Although I'm providing YouTube links to the songs, I'd strongly suggest you
listen to the tracks via Spotify or iTunes as the sound on the YouTube videos
is altered in order to avoid copyright issues.
Following this track comes the most frenzied (and perhaps one of the more cheesier) songs on the album, Doctor Doctor (feat. Shawn Harris)
Only the second post on Try The Calamari and already I'm throwing a curve ball your way. That's right, you guessed it! I'm reviewing the rock opera/musical Razia's Shadow by Forgive Durden!
The writer's of Razia's Shadow, Thomas and Paul Dutton, brought together a slew of extremely talented vocalists to bring to life the story of a world torn apart and the seemingly irreconcilable love of two unlikely companions that brings it back together. Like Romeo and Juliet? No—well, actually, yeah. It's basically how Shakespeare would have written Romeo and Juliet if he had a plethora of psychedelic drugs at his disposal. In all seriousness, though, the story is very original and incredibly in-depth.
Gearing away from my failed attempts at comedy, each vocalist is assigned a character in the musical. The list is as follows:
O The Scientist - Casey Crescenzo (The Dear Hunter)
Bawaba Brothers - John Baldwin Gourley (Portugal. The Man), Kris Anaya (An Angle)
Narrator - Aaron Weiss (mewithoutYou)
Gargul The Oracle - Danny Stevens (The Audition)
Toba the Tura - Chris Conley (Saves the Day)
Sangara - Daniel Young (This Providence)
Barayas the Spider - Max Bemis (Say Anything)
Princess Anhura - Greta Salpeter (The Hush Sound)
Pallis - Brendon Urie (Panic at the Disco)
King Malka - Nic Newsham (Gatsbys American Dream)
Doctor Dumaya - Shawn Harris (The Matches)
Nidria - Lizzie Huffman (Man in the Blue Van)
Adakias - Thomas Dutton (Forgive Durden)
Ahrima - Thomas Dutton (Forgive Durden)
Now that you've got all of those memorized, let's get on to the music. The album begins with Genesis (feat. Casey Crescenzo). Yep, the same Casey Crescenzo I raved about in my last post. Bells, woodwinds, and a heavy drum leads into the Aaron Weiss' narration which kick-starts the story. Though, in my opinion, his voice wasn't quite cut out for professional storytelling, it does have that deep, flaky sound that is most characteristic of popular narrations (What am I talking about?). Whether you like it or not, you're going to have to deal with it following most of the tracks.
The next song, The Missing Piece (feat. Lizzie Huffman), leads in with a violin which is later trumped by horns and heavy drum symbols (and even a xylophone!). Lizzie Huffman's vocals are superb and quite beautiful in this track. I'm not debasing Thomas Dutton's voice by any means, but Lizzie truly steals this performance.
Life Is Looking Up is a solo performance by Thomas Dutton (his only one of the album). It's a frantic, fast-paced beat which matches the tone of urgency in his voice. This leads into yet another colorful song, The Spider and The Lamps (feat. Max Bemis). Max really conquers the role of the cunning, and deceitful spider. Simply put, his vocals are perfect for the part.
When I first heard the beginning of the next track, Toba The Tura (feat. Chris Conley), I was a bit wary of Conley's vocals and the pace of the song. However, seconds later the instrumentals became more audible and seemed to weave perfectly in with the tone of his voice.
The next two tracks of the album The Oracle (feat. Danny Stevens) and A Thousand Year, Minute-Long Intermission (feat. Danny Stevens) drastically reduce the pace of the music but in a way that garners interest. It's through Stevens' soothing vocals that the albums turns over into the next act.
Here we are introduced to the character who is to change the outset of this fantasy world. The Exit (feat. Brendon Urie And Dan Young) kind of reminds me of the pinnacle in every Tim Burton film where the main character is subjected to a sing-a-long featuring some sort of group of supernatural beings (Come on! Stay on topic!). Ah, just listen to it, and you'll see.
It's True Love (feat. Greta Salpeter) is a celestial ballad featuring, well, Greta Slapeter, as the title suggests. Her voice is like a mixture between a sighing teddy bear and a canary; it's simply wonderful (Aha! You guys thought I was leading into that overused Step Brothers quote, didn't you?). She returns shortly after with Meet The King (feat. Greta Salpeter And Nic Newsham) which is a song that is certainly a unique track in that it comes off as a tad bit sluggish and oafish (In a good way. Just listen for yourself, and you decide how to describe it).
Holy The Sea (feat. John Gourley and Kris Anaya) has a sound of desperation which transforms into what I can only describe as a tribal/soul vibe.
Following this track comes the most frenzied (and perhaps one of the more cheesier) songs on the album, Doctor Doctor (feat. Shawn Harris). If there is one song that is reminiscent of a Disney musical, this certainly is it. Shawn Harris becomes immensely in-tune with his character as is apparent in the complete reshaping of his vocals.
Lastly, we're left off with The End And The Beginning (feat. Brendon Urie and Greta Salpeter) which changes tempos as the brothers of the dark, Adakias and Pallis, have their final confrontation. Irrational, ignorant single-mindedness is pitted against love-induced wisdom and acceptance. It is truly an excellent way to close out this exhilarating epic.
In conclusion, this album is a must for musical lovers. It's most certainly the most eccentric and idiosyncratic album I've ever encountered (I don't know what any of those words mean). Although it's cheesier than Chester Cheetah, the music is superbly orchestrated and the story-line is incredibly easy to follow unlike most concept albums. I'd strongly suggest a listen. Unless, of course, you're in the presence of folks who strongly despise musicals; none of us know what they're truly capable of.
P.S. To view staged plays of the album, look to YouTube.