Forgive Durden's new album, Razia's Shadow: A Musical is an interesting creature. Originally envisioned as a side project for lead singer Thomas Dutton, it became his square focus when the band's three other members left the band suddenly. This rather charming and bizarre experiment is a full-on fantasy musical released solely as an album, with a multitude of strong guest singers and some very nice songwriting.
The story follows events in a fantasy world, chronicling two stories: the creation and division of the world into darkness and light, and the romance that would redeem the world and return it to its former glory. While hitting a number of typical cliches in these types of stories, the lyrical style here is very interesting, with some great work done by Dutton.
The first five tracks follow the creation and the rebellion of Ahrima (Thomas Dutton) that leads the world into darkness, and features Dutton, Casey Crescenzo of The Dear Hunter, Lizzie Huffman of Man in the Blue Van, Max Bemis of Say Anything, and Chris Conley of Saves the Day. I'm not familiar with any of the guest talent in the first half, but they all do fine work, particularly Bemis in the role of the dastardly spider Barayas, who precipitates the climax of this portion.
The last eight tracks are devoted to the bigger story, of redemption and love. This one features Dutton again in the lead role, this time as a character named Adakias. This stronger half features Danny Stevens of The Audition, Dan Young of This Providence, John Baldwin Gourley of Portugal. The Man, Kris Anaya of An Angle, Brandon Urie of Panic at the Disco, Greta Salpeter of The Hush Sound, Nic Newsham of Gatsbys American Dream, and Shawn Harris of The Matches. Again, of this half the only contributor I am familiar with is Urie, as I'm a big fan of his band.
It's in this second half where the album really takes off. Dutton's character isn't particularly memorable, considering how much he shares with most fantasy heroes, but luckily the guest cast carry this story well, though I wish all of the more memorable players had gotten more voice time. The plotting anc characterization is weak, and it relies on the singers themselves to infuse their characters with something extra, and many of the contributers do just that. Brandon Urie as the hero's devilish brother demands the role with relish, adding a swagger and making sure the character wasn't pure caricature; Shawn Harris' King is very enjoyable as the princess' bastard father; Greta Salpeter elevates the everyprincess role here with a beautiful voice with a kindness to it that would otherwise be completely lightweight; and Shawn Harris creates a fantastic voice for the bonkers doctor charged with saving the princess' life as the story moves towards its final climax. Also deserving of praise was Adam Weiss of mewithoutyou, whose narration is really the lead voice here, despite Dutton's lead role.
You can tell this was inspired by Moulin Rouge and classic Disney musical movies, as Dutton mentioned in an interview with Alternative Press. The story and production feel very much inspired, and it adds a real sense of nostalgia to the proceedings. There's something just calming about recognising much of what's here, even if it undercuts some of the drama (especially in the climax). There's a real epic feeling to the proceedings, and quite a few of the lyrical choices are just plain inspired.
An excellent album, especially anyone who loves musicals and/or old musical Disney flicks. Perhaps not for everyone, but something I can't stop listening to anyhow. Seek it out.
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Alden (The Alden): A 17-year-old Canadian male who initiated the blog, Alden loves music. A lot. Many of his favourite singers and bands use instruments like the piano and violin over the common guitar-based band template, and values vocals and lyrics over instrumentation. Practically worships Andrew Bird.
Marelly (Wendy77): Alden's cousin, who keeps him in line and polices his tastes to make sure he doesn't embarrass himself in the indie hipster scene. Will have her own blurb soon, she promises.
Jordan (CitizenofBalance): Joined Alden at tBoS in early January 2008, Jordan's interests cover a very different spectrum to his blogging partner. Prefers to listen to such genres as heavy and progressive metal, doom, psychedelic and underground Hip-Hop. Was last seen on a quest into the heart of psytrance. Exited February 2008.