The Dear Hunter – ‘Act IV: Rebirth In Reprise’ [Review]
Before you press play on this album, you’d better brace yourself. This is for three reasons:
1) The Dear Hunter have been going for five studio albums and a series of nine EPs now, so it’s safe to say this band is a bit of a Big Deal;
2) The Dear Hunter’s main project is a six (or rather VI)-act story, in the process of being presented over the course of six/VI albums. Act III: Life And Death was released back in 2009 – and so this album, Act IV, has been six years in the making, and fan anticipation (fanticipation? …maybe not) has been at fever pitch for a long time now;
3) Act IV: Rebirth In Reprise is beyond epic.
This is an absolute rollercoaster of an album, launching into ultra-rich Biffy-Clyro-crossed-with-Queen harmonies which soon give way to forest-party-falling-down-the-stairs folk and an inquisitive orchestral section. As opening statements go, Rebirth is pretty damn unique – a very rare statement in today’s musical climate. Then we get pitched into The Old Haunt, which sounds like the Mars Volta trying to write a Bond theme with Beach Boys doo-wop backing vocals crammed in like a video game Easter egg. Mediocre and mundane, this is not.
Waves is the first track with clear commercial potential, although that label does nothing to change the fact that Waves still represents widescreen pop-rock songwriting at its best. At The End Of The Earth offers spacious vibes reminiscent of Sons of the Sea (Incubus frontman Brandon Boyd’s pet side project), and it’s the first of many respectful-but-not-derivative nods in Boyd’s direction. Watch out for more during the bridge section of Is There Anybody Here (which also features an exotically tortured guitar solo); the whole of The Squeaky Wheel; the middle section of The Bitter Suite IV and V (which also digs into creepy vibes, bringing to mind Between The Buried And Me and Diablo Swing Orchestra); and the first half of The Bitter Suite VI.
The Brandon Boyd vocal stylings (which are fine by me, but might grate on the ears of Incubus haters) continue into odd-on-record-but-guaranteed-to-be-immense-live cheesy disco tune King Of Swords (Reversed). But before we go further, we need to consider the heretofore-ironically-forgotten Remembered (serene Beatles-grade tunecraft swaddled in Disney soundtrack sweetness and spiked with mournful lyricism) and A Night On The Town – a demonic nine-minute carnival of a single. As we head into the final four songs, it’s tough to even constructively criticise Act IV – there’s not a note out of place, and the amount of passion, love, and determination that’s been poured into it is plain to see – although it’s obvious that those who detest high-minded concepts will be sharpening their keyboard-knives right now.
If Incubus and Coheed & Cambria got together for a one-off funk session, the results would probably sound similar to If All Goes Well. It’s fun, bouncy, catchy, and happens to point in the direction of two firm personal favourites – so again, it’s all good to my ears. The Line heads back into super-smooth spy movie territory before folk vibes dominate, and the Dear Hunter’s ability to blend seemingly disparate styles seamlessly has to be applauded. As if in response, Wait tangentially twists into modern-day Muse/Biffy territory – again, mixing influences without becoming derivative or uninspired. Finally, Brandon Boyd’s shadow returns for the grim darkness of Ouroboros as it clips ahead, flourishes, and vanishes into nothingness.
Then, it’s all over.
Summing up Act IV is a tough ask. There are so many great influences mixed in here, each one concentrated, shredded, and lovingly swirled into the melting pot before the mixture is left to simmer and percolate and…this…is the end product. The bastard love child of Incubus, Brandon Boyd, Sons of the Sea, Biffy Clyro, Queen, Bond themes, the Mars Volta, the Beach Boys, Between The Buried And Me, Diablo Swing Orchestra, the Beatles, Disney, Coheed and Cambria, Muse…it’s almost as if this album were tailor-made for me, and I fucking love it.
So, given the Dear Hunter’s history, one question has to pop up here: Should Act IV be classed as a “fan favourite”?
Well, I only discovered the Dear Hunter a few days ago, and they’ve already sucked me in. I may not have waited on the edge of my seat for six years, but I can still appreciate Act IV, call it fucking awesome, and acknowledge its status as one of the best headphone albums I’ve heard this year, for serious. If you occupy the enviable position of “Fan From Day One”, you’ll melt when you hear Act IV – and if you’ve only previously associated the words “Dear Hunter” with a tasteless joke involving psycho doctor Harold Shipman, you may well do, too.
Best press play below and see how it goes. I can’t recommend that action enough.
TMMP RATING: 97% (Essential Listening!)
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