Fueled By Ramen
Oct. 28, 2008
Thomas Dutton spent a year in the studio creating Forgive Durden’s new album “Razia’s Shadow”. When the other three members split from the band, front man Dutton kept the name to further develop his idea for “Shadow” and went into the studio with his brother and producer Casey Bates (Gatsby’s American Dream).
What came out was an ambitious musical concept album featuring guest appearances by the rock scene’s most beloved crooners. Each track is another chapter of Dutton’s tragic fairy tale, with an all-star cast including Max Bemis (Say Anything), Lizzie Huffman (Man In the Blue Van), Nic Newsham (Gatsby’s American Dream), Brendon Urie (Panic at the Disco) and Greta Salpeter (The Hush Sound).
Dutton strives for the ultimate tragic love story, quoting “Moulin Rouge,” “Romeo and Juliet” and Disney movies like “Aladdin” and “The Little Mermaid” as inspiration. The first half of the album depicts the division of the entire world while the second half serves to reunite it through star-crossed lovers Princes Anhura (Salpeter) and Adakias (Dutton).
The storytelling is eloquent, placed well to music with interspersed narration by Aaron Weiss (mewithoutYou). In fact, the main issue with “Razia’s Shadow” seems to stem from budget issues. Without use of a full orchestra, Dutton and company had to improvise by using only a handful of strings players and replicating the sounds with software to give the appearance of a full string arrangement.
While it comes off well on the album, it’s going to be detrimental to a live show and also software-replicated orchestra loses the intricacies a live arrangement has to offer. The musical is based primarily on strings and drums, with only a minute and a half of acoustic guitar. The lack of range in instruments gives the project more of a demo feeling than the epic feeling of most musicals.
It also feels like Dutton tried to do too much in a short space of time. The thirteen-track album doesn’t do his story justice, causing the end to be stuffed into one song. The tale would have more impact if it had been allowed to expand over two discs but at the end it’s hard not to feel rushed to the resolution and just left there.
All is not lost with “Razia’s Shadow” though. The song writing is refreshing and innovative, staying true to Forgive Durden’s previous “intelligent rock” tradition. You are getting something very different with this album.
This record may become the new standard of guest appearances. Everyone is placed in roles that showcase their unique vocal abilities and placed against those who contrast in the most complimenting way. The best example is showcased in “The Exit”, where Adakias reveals his desire to leave his half of the world, the dark, against his brother Palis’s (Brendon Urie) wishes. The song fluctuates in roller-coaster fashion between Dutton’s ballad tone and the angry chants of the dark townfolk, lead by Dan Young (This Providence). The end of the song is taken to new heights when Urie makes his first vocal appearance, showcasing his famous high pitched wailing that captivates the drama of the situation perfectly.
“Razia’s Shadow” as a whole is an innovative and ambitious attempt at something different from the current scene. In story and song writing Dutton get an top score, but it’s scary to think about what could happen if the album is broken up into singles for an Itunes addicted market.
“Razia’s Shadow” is a production and only works when kept together, otherwise the architecture and power of the guest appearances will be lost without context.
There is definitely something special here. All the ingredients for an amazing album present and it’s obvious Forgive Durden did the best possible job with what they were given. There just should have been more.