Saint Blasphemer – Simon Templar
Rarely do debut releases of any length hang together as well as Saint Blasphemer’s five song EP Simon Templar. The Santa Ana based four man band have written songs centering around one theme and reality, the different costs incurred by drug addicts and those who love them, but it isn’t ever a classical conceptual effort. Listeners, instead, should hear the EP like someone looking at a painting – Simon Templar’s five songs are five variations of hell. The release depicts the very specific hell of drug addiction with unflinching honesty and transformative brevity. Lyricist Thomas Monroe doesn’t gloss over any of the brutal realities attendant to the physical and mental illness of substance abuse, but his point of view extends even further to examine the cost those surrounding such lives pay for their faithfulness and love.
“Nullify” is a harrowing glimpse into the mindset of an addict. The self-loathing and absolute narcissism of the illness is exposed with sharp writing that puts every word on trial and ends up with a lyric perfectly dovetailing into the musical arrangement. It brims over with an underlying hope to survive and Hudson’s vocals are deeply emotive but carry enough lung power to match the sonic intensity around him. The title song shows Monroe’s talent for character study. There’s a lot of specific detail in the song that helps set the painful scene, but it’s the arrangement that amps up the song’s drama most of all. Its muted opening with slowly evolving guitar lines and understated interplay between the bass and drum creates a strong mood before the inevitable crash and burn of the full band erupts from the speakers. The height of musical intensity on Simon Templar comes with the thunderous track “Scarecrow”. It has to aim high thanks to the brutal specificity of the lyrics that plumbs the depths of physical sickness an addict can often subject themselves to. There’s a lot of drama in guitarist John Castellon’s riffing and lead work alike, but the solidity of these songs begins and ends with the superb rhythm section of bassist Steve Shell and drummer Steve Ybarra.
“A Perfect Rose” is one of the EP’s most well rounded songs thanks to the parity of focus between the song’s subject and Monroe’s own concerns. It alternates light and shade quite well and Monroe does an exceptional job of shifting his vocal style appropriately with the musical changes. Saint Blasphemer ends Simon Templar on an emphatic note with the fast-paced rocker “Breaking Just to Bend”. The uptick in tempo is a welcome shift from the notably more deliberate pace taken in earlier songs and serves as a sort of musical exclamation point thanks as well to the all-around aggressive performance. There likely aren’t many releases in a rock vein you’ll hear this year with the force and creativity driving Simon Templar and, noting how quickly this young band has released their first collection of original material, rock fans should look forward to their future first full length album with considerable relish and anticipation.
9 out of 10 stars.