Saint Blasphemer – Simon Templar

Saint Blasphemer’s first release Simon Templar isn’t for the faint of heart. This powerful hard rock/metal band’s debut five song EP is an intense ride through the bleak landscape of drug addiction reflecting primary songwriter Thomas Monroe’s experience watching a heroin epidemic sweep over the Southern California area in recent years.

The scourge of drug addiction has claimed countless lives in his personal orbit and the songs chronicle those losses from a variety of perspectives. The heartache, anger, and fear simmering through the five songs rings painfully true to real life and the production has a real bloody, immediate quality that brings these songs up close to the listener and has a lot of intimacy.

Nullify lets listeners know from the outset that Saint Blasphemer’s Simon Templar pulls no punches. It’s a frightening walk inside the mind of an addict driven by despair and blind need, but it isn’t completely dark. There is a flickering but indomitable spirit in the song as well that isn’t completely ready to concede to their sickness. John Castellon’s guitar playing is one of the crucial factors in Saint Blasphemer’s ultimate success and plays a particular significant role in helping the title song stand out from an already exceptional pack. Vocalist and lyricist Thomas Monroe gives listeners an excellent example of his vocal skills, but more over, his sensitivity in depicting this difficult situation.

Scarecrow is like a Goya painting set to musical life with drug addiction as its subject matter. The lyrics are Monroe’s most blistering text to this point and the rough-hewn musical attack superbly matches the content. The track takes unexpected musical turns as well that illustrate how Saint Blasphemer have an all-encompassing approach to the composition of this material.

A Perfect Rose reveals another gut wrenching aspect of the band’s songwriting. It is related, in some ways, to the title track through its exterior focus, but its point of view is wider than the title song. Monroe’s vocals are particularly emotive here and he throws every bit of himself into this grief-saddled portrayal of a loved one sinking deeper into self-inflicted illness and misery. Castellon’s guitar work is quite strong, but the rhythm section of Steve Ybarra on drums and Steve Shell on bass execute in a more ear-catching fashion than ever before.

Breaking Just To Bend finishes Simon Templar on a hard-charging note and the uptempo clip of the song makes the band and singer alike sound like cornered animals. The title and much of the song’s lyrical imagery quite memorably depicts the limits that people are driven to by the disease of drug addiction. It underlines the themes heard in earlier songs and the band’s musical performance finishes the EP with a tremendous amount of flair.

Simon Templar talks about tragedy in street language that reaches poetic amplitude without much effort. Thomas Monroe has a great hard rock voice and idiosyncratic phrasing born partially from the dizzying stylistic turns his band mates can take with their playing as well as his own unique talents for turning a phrase. Saint Blasphemer has written and recorded a work quite unlike anything else released this year and the catharsis is monumental.

9 out of 10 stars

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