The Dear Hunter
Act IV: Rebirth In Reprise
4th September 2015 – Equal Vision Records
02. The Old Haunt
04. At the End of the Earth
06. A Night On the Town
07. Is There Anybody Here
08. The Squeaky Wheel
09. The Bitter Suite IV and V: The Congregation and The Sermon in the Silt
10. The Bitter Suite VI: Abandon
11. King of Swords (Reversed)
12. If All Goes Well
13. The Line
Casey Crescenzo is arguably the finest composer and multi-instrumentalist in rock music today. Since coming onto the scene 10 years ago with his first band The Receiving End Of Sirens - at the tender age of 21 – Casey has gone onto write and compose a tremendous volume of music including six albums for his major project The Dear Hunter, and the ambitious Amour & Attrition symphony with the Brno Philharmonic orchestra in the Czech Republic.
While The Dear Hunter was conceived as a concept band with a six-part story, Crescenzo has allowed for the overarching story to take a breather between 2009’s Act III: Life and Death and the new album Act IV: Rebirth In Reprise and released two albums under his the moniker. Seemingly unable to get away from grandiose undertakings, the first of these was a concept album of nine EPs entitled The Color Spectrum and it was far and away the most successful and beloved behemoth since Thrice’s The Alchemy Index years earlier. Following again in the tradition of Thrice – who put out a stripped down, simplified collection of songs in Beggars as a come down – The Dear Hunter released a humble offering of their own with the solid Migrant in 2013. By all accounts Migrant was a success and spawned some of The Dear Hunter’s most ebullient songs so far such as “Whisper” and “Shouting at the Rain,” and yet fans were still eagerly anticipating a return to the Act series. Six years later, Act IV: Rebirth In Reprise is finally upon us and it is an immaculate return to form for Casey and his crew.
Act IV begins in typical fashion with an introductory track called “Rebirth” which sets the stage for the nearly 75 minutes to follow. All that flows forth is a celebration of the finest parts of The Dear Hunter’s legacy; bombastic music directly in line with everything from Act I - Act III. Early highlight “The Old Haunt” is exuberant, with a chorus that is impossible not to sing along to, while the next track “Waves” is breathtakingly gorgeous with a twinge of romantic wistfulness that hits hard whether or not one knows the background story of these albums; it’s loaded with Casey’s distinctive soaring vocals and harmonies as well as rich orchestration, blending the more standard rock instruments with swelling violins and piano.
The entire album expands and contracts organically with thematic callbacks – both musically and lyrically – dripping over the whole affair. In spite of the strength of Act IV from front to back, one song in particular is a distillation of what makes The Dear Hunter so very special. At over nine minutes in length, lead single “A Night On The Town” is a glorious epic, moving from uplifting brassy intro into a powerful, rousing chorus, into a plaintive oboe solo with piano accompaniment – and back again before meekly retreating, with peaceful clarinet and bassoon work segueing into the next song. While there is too much going on to appreciate in a single listen, this is the kind of song that does not wear out its welcome on multiple listens, and that is a massive accomplishment for a tune of this size.
Several songs in the latter half of Act IV are highly reminiscent of the experimentation that was characteristic of the Red and Orange EPs from The Color Spectrum, and it’s great to see those seemingly one-off ideas integrated into the established framework of the Acts albums. The most obvious of these experiments is “King of Swords (Reversed)”; a funky track that would have been perfectly at home on 80s radio, with some peculiar synths more in line with Panic! at the Disco or Huey Lewis and the News than what usually comes from Casey Crecenzo’s brain. Luckily for those who are turned off by this track, there is still the continuity of the “Bitter Suite”, with parts IV, V, and VI all living up to the quality of the original trilogy from Act II.
The three songs that close out Act IV: Rebirth In Reprise are so impactful, and are a testament to how important proper pacing is. It would have probably been easy to simply hide some mediocre filler at the end after an hour has already elapsed, but “The Line”, “Wait”, and closer “Ouroboros” are each softly heartbreaking and have some of the most poetic lyrics Casey has ever written. In particular, the lyrics in “Wait” are the epitome of existential angst; line like “I fear that there is a heaven above” and “is my body really part of the earth?” repeating often and drilling home its haunting message.
Oftentimes when media is spoken of as having something for everyone, it means that it is tepid and bland enough for anyone to not be offended by it but not thrilled with it either. With Act IV: Rebirth In Reprise, The Dear Hunter have made something that will truly appeal to anybody – not because it is of how palatable it is, but because its quality is simply undeniable. Act IV is catchy enough for people who love pop music, progressive enough to turn the heads of serious musicians, and emotionally honest enough to connect with anyone with a beating heart. This album is a masterpiece – even by the lofty standards Casey Crescenzo has already set for himself – and it’s one of the finest works that will arrive all year.