of the musicians are also of great importance in this album especially Casey's talent and virtuosity in handling vocal job in differing styles from low register, high register as well as screaming style. The string section also plays critical role in the music. The structural integrity of each song is excellent. And, very importantly, the soniq quality of the CD is really great and it's much better than any Porcupine Tree albums. I admire Casey's attention to detail in executing his duty as producer of the album. Get the CD of this album and play it LOUD! Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by Prog-jester
1 stars Poor boys, this is what they call Prog these days.

Now, seriously. I DO like some Modern Prog, which is close to being not Prog at all, like COHEED AND CAMBRIA, DREDG or A PERFECT CIRCLE. But this is just beyond me. An alternative rock clone to QUEEN? Like MUSE, but worse? 3 (THREE) with cabaret? When I saw THE DEAR HUNTER regarded as Prog on some sites, I was only smiling, because those sites had 30 SECONDS TO MARS and COLDPLAY as Prog bands too. But good Lord, ProgArchives? Sometimes I think the definition of Prog/Progressive is too wide, and not every band, that's just a little bit more interesting than the others, should fall into this category.

The music left me totally cold and unamazed. Good for an alternative rock band, but average when compared to latest THE VERVE or even U2 efforts. Melodic, catchy, radio-friendly and so on, but where's the magic? Maybe, somewhere in earlir works of THE DEAR HUNTER, can you recommend me? Because for now I feel like I just wasted my time on what expected to be if not good Prog, just good music then! In 223892735th time I'm promising (to myself) to be more careful with hyped albums/bands, I swear! 1 star for my wasted time and money would be enough, I guess.

Review by Zitro
4 stars 3.5 stars really.

The first thing that you have to take into account is the theatrical opera-rock nature of this work. Epic symphonic sounds and theatrical/dramatic vocals are not for everyone, me included in a sense. Also, despite having an album flow and lyrics telling a story, the sound is very diverse, changing genres between (and sometimes within) songs.

some reviews (not necessarily from this website) referred to the vocals as 'emo', but I believe they have more in common with mainstream alternative rock and 70s rock, with some touches of different styles. In short, the vocalist is very versatile and experiments with his voice a lot.

The rest of the band does not seem to have any virtuosos, but they know how to play their instruments well enough to support the strong songwriting ideas put forth.

This is one of those albums that start excellently, hold on high quality songs for a while, gets less interesting halfway only to end in a very high note. The album's first tracks are generally great, particularly the harmony-driven introductory track and the adrenaline-pumping, latin-influenced "In Cauda Venenum" which are fabulous. All these early tracks have very strong choruses, including the ones in "Tank" which redeem the cheesy orchestral riff in its intro. Another highlight is the ending of "The Poison Woman". However, the trio of "He Said He Had a Story", "A Beautiful Life" and "Go Get Your Gun" hurt my enjoyment of this album. Each song is worse than the previous, hitting its nadir on the embarrassing "Go Get Your Gun".

The album comes back as strong as ever with the "Son", "Father", "Life and Death" trio. All three of these songs have the vocals taking the spotlight and are probably the singer's best moment on the album, full of emotion and great melodies. The last song "Life and Death" carries a lot of emotion and nothing couldn't have finished the album on a stronger note. In fact, I find it the best song in "Act III: Life and Death".

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Act III. That would make one conclude there also exists an Act I and an Act II. Chances that I will seek them out are pretty low though. Act III is an ok album but nothing remarkable. The style is very derivative of Coheed & Cambria, and since also that band rarely manages to capture my attention, I have little need for a copy.

Well not an exact copy for sure. They throw in some Muse/Queen pomposity and the singer has a more versatile voice, resulting in a much lower Geddy Lee and Rush factor. All songs are fairly basic upbeat modern musical rock and cover a reasonable range of sugary styles, making it a fairly pleasant but rather un-absorbing listen on the whole.

I'd say this is an ok indie rock album that could appeal to Muse and C&C fans. For me this is way too tame and sweetened to make anything of an impact.

Review by TheGazzardian
4 stars From the first word uttered in "Writing on a Wall", I knew that I was in for an experience with this album. In Cauda Venenum further raised my expectations, tossing catchy horns and driving drums in my face, before Casey Crescenzo's vocals popped in, screaming and propelling me forward. It was mayhem, and it was glorious. And yet, the band wastes no time letting the listener know that they are in for more than just a rocking ride. After the 4 minute mark, the song takes a sharp turn into more gentle music with backing vocals and light instrumentation in place of the propulsive music that started the song.

What It Means To Be Alone is sort of a slow track that doesn't grab the ear as well as the first couple of tracks, but it moves the story along nicely, and the music picks back up with The Tank. Truthfully, I can't always follow exactly what is supposed to be happening in the story, so songs like "The Tank" that are pretty straighforward make me feel smarter, and the smart military drumming and varied vocals combine with the piano and strings to make it a real smash hit.

The Poison Woman has an almost mischevious sound, aided by the pianos and Casey's singing. I really love the myriad of different emotions that Casey is able to convey with his voice, and the backing vocals that support him throughout this album. This song is one of the one that, story wise, I'm not entirely sure about. I get the basic idea, but I'm not really sure how it fits in with the songs before and after it. (Perhaps from The Tank to Mustard Gas, we are being introduced to the army that the main character is fighting along with? Although Mustard Gas, based on the song afterwards, could also be something that happens to the character.)

Speaking of Mustard Gas, this is a track that really rocks, on the same level as "The Tank" and even "In Cauda Venenum", although just like "In Cauda...", it also has a moment in the middle where the mood and tone shifts dramatically, which perhaps makes the return to the hard rocking main section sound even harder rocking. I love the lyrics too of the chorus, they are not the most original but their delivery works wonders.

"Scream to the sky, beg for a reason he would allow this Look to the sky and say, we would be better off without this, who would allow this?"

The album reveals a wry sense of dark humour in He Said He Had A Story, a story about an encounter between man and prostitute. It gets a little bit more upbeat and hilarious with "Go Get Your Gun", a catchy song that sounds like it has a generic theme until you listen a bit deeper and realise that it is actually a song about desperation, at which point the lyrics almost become a little sad.

Son/Father is perhaps the part of the album that confuses me the most, story wise. I am pretty sure I get what is happening, but it seems rather odd and comes out of nowhere. Musically, they are alright, although not quite on the same level as the rest of the album.

The album ends with Life and Death, which is actually the song I heard by this band first and the one that made me decide to buy this album. It starts off beautiful and sad, but also manages to be hopeful, and is in my mind an excellent way to close the album.

This is an album that is definitely served by owning the actual album. Instead of a booklet, it comes with an assortment of postcards for each song (minus the first, which is written on the digipack itself, perhaps as a pun on its name "Writing on a Wall"). This gives each song a visual companion, and the lyrics are printed on the back. It is definitely an interesting way to augment the story. The image for Mustard Gas is particularly chilling. The only downside is that the lyrics on the back of the postcards are wrong a fair amount (nothing major, but little things).

As a whole, this album is an excellent listen and I would recommend it to anyone who loves music that has a story attached and a myriad of different emotions, or great vocals and backing vocals.

Review by EatThatPhonebook
2 stars I didn't like this album too much for different reasons: It sounds like one of those contemporary alt rock albums that are made only for selling copies, it's the classic fourteen track album where you can rarely find a couple of good songs. Don't get me wrong, I love alt rock, especially all the 80s and 90s bands like R.E.M., Husker du, Pavement, Jesus and Mary Chain, Sonic Youth and many others; But the attempt to mix all this, along with some pop and folk, with prog elements, well, I think this band has wasted a lot of their time and effort. I frankly won't suggest this to anyone.
Review by Conor Fynes
5 stars 'Act III: Life & Death' - The Dear Hunter (9/10)

At first appearing to me as a cross between the Mars Volta and Coheed & Cambria, I realized that this band has alot more going on to it then I originally gave them credit for. The Dear Hunter is one of the few bands that I really think is doing what 'progressive rock' is really supposed to do; take the popular music of the era and take it a step further. While alot of so-called 'progressive' bands simply copy and paste styles from the 70s, the Dear Hunter actually sounds like it could fit in with todays music if it wasn't for all of the extra thought put into it. Mixing modern punk/pop/rock with caberet, latin music, and classic prog rock, the Dear Hunter really have a sound of their own... And 'Act III: Life And Death' is the culmination of their efforts, I believe. From dense soundscaping to beautiful melodies to a deeply moving finale, 'Life And Death' was a beautiful introduction to this emerging band.

Listening to some parts of this record, it's hard to believe this band isn't getting serious radio airplay. As far as art rock goes, the songwriting and style here is very modern, and could be enjoyed by a great deal more people then the inner circles of progressive music. Most supportive of this statement is the vocal styling of Casey Crescenzo, which sounds like he could faithfully emulate any popular alt-rock singer of the day. What sets him apart from your typical pop-rock crooner however, is his talented ability to perform some of the most beautiful choral harmonies I've ever heard. Much in the alley of the late Freddie Mercury, Casey can very ably overdub his voice several times over, making for a gorgeous wall of sound.

Instrumentally is where things start really getting separated from the typical radio music of the day. While the songs are conventionally lengthed, and filled with melodic hooks, there are alot of little musical nuances subtle enough to escape the casual listener, but strong enough to add to the musical experience should someone be bold and meticulous enough to seek them all out.

While the year of 2009 was indeed a great one in terms of finding some great albums and new bands to dig into, 'Life & Death' really suprised me. I'm glad I wasn't too quick to dismiss this great project off as a Mars Volta rip-off... Dare I say this could be the band to one day bring Prog back into the spotlight of music? They certainly have the artistry and accessbility for it, and unlike a great too many of bands these days, this band is doing something completely unique.

Review by The Truth
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Our hero's journey continues. After he ended things with Ms. Leading, the woman he loved but couldn't bear her profession (prostitution), The Dear Hunter is seeking a way to 'mend his broken heart'. So let's go to war, that'll help, no dying there. But anyways his musical journey from here is pretty epic to say the least.

We start things off with a beautiful acapella intro that really fits the mood, "come young man where the ground is red and you need a mask to breath..."

The intro bursts into the heavy art-rocker In A Cauda Venenum which decribes why he is going to war and his immeadiate impression: I came all this way just to find love?

What It Means to Be Alone is his song of regret for leaving Ms. Leading. It really balances out the mood from the just plain heaviness of the previous track. It contains some passages that echo Act 2 but none of them are too obvious.

The Tank is a pretty ominous sounding track (the violins cause this I believe) telling of how The Dear Hunter's fellow troops are attacked by a tank and he runs to a nearby village. This track is a really epic sounding one, not even really sure how exactly.

The Poison Woman is a song about a spy for both sides of the war that our the boy meets in the village. A catchy little track, this one. Although a lot of the time being more alt than prog, it's a loveable little song.

The Thief is about a thief, (imagine that) another person the main character meets in the village. Another ominous sounding track that gets pretty intense musically.

Mustard Gas is about the village being bombed, an emotional track that once again fits the mood as The Dear Hunter is trying to escape the village.

Saved is about the boy being saved from the Mustard Gas by a fellow soldier (this is where the story starts to get tricky). This is a very lighthearted track, relief that he has been saved.

He Said He Had a Story is rocky track that is made of seemingly pure emotion. The boy meets his rescuer's father who tells the story of how he made love to a prostitute at a brothel called The Dime (sound familiar?) her name was Ms. Terri. The man is the boy's father.

This Beautiful Life is mainly about the boy processing in his mind what he has just learned. It's a soft pop tune really, one that gets stuck in your head after you hear it. One of those little buggers you just have to listen to again.

Go Get Your Gun is the men going off to battle hoping they come back alive and "for those who die please try to understand." Another catchy song that's very upbeat and did I just hear a banjo?

Son and Father seque together and almost seem like a single track. The boy's half-brother dies in battle and the father shows little or no grief. This makes the boy angry. The boy poisons his father and steals his half brother's identity. Two soft and sad tracks that have heavy and emotional refrains. I almost am brought to tears at times in this point of the album.

Life and Death is a soft little closer that has just plain beautiful lyrics. At first it's just Casey's voice and a piano but soon it bursts into the boy's emotional guilt over everything that's happened. He is leaving the war zone and going to live with his step-mother. He has now learned about life and death.

I am heavily anticipating the next Act, all three of the ones released so far downright amaze me in their beauty. I will be one of the first in line to buy act four, can't wait to see how things go with The Dear Hunter's step mom.

One of these days he will learn to love again...

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A pleasant collection of more Beatles-like indie-pop-oriented prog all composed and organized as the third installment of a six-album concept story concerning the life of a boy at the turn of the 20th Century. Though I have not been drawn in to much of the other Dear Hunter discography, this one is pretty engaging and not too dull or repetitive. To me this is a lot like MUSE and DOVES.

Favorite songs: "Life and Death" (5:46) (8/10), "The Tank" (4:39) (8/10), "What It Means to Be Alone" (4:50) (8/10).

3.5 stars rounded up for great production sound, creativity, and ambition--and for the reminder that when we die, we die alone.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars The story continues and now we are at Act III of the six act rock opera by The Dear Hunter. Casey still has a full band though with a few line up changes. In Act III, the songs are shorter on the average and none of them hit the six minute mark this time. There is a lot more narrative to the story in this act, and I don't know if that is the reason why or if they were just cutting things back to make it more accessible. Since I really don't see any quality in the music cut back, I would rather believe the first option.

Because of the shorter songs, there seems to be less development going on, but things still remain at a high quality. As the story of the main protagonist quits his relationship with the hooker, joins the military and is saved from death, he finds his father, learns he has a half brother in the military also who is actually the soldier that saved him. His half brother up getting killed. His father shows no emotion and this enrages the main character who ends up poisoning his father. The main character takes on his half brother's identity since they looked a lot alike in order to go live with his step-mother. His life is falling apart and he is on a downward spiral.

The songs continue to be emotional and dramatic. Harmonies are beautiful, melodies are amazing, the vocals are as great as ever, instrumentals and arrangements are superb all as they were before. A little something is missing though, and I think it is the lesser chance for the songs to breathe and develop. It's not a major problem in this case, as everything else is spot on, and again I think it is because there was so much more story to cover in this album. The songs move from one style to another, but there is still a feeling of cohesiveness in all of this.

After this album, The Dear Hunter would take a break from the story, so the last song acts like a nice build up before the intermission. The band would next release the box set called "The Color Spectrum" which would consist of a collection of 9 ten inch EPs with 4 songs each based on the colors of the rainbow plus black and white. Then there would be a stand alone album. The story will continue after this point.

This rock opera continues to amaze and features some great music with a lot of progressive rock and dramatic singing. This particular part of the story seems to lack development among the songs, and that lowers the rating here one star. However, this was the first album I owned by the band and I was still impressed enough to get the rest of the series. Imagine my surprise when the other albums were even better than this. I don't regret ever buying this one though. It's on white vinyl and I paid $30.00 for it, now it's worth $200.00, so that makes it even better. So, a little drop in the rating at 4 stars, but still an excellent addition to any collection.

Review by Kempokid
5 stars Act III: Life and Death is a bit of an odd case in the grand scheme of The Dear Hunter's discography, not only being the last in the act series before Casey Crescenzo took a 5 year break from touching them, but also because it proves to be the most divisive of these acts as well. This divisiveness makes sense upon listening to the album for a bit however, with the approach to songwriting and narrative tone acting as a stark contrast compared to the rest of the band's material. The music here feels as if it's going way harder into being built entirely around their aesthetic, compared to before where that side of them felt far more understated, with the intense songs being blistering, the beautiful songs having an almost ethereal quality to them, and the campy, quirky stuff practically becoming showtunes at points. Narratively this is by far the bleakest and downright most miserable part of the story, which works perfectly considering the fact that the setting here is in the midst of a war, definitely fitting the far more direct and intense songwriting to be found here. All of these interesting choices combined with one of the most consistent tracklists the ban put out makes this my overall 2nd favourite Dear Hunter album however, even if the reasons for some to dislike it are quite easy to see.

After the short intro track essentially telling the listening that Act III takes place during a war, the album immediately kicks it into high gear with In Cauda Venenum, with blaring horns and a more manic, rough vocals performance creating a a very vivid picture, one full of chaos, panic and fury. What further elevates this song is the contrast that's brought in near the end, with everything slowing down and turning this sense of vicious anger and dismay at the current situation into one of longing and remorse, immediately establishing that the main character regrets ever taking part in such awful events. This isn't the only song that leans so heavily into this intensity however, with some others being able to match this or even take it a step further. The Tank is one such example of this, opening up with a grandiose, orchestral intro to provide this sense of scale and majesty before ripping it away with Casey's distorted, strained vocal performance to further represent hopelessness and horrific destruction. This is yet another of the band's best songs, with the chorus bringing in some rather powerful, passionate emotion to reflect upon the tragedy taking place, really displaying some of his best vocals in the process. Mustard Gas is the other prominent song of this style and approach and also does a whole lot. Everything about this song feels chaotic, with the heavy focus on orchestra providing an utterly huge sense of scale, which is then twisted by the rapidly changing structure of the song, repeatedly switching between this and more personal moments, ultimately bringing forth a wide variety of tones and moods within only 4 minutes, with none of them being positive to continue hammering in this narrative point that the main character might as well be in hell.

The slower songs in Act III are interesting in the way they seem more intent on focusing on tone and atmosphere above the more catchy melodies the band so often brings to the table and focuses on. This is easily noticeable in both What it Means to be Alone and The Thief, where the densely layered instrumentation and backing vocals blend together and end up creating a near-ethereal sound which is matched by the far less structured vocal melodies. A lot of the other tracks have their own unique points of interest as well to further contribute to the album's eclectic tracklist. Of these, He Said He Had a Story is easily my favourite thanks to the evocative that ends up being extremely dark and disturbing. It's clear that Casey wanted to write a truly detestable character here and he doubtlessly succeeded in my eyes, all without forgetting to make some incredible music, with the bouncy rhythms and sense of catchiness and power in every facet culminating in a personal favourite track.

Another technique I'm a fan of is how this lighthearted, bouncy and happy music is paired with darker lyricism to make it feels as if someone's true thoughts are being desperately hidden behind a thin, more cheerful facade. This is what makes Go Get Your Gun and This Beautiful Life so good despite the way they musically stand out so much from the rest of the album, with this tonal juxtaposition being delightfully grim. All of this leads up to the final trio of tracks and one of the album's finest moments. Son, Father, and Life and Death all lead into one another smoothly and develop in a very satisfying and interesting way. Each section builds upon the previous, beginning with quite mournfulness and ending with a profound sense of dismay and regret over the actions that took place. Casey really sings his heart out in Life and Death in particular, which when combined with the lyrics that manage to simultaneously feel hopeful and totally hopeless makes for a perfect way to close off the album.

While this shifts in approach taken in this album may be offputting to some listeners, leading to the more divisive nature of Act III, this is just an incredible album across the board to me. It manages to feel so different while distinctly remaining The Dear Hunter, which is always something I find impressive when bands are able to pull it off so cleanly. The more excessive, self-indulgent qualities present here also just appeal to my prog-loving sensibilities in general, which might be another reason why this might not feel quite right to some who enjoy the more indie/alternative rock sound that the band blends into the music. Not really the album I'd tell people getting into the band to start with, but without a doubt one of my favourites, absolutely stunning album all around.

Best tracks: The Tank, Mustard Gas, He Said He Had a Story, the final 3 tracks.

Weakest tracks: Saved

Latest members reviews

4 stars This album makes you feel like you're in WWI After the colossal Act II, The Dear Hunter expectedly continued their story with a third act, where the main character finds himself in WWI (Partially). Despite having such a crushing setting, the album is actually less heavy than the two previous ... (read more)

Report this review (#2735410) | Posted by Nhelv | Sunday, April 3, 2022 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The band comes with renewed energy and loads of emotions for this, yet another concept album, accompanied with a small orchestra. "In cauda venemum" is one of the strongest band's energetic trademarks, pure raw energy. Am I the only who hears the pompous, harder Muse influence? "The tank" is a ... (read more)

Report this review (#2635470) | Posted by sgtpepper | Friday, November 19, 2021 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Act III: Life and Death, as the title suggests, is the third and latest part in Casey Crescenzo's forever-on-hold Dear Hunter project, a concept release detailing some over-the-top story about prostitutes (or something), which was planned to be released over six albums. But the truth of the ma ... (read more)

Report this review (#1197292) | Posted by Gallifrey | Monday, June 23, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Like a readheaded beauty. Ever since ELP filled concert halls and Pink Floyd played in underground clubs, long before I was even born, progressive rock has been the fierce protest wave against all the ordinary in music. In a way, an escape route from pop music patterns and and its plain mindset. ... (read more)

Report this review (#423975) | Posted by Oliverum | Monday, March 28, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I am so thrilled that there is music like this at this point in time. Not your typical Prog metal, and not your standard Retro Prog. Just good ole progressive music thats a little different and for the here and now. If we need some reference point, think Coheed and Cambria and Mars Volta, ... (read more)

Report this review (#245639) | Posted by akajazzman | Thursday, October 22, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars 1979 gave us The Wall. 1999 gave us SFAM and 2009 gave us this gem Act IIIl: Life and Death. To a certain degree, i'm sure this beautiful angst of 2009 can be compared to the geniusly crafted the Wall. I read from somewhere that Crecenzo doesn't like Prog music, but who cares. It's a brainc ... (read more)

Report this review (#245102) | Posted by terryl | Sunday, October 18, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Following my initial listens I thought this album to be a huge disappointment. With each other Dear Hunter release I was immediately hooked, but this one just seemed to lack any energy or that golden catchiness other releases have had. This is most likely because Act III lacks the power, sing-a- ... (read more)

Report this review (#240728) | Posted by Equality 7-2521 | Monday, September 21, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars There is something so tantalizing and charming about the Dear Hunter's music that has me wondering sometimes why I love it so much. Each subsequent album seems to make slight improvements on the previous, and I have to admit, if Crescenzo can make any improvements upon Act III, I will eat my h ... (read more)

Report this review (#238037) | Posted by fighting sleep | Monday, September 7, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I love this band, and this album. The way they can take easily digestible music and add an array of small intricacies to build a larger, more inspiring sound is one of the most intelligent writing styles I've ever heard in modern music today. The chord progressions, melodies and transitions are a ... (read more)

Report this review (#229276) | Posted by jpgarcia7787 | Friday, July 31, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars 'Act I: The Lake South, The River North' was a brilliant taster - a 39 minute EP. 'Act II: The Meaning Of, And All Things Regarding Ms. Leading' was an awesome, sprawling, 77 minute progressive epic. And now we come to Act III: Life and Death - the third chapter (of six planned) in a fictional char ... (read more)

Report this review (#227377) | Posted by Baggiesfaninuk | Saturday, July 18, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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