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Musicals don’t usually fall within my range of interests. I can vividly remember sitting in my sixth grade music class, being forced to watch “West Side Story,” and rolling my eyes every time a character took a normal line of dialogue and turned it into what I call “song-speak.” Flash forward about four years later and there I am, watching the newest version of “Phantom of the Opera,” all to impress a girl no less, and despising every instance in which a simple hello is sung instead of just spoken. For those wondering, West Side Story was a classic, the newest Phantom, not so much. The hate was spread quite evenly throughout the critical spectrum.
So imagine my surprise, when in 2008, my favorite album of the year was in the form of a musical. My sixth grade self would probably hit my current self for even thinking that.
Forgive Durden’s “Razia’s Shadow: A Musical” was a revelation for a narrow-minded listener like myself, using the rock scene I grew up with to ease me into an excellent musical story, complete with engaging characters and clever narrative chapters. Thomas Dutton, who conceived the album along with his brother, Paul, successfully presented an album wherein you could listen to the whole story, losing yourself in the process, or just a single track.
A big part of the impressive nature of the project was the cast. By getting a multitude of stars from the “emo” rock scene to accompany Dutton, he was able to provide both respectability to the project along with an immense amount of talent. Casey Crescenzo (The Dear Hunter), Max Bemis (Say Anything), Chris Conley (Saves The Day), Greta Salpeter (The Hush Sound) and Brendon Urie (Panic At The Disco), are just some of the stars to be featured. He also has members of Gatsby’s American Dream, mewithoutyou and The Audition on parts on the album. I can still remember following the project and watching anticipation grow with every casting announcement he made on his website.
In terms of the narrative, Dutton has never explained the details of it, leaving the task up to the fans and scholars. In an interview with Alternative Press, he stated that, “The first half is the creation and ultimate division of the world. The second half is the story of destined love and the world being reunited as one.” He wasn’t exactly being too specific was he? The product description lists the album as, “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.”
And that’s exactly how it should be. Razia’s Shadow isn’t a normal album, it’s a work of art. And like many of the respected artists who present their work in today’s society, little explanation is what drives conversation. What would we have to talk about if we knew every little piece of symbolism in the album? By taking this route, Dutton has allowed every listener to construct their own opinion on what main characters, Adakias and Ahrima, really are meant to represent. I have my own opinions and I’m sure every other fan of the album have their own, as well.
The music itself is impressive, as Dutton uses a lush violin-based arrangement in “The Missing Piece” to set the stage for a somber conclusion to the first chapter. In “The Spider and The Lamps,” Dutton makes us feel for Ahrima’s immature frustration while Max Bemis’ vocals also shines in the track. “Life Is Looking Up” is another standout (listen below) and is probably the top, stand-alone track on the album.
I could probably write about the album all day, as it’s truly a classic piece of my music collection. So why isn’t it on vinyl yet? It seems to be tailor made for the format and I couldn’t even imagine just how well Greta Salpeter’s vocals would sound on “It’s True Love.”
How about a 2xLP, with the complete cast booklet, just as you’d get at a performance of the musical? The package for a project this ambitious would have to impressive. According to absolutepunk.net, though, Dutton is no longer signed to Fueled By Ramen, the label on which he released the album on. This would complicate matters but we’ve seen labels release vinyl when the artist is no longer signed (Taking Back Sunday represses on Victory).
Please press Razia’s Shadow.