Sound — 10
Very few bands choose to completely change up their game at all; even fewer choose to do so on their sophomore effort. Forgive Durden, now consisting of only lyricist/vocalist/guitarist Thomas Dutton, is one band (solo project, perhaps? ) that chooses to make this bold movement on their second full length album, Razia's Shadow: A Musical. Unlike the pop-punk/indie outing that was 2006's Wonderland, Razia's Shadow is, well, a musical. No electric guitars are found, and in their place are all the horns, piano, and string arrangements needed to make an extremely different album. While the majority of the orchestrated sounds are digital due to budget, Dutton brought in Gatsby's American Dream drummer Rudy Gajadhar to play the standard drum kit for the album. Being a musical, Razia's Shadow naturally has a storyline, and flows as a concept album. There are several characters integrated, and each character, with the exception of 2 which are played by Dutton, is played by a quite notable vocalist. These artists include, for example, Casey Crescenzo (The Dear Hunter), Max Bemis (Say Anything), Nic Newsham (Gatsby's American Dream), Chris Conley (Saves The Day), and John Gourley (Portugal. The Man). Between songs, Aaron Weiss of mewithoutYou narrates the story very well, as his narrations can be very clever and often rhyme. Each vocalist works well with their song, but the one that really seems to stand out as a character portrayal is Doctor Dumaya, as played by Shawn Harris of The Matches. He twists and bends his voice and cackles eerily to convey the madness of the doctor, and truely seems to be a perfect vocal fit for this character. Fans of Forgive Durden who have listened to them since the EP's will be torn with this album. The massive change may be enough to turn fans into non-fans. Personally, the thought of a musical was a huge turn off, but oddly enough, I thoroughly enjoy this album, for both the musical aspect, and the interesting, yet a bit clich, story that Thomas Dutton has conjured.
Lyrics — 8
The story is told through dialogue in the first person perspective, so naturally, the lyrics are going to be limited somewhat in creativity. In a musical type setting, the lyrics aren't so much a medium of emotion, but rather a way of progressing the story and telling events that occur. Some of the lines are fairly predictable, but little flaws like this can be overlooked. The first half of the album tells of O The Scientist (Casey Crescenzo, The Dear Hunter), and his 2 pupils, angels Ahrima (Dutton), and Nidria (Lizzie Huffman, Man In The), and how the two angels fall in love. As he grows, Ahrima learns of his 'gift' and how he can create a world like no other, yet O The Scientist doesn't seem to notice this talent. While sulking, a spider named Barayas (Max Bemis, Say Anything) perches on his shoulder, and tells him how he should show his true power by bringing the lamps (the source of light and creation) to him to be destroyed. Ahrima obeys, and it leaves the land divided by dark and light. The second half takes place a century later, in which brothers Adakais (Dutton) and Pallis (Brendon Urie, Panic At The Disco) live in the dark region of the world. Adakais is unsatisfied with his home, and runs off to the light, meeting Princess Anhura (Greta Salpeter, The Hush Sound) and subsequently falling in love. That's basically a synopsis of the tragic love story that is Razia's Shadow. The story is told well through the dialogue, and the plot remains very clear throughout.
Overall Impression — 9
Razia's Shadow is unlike any album to be released by a pop-punk or similarly labeled band. What Thomas Dutton (with the help of his brother, and some notable musicians) has created is an musical experiment that taps into his own creativity. He seems to not be concerned with what anyone thinks, or where the band has been, previously, and more focused on the music he wants to create and the tales he envisions, which, in this era of music, is very honorable. A lot of listeners may be turned off at the idea of a full blown musical, with show tunes, horns, violins, etc.; I was one of them. It's not practical to fall in love with the album at first listen. It will take several play throughs to fully experience the tale of creation, love, and loss. Though it's not a perfect story, or a story we've never heard before, it's a very fascinating story that is extremely well thought out, especially for being written by a musician. Razia's Shadow will take you on a hundred year, one hour journey through the creativity of the remaining member of Forgive Durden, Thomas Dutton, lyricist, vocalist, guitarist, and expressionist.