The Dear Hunter
Act III: Life and Death


4.0
excellent

Review

by Jeremy Price USER (33 Reviews)
June 22nd, 2009 | 114 replies | 24,815 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Dear Hunter further refine their pop sensibilities while producing an album more fully-formed and well realized than Act II.

10 of 10 thought this review was well written

No matter what your position on The Dear Hunter may be, you’ve got to admit, they’re a pretty damn silly band. I mean, combining progressive-cum-indie in the vein of Circa Survive with the theatrics of Panic at the Disco, and wrapping it all in a Coheed and Cambria-style multi-album conceptual saga? You’ve got to be out of your damn mind. Thankfully, Casey Crescenzo, founder/vocalist/keyboardist of The Dear Hunter, most assuredly is. After all, this is the man who thought it’d be a good idea to, in the middle of working on a six-album series, announce the band’s intention to work on a nine-album series (based off of the primary colors, no less) concurrently with the current saga. Someone get this man an award and a straightjacket. The good thing for Crescenzo is this crazy blend of genres and styles continues to work for the band, as they continue to put out quality albums. Act III: Life and Death is no exception, and further refines the band’s pop sensibilities while producing an album more fully-formed and well realized than Act II.

While Act III is generally pretty similar to the rest of The Dear Hunter’s discography to this point, there are some notable alterations this time ‘round. These alterations can be summed up as this: where Act II embraced pretense, Act III embraces bombast. So while you won’t get any nine-minute cuts here like “The Lake and the River” (take that how you will), you will get a auditory cornucopia of strings (“The Tank”), horns (“In Cauda Venenum”), and other such instruments that, rather than being overbearing, actually add to Act III’s overall massive feel. In addition, Casey continues to rely on the “gang-style theater chorus vocals” (if you’ve heard the band, you know what I’m talking about) that he’s used in each of the band’s albums so far. While they do add to the theatric vibe of the band’s music, they’re starting to feel like a crutch for Casey and his music.

In general, the standout tracks in Act III are the ones that fully embrace the bombast and go for broke. “Mustard Gas”, the album’s climactic centerpiece, is just about the most massive piece of music the band has ever composed, with an epic string section highlighting what is essentially the soundtrack to war (fitting, considering the album’s conceptual ties to WWI). If it seems like the gargantuan chorus is a desperate cry to an unforgiving God (pretentious, I know), it’s because it is, as Crescenzo roars “Scream at the sky in vain, beg for a reason He would allow this!” It’s a moment of pure desperate aggression, and is perhaps the most affecting moment in the entire album. “In Cauda Venenum” is similarly huge and aggressive, but also hugely, aggressively catchy in a way different from anything the band has put their name on before.

And that’s really this album’s selling point; it’s so goddamn catchy. On Act II, the flow of the album was hindered by a number of filler tracks like “Blood of the Rose” or “Where the Road Parts”. Here, just about every single track has some sort of memorable hook or catchy chorus that’s sure to get stuck in your head. While there may not be a candidate to succeed “Red Hands” here, there overall quality of the album is much more consistent. Only two songs fail to impress, each for completely different reasons. “What It Means To Be Alone” is musically sound, and pretty catchy to boot, but Crescenzo seems strained and worn vocally. Here’s very clearly struggling to hit a number of the notes, a problem that plagued the band’s earlier releases, but that Crescenzo almost manages to avoid with Act III, with the expection of this song. The more directly bad song, “Go Get Your Gun”, is an actual outright failure. Lyrically, it’s a trainwreck (“Go get your gun, get your gun, and let’s find out what it does/Shoot, shoot shoot, shoot, SHOOT!!!”), musically, it might as well be a B-side from MCR’s The Black Parade, and conceptually, it’s totally out of place, jammed between two slow songs in such a way that’s almost offensive. It could safely be cut from the album without much issue.

Thankfully, just about every other track manages to make a strong impression, and the variety of the album keeps it interesting. If there’s one other problem with the album, is that following “Mustard Gas”, the album loses much of the explosiveness that defined the first half. To be fair, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as we get some excellent slow cuts from the latter half, like the cheesy-but-beautiful “Saved”, or the three-part 11+ minute closing suite of “Son/Father/Life and Death”, which serves the dual purpose of closing the album on a spectacular note, and at the same time lyrically hinting at the focus of the next act of Crescenzo’s mad story.

Some listeners may not be able to get over the theatrical nature of Act III’s progressive leanings, calling it “overblown” or “excessive”. Sure, it may be about as subtle as a bag of hammers being thrown at another bag of hammers, but god bless it for that. It’s the energy and almost youthful bliss of the instrumentation that makes Act III such a compelling listen, and keeps it from being just another standard indie album from a band with a vague animal reference in their name. With Act III, The Dear Hunter drop the mushy romanticism and focus on, as promised, “Kicking ass and taking names.” The flame may be gone, but the fire remains.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Acre
June 22nd 2009



847 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

The album's streaming at:
http://music.aol.com/new-releases-full-cds/#/13

Also, this keeps growing on me with every listen. It's really damn good.

TREO5
June 22nd 2009



1068 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I disagree with your statement about Go Get your gun. It's one of the catchiest songs on the album imo. Stupid lyrics yes, but catchy nonetheless. I really like Caseys voice on that song. The whole album is so great, but at first I'll admit I was dissappointed. I missed the sprawling hugeness of act II was the main reason. But damn if this album hasn't grown on me.

Acre
June 22nd 2009



847 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

For me, it just interrupts the flow of the second half. It's decently catchy, but it's just dumb and out of place.

TREO5
June 22nd 2009



1068 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I guess that is part of the reason I enjoyed it. It sort of came as a surprise, and made me smile in it's simplicity, and ability to be so stupidly catchy. My favorite song by the band is still probably Black Sandy Beaches or 1878 though. Off this album..... really, all are decent. tops would be the tank, the poison woman, and the one before go get your gun.

TREO5
June 22nd 2009



1068 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

No no I meant he said he had a story instead of this beautiful life.

BenedictVII
June 22nd 2009



369 Comments


I haven't really listended to these guys before, but since they are opening for MewithoutYou this weekend, I will be seeing them in concert.

Digging: the Soil & the Sun - Meridian

Acre
June 22nd 2009



847 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

They're really tight live, you should enjoy them.

TREO5
June 22nd 2009



1068 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

They are so good live, but when I saw them Casey said his voice had gone out. So I sang LOUD to make up for it. They also played an awesome version of Red Hand acapella.

Youwithoutme
June 22nd 2009



301 Comments


Episode I is really good I gotta hear this.

Mr Fahrenheit
June 22nd 2009



37 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This does sound cool.

Is the concept relative enough that I should get the first two episodes before I get this one?

TREO5
June 22nd 2009



1068 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yes. It is a story arc of two trilogies, act III is the culmination of the stories from act I and II. And trust me, if you enjoy this, act I and II are just as good, if not more awesome. I recommend checking out the first two before this one.

FoGownz
June 22nd 2009



30 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Go Get Your Gun is an alright song in the wrong place. It's no an absolute failure but on this album it disrupts the flow and sticks out like a sore thumb.

This album is a grower overall. My first impressions of it were that it wasn't as good as the first two acts, but I think it measures up pretty well. The problem, I think, is the intensity of the second half isn't as great as the first. I think if they replaced Go Get Your Gun with a song with a song with intensity of In Cauda Venenum it would be a much stronger album, and might even have bumped my rating up to a 4.5.

Lions
June 23rd 2009



1015 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

This album is a charm. I love this band. And I would say they pull off the whole dedicating their career to a big ridiculous storyline better than Coheed(as much as I love them). These dudes are so damned vaudeville.

One day I'll turn their albums into a musical.

TREO5
June 23rd 2009



1068 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Once again I disagree. I think Go Get Your Guns is great right where it is. The song before it even has a little drum fill leading into it. Shoot shoot shoot shoot shoooooooooot.

BenedictVII
June 23rd 2009



369 Comments


I listened to the stream and it is a pretty decent album. There is a real good chance that I'll be getting this. Unless they are terrible when I see them friday, but I'm not really counting on that.

TREO5
June 23rd 2009



1068 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Very good live, especially if you know the words, Casey really gets the crowd involved.

Acre
June 23rd 2009



847 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Mr Fahrenheit, it's not necessary by any means, though you might enjoy it a bit more if you know the backstory. You might miss a couple of subtle references, but the songwriting more than stands on its own without the concept.

labria86
June 23rd 2009



137 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good review but I've got to say, calling this band silly is a little much. The story is very ambitious and in my opinion very interesting. I mean you have Coheed (which happens to be my favorite band) on your 4.5 and 5 list and yet you call TDH silly? Come on man. Otherwise great review. And yes they are awesome live. Saw them for the fist time last week. And I met Casey and he is far from crazy. He does however seem to care a lot what we think of him. He prodded my friend (who listened to the leak) for his opinion and told us that everyone probably said it sucked and that we all though "Go Get Your Gun was the worst song ever." But anyways. Haven't thoroughly listened yet cause im waiting till the official release. Couple more hours! Yea!

astrel
June 23rd 2009



2614 Comments


some major fanboys in this thread lol.

FoGownz
June 23rd 2009



30 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

No. It's silly. No one is questioning the quality of their music music, but it is silly. Coheed and Cambria are silly too. Rock operas by nature are silly. And he wasn't referring to Casey as crazy in any other sense other than that he is extraordinarily ambitious with his projects. I'm sure he didn't mean that if you met him in real life he wouldn't be cool.





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