What is the music composer or songwriter, if not a storyteller? That has been the transcendent role of the musician throughout the many ages of human history. From the first note that is struck, plucked, bowed, blown, or whatever else, we (typically) allow the performer to take over our attention until his story has finished. While this is true for just about any kind of music, some artists have perfected the art of storytelling in a way that not only warrants our attention, but enables us to temporarily let go of everything else plaguing our mind while we surrender ourselves to its enthrallment. Today we take a look at The Dear Hunter, one such group that has achieved mastery in this field. The Dear Hunter originally began as a side project of Casey Crescenzo, who was a lead vocalist and guitarist for the post-hardcore band The Receiving End of Sirens at the time. After writing the original demos for the first album to be released under this new name, Crescenzo elected to take leave of his old band in the interest of devoting his full attention to pushing The Dear Hunter forward.
This first EP, which was released in September 2006, came to be known as Act I: The Lake South, The River North. This was the opening volume of a planned six-act story written by Crescenzo. To quote his own words, “The Dear Hunter is the story of a boy, from his creation to his untimely end; the beautifully rapturous to the truly tragic. Set at the dawn of the 20th century, the debut EP gives birth to a story, and attempts to make sense of the future by explaining. Simply put, The Dear Hunter sings of things to which we can all relate: lust, deceit, greed, and hunting.” I will not go too much into the depths of the intricately-crafted world of the story (that is something that you must do for yourself), but I can assure you that it is the kind of world that transcends time and exists completely in the surrealism of your own consciousness.
So let’s fast forward a bit. In May 2007, Act II: The Meaning of, and All Things Regarding Ms. Leading was released to tremendous critical acclaim. The story of The Dear Hunter was now cemented and legitimized as an outstanding musical endeavor from the mind of Crescenzo. This then set the stage for the incredible amount of anticipation leading up to the 2009 release of the third installment of the series, Act III: Life and Death, which brings us to the main focal point of this post.
Now let me be clear: each and every release from this band has been simply phenomenal. All three releases from the main Act series so far, plus the ridiculously ambitious Color Spectrum EPs and the newest album Migrant – each new work continues to go above and beyond the call of duty, and for that we (the fans) are eternally grateful. The reason I chose Act III specifically to review today is because it happened to be the soundtrack to a deeply personal experience I had a few weeks ago. Although I won’t go into details about that experience, since that is not the focus here, I will say that this album was immensely therapeutic for me, and that I can 100% advocate for The Dear Hunter’s ability to pull you into the story and capture you in the effervescent realm of the music.
Stylistically, I would say that the best way to describe the band’s sound might be as an abundant cornucopia of the dramatic lyrical sensibilities of alternative punk (think Vans Warped Tour), the sheer diversity and visionary composition style of progressive rock, and some undefinable element of musicality that makes all of their music easily identifiable, yet unequivocally unique.
This album concept, which could in many ways be considered a rock opera, is not necessarily a new thing in the progressive realm of rock music. Another shining example of such a concept would be the Dream Theater album that we reviewed several months ago, Metropolis, Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory. Perhaps an even more obvious connection to the Dear Hunter would be the voluminous works of Coheed and Cambria, who we also featured earlier in our post about The Afterman: Descension.
Although there is a total of fourteen tracks that constitute this album, it is easy to think that it is instead just one hour-long piece of music that leads you through a whole world of instrumental and lyrical richness. This is truly an album that I would recommend to anyone, regardless of musical tastes or sensibilities. This is not about trying to impress the music that I like upon anyone else; this is about offering up the opportunity for anyone and everyone to experience something completely sublime. If you like what you hear, I would also strongly advise you to take the time to explore the rest of The Dear Hunter’s work and enjoy the first two Acts of the storyline as well. Best of luck in your musical travels!