Max Bemis tried to do something extravagant with Say Anything and their album, In Defense of the Genre. While upon first listen, it was fantastic, it lacked the lasting value. The special guests weren't used beneficially and they just felt out of place. Thomas Dutton took the concept of a musical, a magnificent story, and utilized special guest vocalists perfectly. And here we arrive Razia's Shadow: A Musical from Forgive Durden.
The story is vague, Thomas Dutton has explained it as The first half is the creation and ultimate division of the world. The second half is the story of destined love and the world being reunited as one. Which then implies some sort of mythology, Ragnarok-esque concept with imprints of science fiction (Casey Crescenzo plays O The Scientist) combined with a segue into Shakespearean love story--minus the tragedy, perhaps). Got that? Aaron Weiss from mewithoutYou tries to narrate throughout the album, but the tale is complex and hard to follow.
I don't want to seem negative. Far from it, this album is wildly original and elegantly composed. The storytelling ability is notable on each track, specifically Toba the Tura which features a back forth between Toba the Tura (Chris Conley of Saves the Day) and Ahrima (Thomas Dutton). I wanted to come into this review, trying to avoid a breakdown of the plot, but it's delicious and while my own breakdown may not be wholly correct. I think I'm the right track.
Genesis open Razia's Shadow and the orchestra rubs so much friction, it's blasting light on the shadow. I think, you could take out all of the lyricism of the whole album and you could literally paint the imagery of it yourself. You can imagine the opening of the album, the intro into Genesis featuring fountains with angels, children and people dancing and spin in dresses. Casey Crescenzo's presence is notable and Thomas Dutton is on top of his game. And you think, with such a concept, you have to hook them from the beginning. If you mess up the first track, it just sets the flow in a listener's ears. But it wasn't bad, it was beautiful. O the Scientist creates Ahrima and Nidria and the tale begins.
The Missing Piece features the voice of Lizzie Huffman who plays Nidria in this tale, who I can only assume is some sort of lover of Thomas Dutton's Ahrima. She sounds like she is singing at the late night hour of a downtown cafe. That's when the true unappreciated talent comes out. She declares You were meant to lead this world to greater things, it's your destiny and you can feel the raw emotion of every single note.
Life is Looking Up is an orchestrated moment of excitement, like the music of Genesis without the lyrics, it is the magically imagery-laden track. Thomas Dutton is alone on the album once and it is this track. He is bathing in the affection of Nidria. It epitomizes the fact that he can perform alone and do amazing. The delivery of the chorus Let the lamps shine//let 'em burn so bright//open all your eyes//shower us in light is a highlight of the album
The Spider and the Lamps brings us Barayas the Spider, played by Max Bemis, who fills Ahrima with these thoughts of grandeur and causes him to destroy the lamps, which hold some symbolic importance in the tale. It is a brooding track and Paul Dutton, who did all the drums on the album, is at his height on this track. Maybe it's a Max Bemis-esque talent, but he has the ability to make any track sound like Say Anything. His delivery of You have a special gift, but they still treat you like you're a kid//It must hurt so bad with a knife in your back//Oh, oh, oh, they don't understand. Max Bemis plays the manipulative Iago-like character spot-on and the track, while very not Say Anything, utilizes Max Bemis perfectly and I will now forever see him as evil.
Toba the Tura features Chris Conley as Toba the Tura. He is confronting Ahrima for what he is done and he corrects the image Barayas tried to convey. You aren't gifted, you are a scared kid. Chris Conley is so perfect, he is warden-like character, chaining Ahrima to a life of punishment for what he has done (scorching the Earth by destroying the lamps?) Then out of left field--it picks up. Toba the Tura gets angry: Your cold, wicked soul boasts a foul scent. Ahrima whimpers a correction but Toba keeps on: The formidable taste of pure contempt. Every dark corner will soon see the light. Ahrima's punishment is delivered. He is stuck on the destroyed Earth, while everyone went behind a wall, in the City of Light, while he was stuck in the Dark.
The Oracle falls flattish yet still is amazing. Danny Stevens plays Gargul the Oracle and maybe it's just me, but it always appears so forceful whenever Stevens tries to sing. The music, alongside with the weak vocal performance, is just dull but it does get across that idea of an oracle visiting you, along with angels to tell you a prophecy. It's sounds...otherworldly. The Oracle and Ahrima detail this concept of their being a chosen one who reunite the Dark and Light and features more of Ahrima's own regret. Enter Adakias, another character played by Thomas Dutton.
A Hundred-Year, Minute Long Intermission speeds the gap of time, passing over to know the prophecized one to join the worlds together. It's an excellent between the two portions of the musical and continuation of the mythology. This time, Danny Stevens doesn't seem to be forcing it as much.
The Exit introduces us to Thomas Dutton's Adakias, the chosen one, who is frustrated with the dark, Sangara and the townsfolk, played by Dan Young of This Providence, asking why he can't be more like his brother Pallis (Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco), the heir to the throne. The track is literally a roller-coaster, up and down and all over the place. Thomas Dutton, Dan Young, and Brendon Urie all add unique qualities to this track which probably contributes to this. It's a very uplifting track and the music mimics the hopefulness of the track. I think I'll just go.....
It's True Love brings us Princess Anhura of the Light, played by Greta Salpeter of The Hush Sound. She is basically Adakias, someone who believes he is something more, believes she needs to fulfill a greater meaning--which is bringing the Dark and Light together. It's the Romeo and Juliet Pilgrim's Sonnet exchange of love, essentially. You can imagine the two dancing in a city square and exchanging kisses and these vows. Salpeter sounds beautiful pretty consistently, but here she is really on top of her game. The familiar line is exchanged between the two Don't you ever feel like you've been destined for something bigger than your skin?
Meet the King is Adakias meeting King Malka (Nic Newsham of Gatsby's American Dream) who denies Adakias' request to marry Anhura--even though he says he is not after the throne. The song is very panicked, in true Gatsby style, and the style of giving each vocalist their own music is splendidly down and it ties together perfectly. Newsham's approach comes off very royal and authoritative while Anhura's and Adakias' sounds very submissive--even as they protest--until the end when it appears Anhura and Adakias finally have the heart to ultimately ignore him in protest. All we have is love, my King, so let's sing 'la-da-da-da!' But Anhura falls ill...
Holy the Sea features the Bawaba Brothers, played by John Baldwin Gourley (Portugal. The Man) and Kris Anaya (An Angle). They tell Adakias about his family tree as they cross the sea, telling him what happened with Ahrima on that fateful day the world divided. It confirms in Adakias that he made the right choice to leave. It's a very western-influenced track, when the brothers declare Don't be scaaaared you can hear the pistols blazen. Then they arrive at the doctor's shack.
Doctor Doctor features Dr. Dumaya (Shawn Harris of the Matches), the doctor they visit to heal Anhura of evil's ubiquity. If Holy the Sea was western, than Doctor Doctor is some sort of western inspired genre I can't conceive. Shawn Harris is barely recognizable. He plays him as some sort of loony, maniacal doctor who seems to see spiders everywhere. And he is evil. I just want the princess here with me 'til the end of time is the price of the cure. And so it was, the song ends in panic as Anhura (Salpeter) expresses desperation and confusion, but Dutton convinces her to do so. He'll find some way.
The End and The Beginning is the end of the tale, featuring Pallis (Urie) who has been searching for Adakias, barges in, wanting the dame Anhura. He exposes Adakias as a prince of the Dark. It's a very elegant closing tale. The Shakespearean qualities are exposed, Pallis goes to kill Anhura, but Adakias takes the blow. Adakias is the chosen one. The mountains disappear, the divide is gone, light and dark join together again. Thomas Dutton closes the tale with Place your hand on mine one last time and kiss me goodbye. Take the love inside my mind before I die.
What else can you say? This is was a vastly original and innovative concept that was taken on by Thomas Dutton and performed near perfectly. The cast of characters were selected perfectly and performed excellently. He managed to detail an epic tale of tragic love.
Dream with your eyes closed
Try and pluck the pearls from your bones.
ETA: This guy definitely has some facts wrong, but it's still an interesting read IMHO. Paul Dutton did *not* do all the drums on the album. Duh. Also... Barayas the Spider = Iago? LOL I don't know about that.