Forgive Durden - Razia's Shadow: A Musical (Cover Artwork)

Forgive Durden

Razia's Shadow: A Musical (2008)

Fueled by Ramen

Razia's Shadow brings to mind a specific scene in "This Is Spinal Tap": Once Nigel (arguably the talent) leaves the band, Derek and David discuss whether to resurrect their long-forgotten Jack the Ripper musical, "Saucy Jack." Likewise, in the years that have followed the release of Wonderland, an album I fucking loved, Forgive Durden have lost three of their four members. What was left of the band (frontman Thomas Dutton) decided that the logical direction of the band would be writing a musical about angels, an idea as equally random and ridiculous-sounding as "Saucy Jack."

I could honestly care less about the album's story, so I'll just serve up this summary from Fueled by Ramen's site: "The album tells the story of a world divided in two by the selfish actions of a powerful and egotistical, yet insecure angel. After generations of darkness, the world is eventually brought back together by the love and sacrifice of a couple brave enough to fulfill their destinies." Based on that description, I'm fine with not knowing anything about the story.

The album was written by Dutton and his brother, who is studying music composition, according to Wikipedia. The music itself is interesting enough, but at times a lot of the instruments sound synthetic, especially the horns. I'm assuming it's because they are, since a band of Forgive Durden's popularity probably didn't have the budget to hire a full orchestra. When the instruments sound fake, it really detracts from the music. The album also suffers from poor pacing, with the last half's energy not matching that of the first half.

Dutton brought many of his friends along for the ride to play the various characters in the story. The list is a veritable who's-who of "scene" vocalists: Max Bemis, Casey Crescenzo, Brendon Urie and Chris Conley topping the list. They all do their thing well enough, but this is where the album hits a bit of a snag: If you don't like the guest vocalist's band, chances are they're going to ruin the song they appear on. It also feels like Dutton sings on less than half of the album, which makes it hard to justify calling it a Forgive Durden album.

Then there's the issue of Aaron Weiss (mewithoutYou), who serves as narrator on the album. As I said above, I don't really care about the story, so having to listen to narration between songs is a bit of a momentum-killer for me. It also strikes me as weak storytelling to have a narrator instead of letting the song lyrics tell the story themselves, but that's just my opinion. I wish they would have stuck the narration bits on their own tracks on the album so they were easier to skip or not rip from the CD.

On the positive side of guest musicians is Rudy Gajadhar of Gatsbys American Dream on drums. While his work on this album isn't as intricate or interesting as his drumming on Gatsbys albums, it's nice to know that he's still playing and he definitely brings some much-needed energy to the table.

Never let it be said that Forgive Durden is not ambitious: Their first full-length was a concept album and now their second is a full-fledged musical with an impressive list of guest stars. Unfortunately, this was the kind of idea that was destined to either be brilliant or fall completely flat. I wanted this to be brilliant, but while there are a handful of decent songs to be found on the album, it ultimately falls flat.