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Act III - Life and Death

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Album Review

When the subject of concept albums comes up, rock historians tend to think of the 1970s and '80s. Pink Floyd's The Wall, the Who's Quadrophenia, and Elton John's Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy are often cited as great concept albums of the '70s, and Queensrÿche's Operation: Mindcrime from 1988 is widely regarded as the ultimate power metal concept album. But concept albums didn't disappear when alternative rock became rock's primary direction in the early '90s. Green Day's American Idiot (2004) and Radiohead's OK Computer (1997) are well-known alternative rock concept albums, and the concept album approach is alive and well on the Dear Hunter's 2009 release Act III: Life and Death. This CD is the third of a series of Dear Hunter albums focusing on a character called "The Boy"; in Act III, The Boy is now a man, and the songs describe his struggles in life. Some concept albums have become a victim of their own ambition; they had great intentions but were damaged by their lofty excesses. Thankfully, that doesn't happen on Act III: Life and Death, which finds lead singer Casey Crescenzo's ambition paying off handsomely. Successful concept albums work well as a cohesive whole but also have great songs that stand on their own, and that holds true on Act III: Life and Death. It's best to listen to this CD from start to finish in one sitting in order to get the concept album experience, but even if one isn't big on concept albums, tracks like "Life and Death," "The Poison Woman," and "Go Get Your Gun" have no problem standing on their own. Crescenzo brings a wide variety of influences to this disc, ranging from Radiohead and Coldplay to Queen, the Beach Boys, and the Beatles; the result is an engaging alternative pop/rock effort that has a strong awareness of classic rock but without sounding overtly nostalgic. Crescenzo's willingness to turn to different rock eras for creative inspiration yields excellent results on Act III: Life and Death.

Customer Reviews

Act III: Life and Death

Act III: Life and Death continues the storyline from the past two albums in a darker and more headstrong way than the first two acts. While Act II was more love story, ballad-filled, happy-go-lucky, and sentimental/emotional (and how could it not be, with Ms. Leading in (and also out of) the picture?), Act III is more war-mongering, hardened, and moody. The evolution of the main character is evident as he suffers more and more loss at the hands of people he loves. With that in mind, here’s my short (ha ha) summary* of the tracks: 1) Writing on a Wall: (9/10) Great intro that definitely sets the tone for the rest of the album. 2) In Cauda Venenum: (10/10) Absolutely one of my favorite songs from the album. It lets you know right away that TDH are still going strong and in the same direction with their music. It’s dark, theatrical, and an excellent way to start off the album (love the constant whoa-oh’s). This one is one of a few on this album that really showcases Casey Crescenzo’s voice. 3) What it Means to be Alone: (9.5/10) The first time I heard this one, I thought it was a little strange. But as a listened to it closely a few more times, I came to realize it’s one of the better songs on the album. Not quite as dark in tone as the last song. 4) The Tank: (10/10) Another favorite. It’s theatrical and dark like In Cauda Venenum, but it’s also a little bipolar. Which is something TDH is very good at: songs that completely change tone once or even many times. Casey goes between serenading us and nearly screaming at us for the entire song. Excellent. 5) The Poison Woman: (10/10) Also a favorite. Casey does things with his voice in this one I can’t say I’ve ever heard him do before. It also sounds more along the lines of one of the songs that would be in the last album, sort of in the vein of The Oracles on the Delphi Express. I love the lyrics in this one. 6) The Thief: (9/10) A good song, very ambient and airy in my opinion. However, I think the effects in the background (and I’m not exactly sure what they are) for most of the louder parts of the song are very cool. 7) Mustard Gas: (10/10) Probably my favorite on the album, and also probably the heaviest and moodiest. Even more bipolar and bombastic than The Tank, and purely brilliant. Starts strong, goes into a war cry-esque chorus, is briefly saloon-worthy, then ends the same way it starts. Truly makes me imagine the chaos of war. 8) Saved: (9/10) I like this song more and more with each listen. My favorite part, however, has to be the last two minutes. Reminds me of Black Sandy Beaches, but just a little. 9) He Said He Had a Story: (9.5/10) Another really good one. The lyrics are twisted, but genius. The whole song is fueled by questions, which you’ll understand when you listen to it. 10) This Beautiful Life: (8/10) This is where I think the album starts losing its gusto (with the exception of the next song). This one sounds to much like a conglomerate of all other TDH songs for me to really enjoy. You’ll probably disagree. And don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a nice and well made song; I just don’t find anything special in it. 11) Go Get Your Gun: (9.5/10) Very Oracles-y. It’s got that same recreated old-fashioned-ness about it. It’s also really catchy and unique. 12) Son: (8/10) Meh. I would consider this song and Father to pretty much be one song because they flow into each other so seamlessly and neither of them really grab or hold my attention. This one is just kind of moody, and music-box-ish toward the second half. 13) Father: (7.5/10) Slightly more boring than Son. Not really much to it. 14) Life and Death: (8.5/10) Slightly disappointing. I was looking forward to a great finale to off put the last couple of less-than-spectacular songs, but I didn’t really get that. It’s still pretty good, though. Overall: 9 The ONLY way Act III: Life and Death could have achieved a ten for me would have been if it equaled or surpassed the previous album, which I think is probably the best musical effort these guys could have ever put out. Nearly every song from Act II was notable and unique, with the exception of one or MAYBE two. There were so many stand out’s, too (The Procession, both of the Bitter Suites, Smiling Swine, Red Hands, Dear Ms. Leading, Black Sandy Beaches, etcetera). Also, the last album was LONG. And even though they have about the same number of tracks (15 vs. 14), this album doesn’t even reach the sixty minute mark (minus the extra deluxe songs**). It lacks the seven, eight, and even nine minute epics of Act II. In fact, the longest song on Act III doesn’t even reach the six minute mark. Act III doesn’t have quite so many stand outs or epics, but it should live up to most expectations.. In summation: This album didn’t quite accomplish all that Act II did, but it didn’t fail to deliver. *I received the album a few days early due to the company I ordered from shipping it in advance to get here on time, which is why I have been able to listen to the album in its entirety multiple times in order to be able to write an accurate, well-thought out review. **The version of the CD I have is the deluxe version, which includes four more songs, but I won’t review them here because I’m not really sure if they’ll be released on iTunes on a deluxe version. But they are pretty good--nothing you should really be upset to miss out on, though.

The Dear Hunter Has Taken The Next Step

For those who have been listening to The Dear Hunter for awhile now obviously already know what this band is all about. Creativity, Depth, Beauty, and Progression. But not everybody knows what The Dear Hunter is all about, and I feel that sometimes people not knowing the history of the band (Casey and his departure from TREOS) makes them look past the depth of the previous albums. Act III makes the past irrelevant. I received this album a few days before it was actually released in stores because I pre-ordered it and because I did this I have been able to listen to the album extensively. Acts I and II both look amateur in light of Act III. Act III takes everything you know about The Dear Hunter's first two albums and elevates them to or past elite-tier quality. What immediately sticks out more than anything else is Casey's improved vocals. He has become very creative with his singing and uses pitch shifting (Ex. In Cauda Venenum) to maximize the vocal listening experience. Also, when the mood of the album changes, so does the tone of his vocals. A prime example of this is at the beginning of The Poison Woman. As the music starts, it creates an almost kind of sneaky sound, when Casey's voice comes in very airy and smooth tone, matching the sickly sweet feel of the song. This may come as a surprise to many who are already familiar with his voice because his voice has a naturally raspy and smokey sound. I would love to go into great detail as to how incredibly in depth this album's music is, but I would be stating the obvious. It is The Dear Hunter. For those who are new to The Dear Hunter, I greatly encourage you to listen to all of their music, but if you are skeptical as to wether or not you will like their music or are strapped for cash, purchase/listen to this album first, then make your decision. For those who are already familiar with The Dear Hunter, expect more of the same, only MUCH MUCH MUCH more elevated in terms of quality. If you liked the review, leave some love. If you hated it, leave some hate. Alright then :) Enjoy

A treat for the soul

I have loved the Dear Hunter since Act I and am happy to find that Act III is just as good (if not better) than the other two. The sound on this album is fantastic keeping to the tight harmonies and orchestral elements along with the standard alternative sound. Crescenzo's fantastic vocals still capture the emotions each character that is portraid (there is a story for those who are new to TDH). I recomend this album to any who would enjoy a new approach to alt rock and hope that you enjoy it as much as I have.


Formed: 2005 in Providence, RI

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The Dear Hunter started as a solo side project by singer and keyboardist Casey Crescenzo, formerly a key member of Belchertown, Massachusetts emo act the Receiving End of Sirens. An outlet for Crescenzo's songs that didn't fit the Receiving End of Sirens' heavy post-hardcore vibe, the Dear Hunter was initially envisioned as a concurrent project. Indeed, Crescenzo's first gig as the Dear Hunter was an opening slot for the Receiving End of Sirens, at which he was backed by the other members of the...
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Act III - Life and Death, The Dear Hunter
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