Forgive Durden
Razia's Shadow: A Musical


3.5
great

Review

by Alex Silveri EMERITUS
October 29th, 2008 | 42 replies


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Pop-punk: The Musical!

Once upon-a-time Forgive Durden used to be a solid sounding angular pop-punk band sort of like Gatsby’s American Dream. And then they went and did something crazy and created a Musical album. A Musical Album. Like, Musical as in Phantom of the Opera and Oliver Twist and the like. Probably one of the more eccentric albums released on the Fueled By Ramen label, (home of Fall Out Boy and Paramore) Raiza’s Shadow, as this one’s called, revolves around the ruinous actions of Ahrima the angel, whom, feeling unappreciated and undervalued, manages to somehow tear the universe into two and is cast into exile, setting the scene for love and sacrifice to once again unite it all. The usual. It’s not exactly an original story line, taking its cue from both the rather popular Bible and Romeo and Juliet, only this time set in a fantasy world created by pop-punk poster boy Thomas Dutton and brother Paul.

True to form, the music here is used to accompany the storyline, rather than vice versa, helping to texture the lyrical themes of love and hope, misery and despair like any true musical score. Superbly produced, everything here is more or less in the right place, from the soaring orchestral strings, reverb laden bell tolls, twinkling xylophones, rippling harpsichords and nicely placed brass and wind instrumentation all thrown together and infused with the essence of pop-punk. With its own little ensemble of guest vocalists taken from various bands in the genre, Dutton really meant it when he said this was going to be a musical. A little pretentious? Perhaps. A little cheesy? Definitely. But dammit this thing is cute.

Besides, most of the time, it’s the more straightforward pop-punk tunes like Toba the Tura that hit on the emotional target that the record seems to strive for – even if it does feature a harpsichord and wailing violins. Other tracks like It’s True Love, featuring the wonderfully harmonious voice of Greta Salpeter (The Hush Sound) and The Missing Piece, centering upon two characters’ profession of love for each other, provide fleeting moments of genuine emotional expression, relatively untarnished by the aura of cheese surrounding Raiza’s Shadow. Truth is, Pop-punk this may be, but you’ll be hard pressed to find the punk genesis of Raiza’s Shadow, with the emphasis so heavily placed creating the epic-musical-pop vibe that thrives in Dutton’s songwriting.

And of course, it’s hard to miss the theatrical elements that litter the album. Songs like The Spider and The Lamp and Doctor Doctor reek of classic musical theatre material, being over-the-top and playing like performative pieces rather than serious music. Both these songs are also carried well by their respective guest vocalists – Max Bemis’ (Say Anything) distinctive snide-dripped delivery as the evil spider of malice working wonderfully well with Dutton’s more ‘pure’ vocals in The Spider and The Lamp, while in Doctor Doctor, it’s easy to hear the delight in which Shawn Harris (The Matches) tackles his role as the erratic voodoo witch doctor. Using a guest vocalist doesn’t always work though – Some listeners will recognize vocalist Aaron Weiss of mewithoutYou fame here in his role as the story’s narrator. Depressingly, his immense vocal talents are utterly wasted here and instead Weiss sounds trapped, his spoken word lines allowing for little room to show off his usually powerful emotional delivery. It’s not his fault, but more the template he’s been given to work with.

That all said, it’s still hard to judge this by the standards of any serious musical - after all, you won’t find repeated musical motifs or choral standards that are so prevalent in modern stage-play. Not that it really matters of course, because that’s the thing - musical or not, the fact is that Razia’s Shadow undoubtedly comes off as a lot more Disney than Broadway, like a beautifully pictured children’s tale with an equally childish intent. If the producers of High School Musical or Enchanted decided to go all fantasy pop-punk on us, this may very well be the result. Characters are thinly carved, appearing and disappearing in the space of a few songs, and despite the jungle thick lushness of the music, after a while much of the songwriting begins to simply blend into itself. Raiza’s Shadow’s simple and direct lyrical imagery, while working well occasionally, sometimes skims across feelings like a rock over water, never really managing to sink deep enough to take any emotional hold, verging instead on shallow playful childishness. So for an album billing itself as a musical and relying so heavily on lyrics and storyline, it's sort of sad to see that sometimes it’s just so empty of any real feeling.

Yet for all this, there’s just an undeniable… charm about it all. It’s music that twinkles and shines with all the innocence of the pop-punk spirit, with its fuzzy-wuzzy message pulling at all strings and occasionally tugging one attached to the heart: ‘Don’t you worry boy/ it’s a waste of time/place your hand in mine/ untie your mind/ we’ll just float away/ into the day/ You’re not the only one who thinks of falling in love’ sings the gorgeous Lizzie Huffman (Man In The Blue Van) in The Missing Piece. Scoff if you must, but an entire album’s worth of this every once in a while turns up a piece of gold, or a chunck of silver at the least. Gimmicky? Sure, but gosh is it cute.

3.3/5



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SnackaryBinx (3.5)
Thomas Dutton and his brother combine to form a musical with more guests than a rap album. While not...

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Comments:Add a Comment 
StreetlightRock
Emeritus
October 29th 2008


3767 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Ugh, this is really long, but I had a lot to say. Honestly this switches between a 3 and a 3.5 depending on my mood, but I’ll bill it as a 3.5 because I want people to give this a go and make up their own minds about it. Partial Stream: http://www.forgivedurden.com/blog/album-stream/This Message Edited On 10.29.08

Digging: Interpol - El Pintor

lunchforthesky
October 29th 2008


1039 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Excellent review. You really nailed everything I thought when I listened to this. Once again brilliant review.

Kiran
Emeritus
October 29th 2008


6001 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I tried to sit through this but found I couldn't really stomach it.

Great review though, really showing why you deserved staff so much.

SnackaryBinx
October 29th 2008


2309 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

it's better than mine. but I have the whole story, so hah!

Golgoroth
October 29th 2008


1084 Comments


I tried to sit through this but found I couldn't really stomach it. Plus, the waste of Mr. Weiss made me angry.


I almost decided to check this out when I read that Aaron Weiss was the narrator but then you said that his talents were wasted and I wanted to bawl my eyes out.

Good review btw.


natey
October 29th 2008


4170 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I don't think 'his talents are wasted'. He makes a fine narrator and that's all he needed to be here.

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
October 29th 2008


3767 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

But they are though. He narrates well, sure, but he's got so much mroe potential and they don't even concider using it.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2008


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

why is the fact that weiss doesn't contribute any vocals such a big deal? it shouldn't affect how you see the album.

SnackaryBinx
October 29th 2008


2309 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

it's not that it effects the output. it's the fact that the man obviously has more talent than just to be a narrator. he could've done more.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2008


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

being a good narrator takes talent.

Curse.
Contributing Reviewer
October 29th 2008


7996 Comments


like knowing how to read, hence why I would be a shitty narrator.

Great review, I will have to look at this.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2008


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i'm just saying, could you imagine max bemis being the narrator, with his sarcastic, breathy intonations?

lunchforthesky
October 29th 2008


1039 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Why would he have anything more than a bit part? He's not in the band, this is a Forgive Durden album not a mewithoutYou album.

SnackaryBinx
October 29th 2008


2309 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

lol. Forgive Durden is one person. That's like saying Thomas should do all the parts then.

lunchforthesky
October 29th 2008


1039 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

It's his brother too I believe. There is a huge difference between session musicians playing instruments and guest vocalists on an album written by a vocalist.

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
October 29th 2008


3767 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

why is the fact that weiss doesn't contribute any vocals such a big deal? it shouldn't affect how you see the album.


It doesn't, it's just a gripe that I thought I'd mention. It more of a a 'oh gosh I was excited that he'd do something really awesome but he didn't really, although its pretty cool' sorta thing.

I gotta say though, I love Bemis' contribution here, he completely fits his role here so so well, such an awesome take.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2008


16088 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I wanted to like this so bad but I really don't like it on my first few listens.

SnackaryBinx
October 29th 2008


2309 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Greta Specter is my favorite. Just because I love her voice.

natey
October 29th 2008


4170 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This makes me gasm for some reason.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2008


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

the exit is such a great tune



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