(The cover art for “All Is As All Should Be” courtesy of The Dear Hunter’s Bandcamp page.)
If you don’t know The Dear Hunter know they’re a band that rewards their fans. The Dear Hunter picked six fans they regularly met on tour – – fans that helped and even housed them, and asked them each to help make a new EP. The goal of the EP was to give back to fans by bringing them into the creative process.
Each fan gave the band a general theme for the song and the band developed it from there. Taking it a step further, The Dear Hunter went out of their way to record the tracks at each fan’s house. You can read more about the process here. The end result is a great EP called “All Is As All Should Be.”
For some background, The Dear Hunter is one of the US’s premier progressive rock bands. It started in Rhode Island as lead singer Casey Crescenzo’s side project. Crescenzo’s project started off so small that he tapped his parents to do the vocal harmonies.
The Dear Hunter has earned a strong spot in modern American prog by delivering on ambitious concepts. The bulk of the band’s works are the “Act” albums, which follow a long and complex story thread. Their next biggest project was on “The Color Spectrum” – a series of EPs designed to capture the feeling of different colors.
“All Is As All Should Be” runs off of a massive, overwrought concept just like the ones that motivate most of The Dear Hunter’s works. They nail it just as well as their other big conceptual products.
“All Is As All Should Be” works very well as a gift to the fans because it feels quintessentially The Dear Hunter. “All Is As All Should Be” contains most of the elements of TDH’s sound, which is not easy to do! A great prog band separates itself from the good ones by having range. TDH is a great prog band. They’ve made songs that sound like 80’s pop hits, like dances with the devil, and like no other band but TDH.
“All Is As All Should Be” opens with probably the most TDH song of the bunch: “The Right Wrong.” “The Right Wrong” has the crisp, fill-heavy drums, the soaring vocal harmonies, the proficient and rhythmic guitar, and the emotionally fraught vocals core to The Dear Hunter. It’s a great choice for the opener.
“The Right Wrong” focuses on wanting to right the wrongs we’ve done while accepting our mistakes as part of us. It’s a theme that would fit well into the “Acts” and it’s written like a song off the “Acts,” the core of TDH.
“Blame Paradise” and “Beyond the Pale” aren’t as strong but still work well on the EP. “Blame Paradise” seems a take on the politics of today, all about misdirection and not acknowledging facts. The beat is dark and interesting – – made with retro synths and a simple, bass-heavy rhythm – but The vocals feel overdone. Lines like “I can’t believe my eyes / The truth’s no longer deified / Instead we weigh the wreckage of this false information” feel a little trite.
“Beyond the Pale” borders on placid at points but it’s pleasant, it builds well, and it captures a type of folksy sweet song The Dear Hunter likes to make. It also transitions perfectly into “Shake Me (Awake),” one of the most fun tracks on the EP.
“Shake Me (Awake)” shows TDH’s ability to make compelling pop tracks. At times “Shake Me Awake” feels like a pop-country tune (hear the electric twang on the guitar at the 0:40 to 1:00). The harmonies create a fun doo-wop sensation that Crescenzo’s vocals work well with. This track surprised me for being one of the best composed and most delightful on the EP.
“Witness Me” is another classic TDH song. It’s full of syncopated vocal harmonies and it has a dark touch that contrasts pleasantly with bright guitars and synths. The song tackles the imposter syndrome and feeling like your outer-self mismatches your inner-self. It ends with a beautifully hypnotic rhythm that’s one of the most compelling points of the entire EP.
The EP finishes with the title track. “All Is As All Should Be” wraps everything up nicely and its lyrics encapsulate the EP’s worried but ultimately upbeat tone. It has the drama, the compositional shifts, and the rising rhythm of a classic TDH song, too. The keys on the track are easy to miss, but a better part of the track.
As a decade-long fan, I think TDH rewarded me in the best way. “All Is As All Should Be” contains everything I love about the band in a package of strong and interesting tracks. All it lacks is the wondrous sense of story the “Acts” have, but that’s to be expected. “All Is As All Should Be” is a step away from the story; it’s a concept album where the fans generate the concepts.