In the fantastic world of prog, ‘epic’ is an overused word. However, if any modern artist deserves the term, it’s The Dear Hunter, aka Casey Crescenzo. His tale of a 20th-century everyman has now reached album (or Act) five of six. Ten years into the project, Crescenzo has said this will be the last ‘rock’ record. Given that his last work was a symphony, it’s tempting to assume the final instalment will be a departure into classical territory. If so, Act V is the perfect set-up – weird, ambitious and as elusive as the Devil himself.
As its subtitle suggests, Hymns… exposes the story’s hero to some of the dark consequences of Act IV, in which he stole the identity of a dead brother after World War One. This dramatic turn gives stylistic scope to Crescenzo’s magpie brilliance. Hymns… contains a bewildering profusion of styles, from proggy chamber pop through to blues, dance jazz, alt folk and a growing confidence with classical arrangements. It’s a melodic, hook-rich tour de force. As the penultimate album, is Hymns… only for hardcore fans? Far from it. It’s a mark of Crescenzo’s impressive growth as an artist that his work remains vibrant, open, at times utterly exquisite, and always fascinating.