Album Reviews

The Dear Hunter – Act V: Hymns With the Devil in Confessional

Based around a story that tells the tale of a protagonist that is known simply as “the boy“, The Dear Hunter release the fifth and thus final ‘real rock-opera‘ album in this massive series of concept albums known by fans as the Act Series. For any of you unfamiliar with this band, The Dear Hunter are a modern group of musicians originating from Rhode Island, playing a huge range of different genres with a primary focus on (progressive) rock. They are most commonly known among progressive rock fans for their widely ambitious concept and the way they use their enormous range of different musical styles to visualize all kinds of mood swings in the story. The band is lead by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Casey Crescenzo, who is the man behind the story that has been told over the past decade through this band.

Not even one year after the release of Act IV: Rebirth In Reprise, the band informed us that they would be releasing yet another piece of music in 2016. Interestingly enough, the material for these albums were written at the same time for the most part. Against all odds, the two albums barely sound anything alike and both have their own uniqueness to them. The former is often considered the jack of all trades, while Act V: Hymns With the Devil in Confessional ventures a darker sound and adds quite an intricate yet mysterious vibe to the whole.

From niche piano passages and intimate vocal melodies to rocking guitar riffs resemblant to Pink Floyd and epic infectious choruses, there is no denying that this is one of those albums that maintains listeners‘ interest after countless listens with its amazing diversity. One would continue to wonder where Casey Crescenzo got all this inspiration from, between all the strange mixes of countless musical styles, the music manages to somehow stay fairly cohesive. For a band labeled as progressive rock by many, they sure maintain a sound just as accessible and intricate as any modern indie rock band you’ll encounter.

The same way that “Waves“ from last year’s release was the song to look out for, this time around the band has brought us “Gloria“ which seems to fill the same spot on its album, being the anthem of the album, the vocal-centered upbeat single.

Fans of older albums will recognize the titles “The Flame (Is Gone)“ and “The Fire (Remains)“ immediately. Apart from competing for the very best songs in their entire career, these two make for such a great ‘beginning of the end‘ feeling, followed by a bunch of songs that carry a great deal of emotional value, concluding the story of the first five acts.

The ability to make a lasting impression as big as The Dear Hunter do with every release I have been around is.. well.. impressive. Act V: Hymns With the Devil in Confessional draws in the listener with an immersive story and catchy hooks, and soon enough you will have listened to the album so many times that it will automatically feel like an instant classic. This was exactly the case with Act IV last year, and they pulled it off yet again this year with Act V.

With some shared motifs between all the acts, this one definitely stands on its own just like all the other act albums do. The most commonly mentioned aspect would be the more melancholic approach, but they execute it in a beautiful way, leaving us with an explosive but at the same time hauntingly beautiful atmosphere reminiscent of songs like “At the End of the Earth“.

The listener is caught off guard with the extremely unorthodox “Mr. Usher (On His Way to Town)“, sharing similarities with old-fashioned ballroom music and swing elements reminding heavily of Frank Sinatra. It’s things like this that attract the bigger audience from the first listen, these extra-ordinary songs (think of King of Swords (Reversed), Smiling Swine and Go Get Your Gun for example) work so well in the small doses in which they are offered.

In finality, the band is planning to take a sharp left turn and make the sixth and final act in the series into something totally different. Whereas these first five albums that have just been concluded all fell under the category of “rock-opera“, the next one will not. What it could be still remains a mystery, but needless to say, this is exciting news for The Dear Hunter fans all over the world. This band never fails to come up with something great.

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