Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Saint Blasphemer - Simon Templar

Saint Blasphemer is a great metal and hard rock band from the sunny climes of Southern California without a hint of sunshine I their music and songwriting. Instead, this four piece treats their art with the utmost seriousness and attempts to make a substantive musical and lyrical statement on the perils of drug addiction and what it has personally cost them. The guitar is the album’s prime mover instrumentally, but bassist Steve Shell and drummer Steve Ybarra distinguish themselves numerous times over the course of Simon Templar’s five songs. Everything grand about this band musically flows from the rhythm section’s work and they show remarkable flexibility that prevents the hard rock posturing from ever sounding too leaden or overwrought. Monroe's singing encompasses a number of vocal moves and he sounds credible throughout each track.  

The excellent opener “Nullify” keeps listeners close and seldom allows them to breathe. There’s power a plenty here in the music, but even a cursory listen reveals the smaller elements that go into making this music work. Steve Ybarra’s talents on the drum kit are hard-hitting but naturally favor a wide swing that keeps a lively pulse going on amidst all of the Sturm and Drang generated from guitarist John Castellon. The title song comes together a little more slowly and deliberately than the first track and this theatrical choice offers a dramatic contrast to the opener. “Simon Templar” pays more attention to narrative virtues in its lyric and Thomas Monroe's vocal takes on that attitude as well. He carefully enunciates everything and shows how important it is to capture the imagery in the lyrics and convey its meaning with his voice.  

More Sturm and Drang returns with the ferocious “Scarecrow”. This is end stage drug addict, the body ravaged by the vicious cycle of getting high and coming down, and Monroe's lyrics stare the reality of this in the face without ever blinking. The drumming is particularly inventive here and bassist Steve Shell gives Ybarra a fat bass line to build his patterns with and around. “A Perfect Rose” has a much more pensive side wholly appropriate for a track about the pain of watching someone you love murdering themselves slowly before your very eyes. Atmospherics are more the order of the day with this song and, much like they do with briefer and earlier opportunities, Saint Blasphemer succeeds wildly. The final song “Breaking Just to Bend” has unimpeachable credentials from the first note onward and some excellent songwriting, particularly a witty title, but there’s darkness forever gnawing at the edge of the songwriting. It never quite succumbs to it completely and the mix of despair and hope, along with the past pace, makes it an ideal closer. Simon Templar has the impressive completeness of a full length album boiled down its essence and packing an enormous punch both lyrically and instrumentally. It will impress anyone who loves great rock and roll music.  

9 out of 10 stars

Charles Hatton

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