I have limitless respect for ambitious projects with winding, elaborate storylines and a myriad of characters. Thomas Dutton, the only member of Forgive Durden at the inception of Razia’s Shadow, managed to craft a musical with a deep storyline and characters that keep your attention – even if that story is, at times, very difficult to follow.
Wonderland, the only other Forgive Durden material I am familiar with, was fantastic. I saw Dutton and co. open for The Almost on Gillespie’s first tour of his new band, by accident really, at a half-full Orpheum in Tampa (meaning less than 150 people – a lot has changed since this). So when I became aware of Razia’s Shadow, I knew that Dutton had a way with words, but that he was verbose in his wordsmithiness. That’s not a real word, but it felt right.
That excessive verbiage is evident on Razia’s Shadow, with creative names for his characters and song titles. But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Razia is its staggering, star-studded list of guest appearances.
Check out the contributors:
Casey Crescenzo – Dear Hunter, Receiving End of Sirens
Max Bemis – Say Anything
Brendon Urie – Panic! at the Disco
Chris Conley – Saves the Day
Danny Stevens – The Audition
Dan Young – This Providence
Nic Newsham – Gatsby’s American Dream
Kris Ayana – An Angle
John Gourley – Portugal. The Man
Greta Salpeter – Hush Sound, Gold Motel
Shawn Harris – The Matches
But for me, the most intriguing figure to lend a helping hand (or vocal chords) to Razia is the story’s narrator, Aaron Weiss of mewithoutYou. Weiss’ voice is warm and soothing throughout his narration, like a reassuring vocal hug of sorts. It fosters a sense of wonderment… not that the album needed it in the first place, because it’s deeply rooted in fantasy.
This album is every bit “rock opera” as it is a conventional release. Durden also released an instrumental version to facilitate schools and theatre companies to perform their own versions of the play that takes place over 13 tracks.
And because I loathe when I accidentally read spoilers, I won’t let on to what transpires in the story. What I will do is refer to this picture to give some indication of what you’re getting into:
If you’re looking for a “different” musical experience, Razia’s Shadow is where it’s at: listener-created content (plays and performances), theatrical flair and a cool love story to boot. Worth a listen.
From Razia’s Shadow, here’s a short film for “Life is Looking Up” –
Standout tracks: “Toba the Tura” and “The Spider and the Lamps”
Weakest track: “It’s True Love” is reeeeeally sappy.
RIYL: Any of the bands that helped out with this album, really. If you like scores or soundtracks (with lyrics), you’d be into it too.