Casey Crescenzo was reborn a little more than a decade ago. Musically, that is.
The singer and guitarist ended a two-year stint in the Massachusetts post-hardcore band The Receiving End of Sirens (TREOS) in 2006, when he was reportedly asked to leave.
Crescenzo helped anchor that band’s sound and presence, but it’s what happened after they parted ways that made him a force in contemporary progressive rock, alongside bands like Radiohead and The Mars Volta.
Taking some pieces of music he started developing during the TREOS years, Crescenzo created a concept project called The Dear Hunter, which is also the name of the band. It’s a story that chronicles the birth, life, and death of a boy born to a sex worker named Ms. Terri.
Fast forward 10 years and Crescenzo has released five of the six acts slated to tell this complete story. As far as we know, the final act is in the works. But, according to Crescenzo, the final installment might not arrive in the form of a record, like the previous releases. That news has inspired a lot of eager fans to speculate about how this final piece will be unveiled.
For the first installment of the project, titled Act 1: The Lake South, the River North, Crescenzo played most of the instruments, providing vocals as well as guitars and keyboards. He also handled production duties. His brother Nick played drums, and has been a consistent member of the band since 2007.
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That release provided a sonically intriguing opening chapter of The Dear Hunter story. In keeping with the biblical overtones, the opening track, “Battesimo Del Fuoco,” sounds like a hymn recorded on a stark riverside, with Crescenzo’s voice bellowing with low, operatic power.
When the third and fourth tracks hit, that crisp intensity of the post-hardcore sound gets whirled into a sweeping and dramatic prog-rock rollercoaster.
The latter song, titled “The Inquisition of Ms. Terri,” lulls you into sparse moments that give you a thin thread to hold onto until it busts back in with riffs so sharp they inspire thoughts of gritted teeth and bloody fingers. With that musical chaos and lines like, “A life once lived behind closed doors / The irony of the pensive whore,” it firms up what we could already guess about the boy’s mother. Her struggle was real.
Though critics liked that first effort by Crescenzo, it got some blowback from fans who were looking for something more in the vein of TREOS. However, its strength lies in that separation.
And it’s a much more powerful introduction to a new band than others who play similar styles.
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Sure, Radiohead came first and continue their reign as kings of electronic, prog-oriented rock. But let’s not forget that OK Computer and Kid A weren’t the first things they dropped on us. Radiohead’s debut, Pablo Honey, and its megahit “Creep” didn’t come out of the gate with the swagger of The Dear Hunter’s Act 1.
It’s a reflection of Crescenzo’s commitment to his vision. He’s taken this story through five acts now, and he’s matched its mortality-oriented thematics with sonic intensity each time. Since that first release, he’s brought on new band members for a lineup that often sees changes.
Though he’s dedicated to the project, Crescenzo has departed from the Act series a couple of times. In 2011, there was The Color Spectrum, and in 2013, Migrant, which embraced his desire to explore different subjects.
While we await the the conclusion of The Dear Hunter story with Act VI, Crescenzo and company are on tour and keeping up the intrigue about the boy’s final chapter.
The Dear Hunter are scheduled to perform at 8 p.m. on Sunday, December 3, at Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue. Tickets to the 16-and-over show are $25 to $28. The Family Crest and VAVÁ open. Visit crescentphx.com.