THE DEAR HUNTER – Act III: Life and Death (2009)

The Dear Hunter - Act III: Life and Death I discovered The Dear Hunter (not to be confused with this or these guys) by way of Casey Crescenzo’s previous band, The Receiving End of Sirens. Having just had my faith in North American prog shaken to its core some two weeks earlier by The Mars Volta’s disastrously scattered Amputechture, The Dear Hunter’s debut EP (and subsequent LP) proved to be exactly what I needed: prog that felt more like thrilling musical theater than a stuffy Master’s class (which, if done poorly, is often what people will take away from the genre). In short, The Dear Hunter did nothing poorly and everything right – their songs were diverse, intense and intricate, their conceptual material is detailed enough to rival that of Coheed & Cambria, and soon, I forgot who Omar Rodriguez-Lopez even was.

Of course now, The Mars Volta have redeemed themselves (hopefully, their redemption isn’t temporary), so would my fervent interest in The Dear Hunter hold? Answer: yes. While Life and Death is the least bombastic effort by The Dear Hunter to date, this tonal shift is totally appropriate, and the album works precisely because it’s less animated than everything that came before it. While there is some more energetic fare to be found on the album (Mustard Gas, Go Get Your Gun), it’s a lot darker than anything we’ve seen from the band thus far. Actually, “darker” seems to be the key here; save for the occasional ballad (like Father or Saved) most of these songs sound ominous and subdued, especially for a prog album. Yeah, you did read that right – “subdued prog.” What else am I to call a song like The Thief?

Life and Death marks the midpoint of the planned six album concept that Casey Crescenzo is attempting to deliver (again, perhaps taking a cue from Coheed & Cambria in the process). So far, all three acts/albums feel exactly the way they’re supposed to be in terms of the arc of a good story: there’s the Introduction (I), Exposition (II) and then a turning point (III). If this were a play, we’d all be headed to intermission now. What a drag. The suspense is killing me.

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