The Dear Hunter - The Color Spectrum
The Dear Hunter (which for the most part is the handsome gentleman pictured, Casey Crescenzo) is most definitely a band that has built up a lot of expectations with their new releases and Casey Crescenzo has more than outdone himself, yet again. The Color Spectrum is TDH's first album outside of the perspective of the series of Acts (currently up to Act III) and what an album it is. The "album" itself is actually a collection of nine, 4 song EP's that coincide with the color spectrum, including Black first, then White last. Rather surprising is the fact that the band decided to release all of the albums at the same time when they could have released them a couple at a time, in a similar fashion to the way Thrice released their Alchemy Index collection (two released in 2007 and the last two released in 2008). However, it's not oft that those looking for instant gratification (myself included) are appeased but releasing 36 tracks all at once most definitely provides us all with a ton of new music to listen to for a long time to come. The entire collection clocks in at 2.3 hours; over two times the length of the typical LP. The wait was absolutely well worth it and an album full of such substance deserves detailed description, so we'll look at each EP individually.
As previously mentioned, first on the docket is Black. Admittedly, there is a very noticeable difference in Black as compared to any of The Dear Hunter's previous releases. Instrumentally; the drums are more technical than ever, the guitar far more distorted, and Crescenzo's voice is a bit more produced than usual. I'd even go as far as to say that Black borders upon the Metal/Hardcore genre. In fact, Black sounds a lot like The Alchemy Index Volume 1: Fire. Both collections were a noticeable stray from both bands' usual sound and both bands pulled it off without a hitch. It's great to see Crescenzo trying new things and performing them so well.
A great thing about The Color Spectrum is the transition into each new EP in the collection. Just like the color spectrum itself, each new color maintains certain aspects of the previous EP and adds new aspects. Most noticeably kept on Red and Black is the heavy distortion of the guitar work. However, while Black bordered upon Metal/Hardcore, Red adds a Pop feel. I personally haven't heard an album that I'd be able to describe as Metal/Pop since Queens of the Stone Age. There is a ton of dissonance found throughout Red, too, which again is something truly unique for a record that could be considered within the Pop genre. The first track of Red ("I Couldn't Do It Alone") however, is almost too different from The Dear Hunter's usual sound, so much in fact that I almost thought that the vocals were not Crescenzo's. The remaining three songs though sound much more like Crescenzo and starts to break away from the over produced sound found through most of Black. Red also features a great vocal highlight on the last track, "We've Got a Score to Settle," that's reminiscent of the run found at the beginning of "Where the Road Parts" on their second album, Act II: The Meaning of, and All Things Regarding Ms. Leading.
Orange still maintains a bit of the distortion in the previous two EP's but instead of a very heavy metal feel, it sounds more like a 90's crunch than true distortion. The Pop feel is maintained throughout Orange but instead of Hardcore, the groove finally reverts back to the progressive blues sound that The Dear Hunter is known for. Orange sounds more like the band's previous albums than the other colors. Crescenzo also begins to take it a bit easier on his voice by cutting out the screaming of Black/Red while still belting his heart out at every given opportunity, as is typical and highly appreciated in Crescenzo's vocals.
Up next in The Color Spectrum is Yellow, which again is a lot different from Crescenzo's previous releases. A lot of the sound found within these EP's have been touched upon briefly in shorter songs on the Acts series. A genre that Crescenzo touches on a bit that is most evident within Yellow is Folk. To be expected in a warm color, Yellow is still fun and summery with great expansion upon stringed accompaniment. There is a banjo, mandolin, slide guitar, and all things expected from a great Folk album. This fourth installment could be compared most with Fleet Foxes though there is an atmospheric element that's rather refreshing to hear within a Folk record. Yellow also builds upon a western feel that is expanded upon in the fifth EP in The Color Spectrum, Green.
An album titled Green, to me, should have some tinge or reminiscence of nature. With Green the Folk genre is maintained, with the addition of an actual piano instead of an organ. Green portrays nature in much the same way that The Alchemy Index Volume IV: Earth did, by using unaltered instrumental accompaniment with no effects added. Both Yellow and Green could be performed live without needing to plug any of their instruments in. As previously mentioned, there is a huge western influence to Green and while Yellow had certainly slowed the pace of The Color Spectrum, Green takes it even slower, even more relaxed and mellow. However, Crescenzo isn't done slowing things down by any means.
Blue is arguably the most mellow of the 9 EP's found within The Color Spectrum, which makes sense since the color is typically associated with water. It's interesting to find so much parallel between The Alchemy Index series and The Color Spectrum since their concepts are so similar. While the previous EP's kept an aspect of genre while adding on another, Blue merely maintains the pace of Green but the genre style is completely different. It could be considered progressive swing or post-pop but there isn't any tinge of folk to be found. Also, as is always welcome, Crescenzo shows off his vocal cords again on the second track, "Trapdoor." A great amount of atmosphere and ambience is included in Blue that's expanded upon as the focal point of the next EP, Indigo.
Indigo is about an all-encompassing amount of electronic accompaniment that finds it within an Electronic/Atmospheric niche. In fact, there isn't much acoustic instrumentation to be found on Indigo at all, to the point that Crescenzo's voice may be the only instrument not digitally altered or created. What came to mind right away was Portugal the Man's It's Complicated Being a Wizard or Boards of Canada if they actually had a singer. Though Indigo is mostly electronically produced, it's another of the EP's that can be found to be very similar to the Acts series, if the disparity of most of the EP's is disappointing to you.
Violet! (Personal Favorite)
Crescenzo seems to have saved the best for... almost last. Violet is most definitely the highlight of The Color Spectrum. For those looking to see a logical progression from Act III to The Color Spectrum, this is your album. The atmosphere is just as present in Violet as it was in Indigo, however, it's created instead by choral accompaniment, which we all know is one of The Dear Hunter's strong suits. Right away, one can see major parallel's between Violet and acts such as Panic at the Disco or Forgive Durden's Razia's Shadow, which Crescenzo is featured on. It's evident that Crescenzo decided to put forth a majority of his vocal efforts on Violet and it is effort that is truly worth of note. Each EP can be found within a different genre style and Violet is no different. The dissonance and instrumentation grooves to a Latin/Salsa/Progressive feel that, again, The Dear Hunter has briefly touched upon in previous albums and expanded upon with the upmost expertise in The Color Spectrum.
White (Gotta be able to read, haha)
Finally, we come to the end of this 36 track collection, White. It seems that instead of trying to change things up yet again, Crescenzo maintained a very similar style in White that was found in Violet, only the electronic accompaniment is back. Instrumentally, White is a great last EP, including most of what can be found throughout the entire collection; which is appropriate for White since the "color" itself is supposed to be all-encompassing and inclusive. As is to be expected for the end of such a long collection, White is very mellow. It could be seen as a kind of "cooldown" from such an exciting collection of new music and rounds out the collection rather nicely.
The Color Spectrum is truly a release that deserves a great amount of merit. The collection of EP's spans a ton of different genres, instruments, styles, and so on and so forth. Casey Crescenzo has truly stapled himself as a pioneer of the music industry that isn't to be matched for a long time to come. Within a 36 track release, there is expected to be a bit of lull at some point but I truly didn't come to a point where it was getting difficult to get through the album. I listened to all 2.3 hours without interruption and was absolutely glad to do so. The collection is available in many different formats (individual EP's, the full collection, or an LP release that includes a couple songs from each EP) but you'd be depriving yourself of such great music by not buying the entire collection. There is something for everyone in The Color Spectrum and Act IV is still on the horizon. I've been blown away by each and every record The Dear Hunter has released so it should be no surprise that The Color Spectrum is such an incredible collection!
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