Album: Act V: Hymns with the Devil in Confessional by The Dear Hunter
Released: September 9th, 2016
The Dear Hunter was formed in 2005 after Casey Crescenzo was kicked out of his previous band, The Receiving End of Sirens. What was originally a side project while he was in TREOS, The Dear Hunter became Casey’s full-time project and he recorded the first album, Act I: The Lake South, The River North, almost entirely on his own with help from friends and family. Telling the tragic life story of boy a growing up at the end of the 19th century, the band released the first three acts in 2006, 2007, and 2009 before taking a departure with their 2011 release, The Color Spectrum. This collection contained nine four-song EPs; each individual EP corresponded to a color for a total of 36 songs of various genres and moods. The band followed up with another stand-alone release, Migrant, in 2013 before returning to release the fourth and fifth acts in 2015 and 2016 respectively. The Dear Hunter has released seven full-length albums in the eleven years since their first album, continues to tour, and released a new EP last month titled All is as All Should Be.
**Spoiler Alert – Story Details Ahead**
The Story and the Songs:
Taking on a darker tone than Act IV, Act V begins with the ethereal and angelic “Regress” before diving into the impatient industrialism of “The Moon / Awake” which, like “The Old Haunt” from Act IV, retraces the events of the previous album and Hunter’s dilemma; this track also carries a soaring chorus and triumphant ending. It is juxtaposed by the groovier “Cascade” which describes Hunter developing an opium addiction. In the wake of his drug-addled delirium, our protagonist wanders into the Church to hear a parable delivered by The Pimp and the Priest in “The Most Cursed of Hands / Who Am I”. This song has a western feel to it and tells the story of a gambler who tried to cheat the devil, only to find that he lost his soul in order to win the game (much like Hunter and The Pimp and the Priest). “The Revival” is another Avant-garde tune that features a catchy chorus, horn sections, and an underlying organ.
“The Revival” transitions into “Melpomene” which is Hunter’s love song to Miss Leading, with whom he has carried a clandestine affair while acting as mayor of The City. Things take a turn toward big band swing in “Mr. Usher (On His Way to Town)” which serves as a memorable character introduction with its jazz bar background noise and haunting refrain of “He’ll take you to the river”; this line calls back to the similar lyric, “Take me to the river”, from “The Pimp and the Priest” off of Act I. Exploring yet another genre, “The Haves Have Naught” showcases Hunter and Mr. Usher arguing about the futility of believing that people are good; this shift in sound is akin to a song from a Disney musical and features the band’s keyboardist, Gavin Castleton, on vocals. “Light” is an acoustic ballad from the perspective of Hunter as he expresses his wish for a better future for his son since he has decided to end things, once and for all, before sending the Wife and son away to the safety of the Lake and the River. “Gloria” is a straightforward rock track featuring punchy guitar riffs and a blistering guitar solo from Crescenzo.
The final five songs of the album create the climax of the story with plot points that herald the doom of many characters. In “The Flame (Is Gone)”, Mr. Usher convinces The Pimp and the Priest to kill Miss Leading in order to bring Hunter down. Her death is expressed musically at the end of the song when the melody from “Melpomene” plays in a minor key before leading into “The Fire (Remains).” Hunter finds Miss Leading’s body and decides to burn down the Church which leads into the reprise free-for-all of “The March.” As townspeople see the burning ruins of the Church, The Pimp and the Priest convinces them that Hunter has been deceiving them as a villain all along. This is a veritable Easter egg basket of musical motifs that leads into the last two songs. “Blood” is spilled when Hunter kills the Pimp and the Priest and seeks “A Beginning” by deciding to take his own life as penance for all of the bad things he has done. The song contains a variation of the “silver lining” lyric section in “The Moon/Awake,” but this time expresses hope and ends with the notes from “The River North,” creating a cliffhanger for Act VI.
Fans were stunned by Act V’s quick release, and it was explained that Act IV and Act V were recorded in the same sessions which allowed for the short amount of time between their releases. This also explains the similar production quality and speaks to the appropriate tones in each album since they carry their own individual emotional weight and themes. Though there is a note of finality to Act V, it is not the end of the story. In the release announcement for Act V, Casey addressed the fact that Act VI will not be like any of the previous acts since it won’t be a “rock album”. He has left fans in anticipation with his vague explanation, but the pieces of music we currently have are more than anyone could ask for. If you would like an aural list of many of the reprises in the albums, this YouTube video has compiled a number of them.
Please enjoy some song recommendations, a song from the album, and check out the band’s social media accounts below!
Song recommendations: “The Moon / Awake” , “The Most Cursed of Hands / Who Am I” , “Light” , “The March” , “A Beginning”
Previously: Act IV: Rebirth in Reprise
The images featured in this post can be found through the hyperlinks below.