Album Review: Decemberists release first rock opera

On March 24, Portland-based indie rock band The Decemberists debuted their fifth full-length album, The Hazards of Love, which front man Colin Meloy created as an epic rock opera.

Hazards of Love, the band's second album on Capitol Records, has been one of The Decemberists' most anticipated albums; Publicists and past critics alike have boasted about its rocking guitar riffs and operatic magnitude.

Meloy, in an interview with National Public Radio, called the record a "folk opera, in that it's sort of a narrative. It's a story told through music over the course of a record. It relies heavily on folk archetypes and folk motifs."

The album's songs tell the tale of two lovers, Margaret and William. William is cursed to live as a fawn by day after the Queen of the Forest rescued him. The Queen, angered that William would fall in love with a common human like Margaret, storms through the forest to confront him.

In the song "The Wanting Comes in Waves," William implores the Queen to let him stay with Margaret one more night before he gives her up: "Mother hear this proposition right / Grant me freedom to enjoy this night / And I'll return to you at break of light."

"The Rake's Song" tells of the childless widower that the Queen employs to steal Margaret. This particular track is a good example of the type of material in Hazards of Love since it includes crunchy guitar and Meloy's lengthy lyrics. The content of the track features the Rake reminiscing about how he has murdered his own children in the past.

Later, in the song "The Abduction of Margaret," the Rake takes Margaret and the Queen and flies them both across a river away from William.

In a desperate attempt to reach Margaret, William sells his soul to the choppy river to calm it so that he can cross and be with her - a scene explored in "Annan Water William."

Margaret is eventually freed in "The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!)" when the ghosts of the Rake's children come to take their revenge on their murderous father. Scratchy strings accompany the soprano voices that represent the angry spirits of the children.

Hazards of Love promised much but was not too well-received by reviewers and some long time fans. Still, the album that should not be disregarded in The Decemberists' development and it has ranked considerably high on the Billboard charts to date.

The Decemberists, who NPR describes as "literate and charming," have put together an album that can be appreciated for the story it tells, and a quality music that is undeniably exemplary.