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CD REVIEW: Simon Templar by Saint Blasphemer

The four piece Saint Blasphemer formed in February 2016 and has quickly established a solid reputation as one of the best local acts in an intensely competitive Southern California music scene. They have wasted little time in releasing their first recorded work, a five song EP entitled Simon Templar. The material documents vocalist and lyricist Thomas Monroe’s grappling with a long term heroin epidemic in the area that’s destroyed families and claimed the lives of countless friends and compatriots. He does so with strong, occasionally overpowering, lyrical imagery and a real literary brio that romps as convincingly as the music. His band mates have palpable chemistry and Saint Blasphemer sounds like a cohesive unit throughout, never just a musical vehicle for Monroe’s writing. The production brings all of its strengths together in an united presentation that makes this release one of the most impactful debuts of 2016.

It opens with the uncompromising darkness of “Nullify”. Monroe does an exceptional job of encapsulating the claustrophobic horror of drug addiction and the music works in perfect sympathy with his writing. Guitarist John Castellon, bassist Steve Shell, and drummer Steve Ybarra pack a ton of musical firepower into condensed structures, masterfully manipulate color and dynamics, and never waste a single note. The opener is a picture perfect rendition of a descent into hell. “Simon Templar” is a powerful title song that delves deep into the life of someone surviving the loss of a loved one due to drug addiction. It has the EP’s strongest narrative thrust and never lapses into melodrama. Monroe’s phrasing puts the lyrics over with an additionally vivid quality that suggests the depths of his connection to this experience.

“Scarecrow” is a full on guitar assault for the vast majority of the tune and the imagery is some of the album’s most powerful and, occasionally, off putting, but Monroe wants listeners to connect with the urgency of this material and its unflinching realities. It’s likely the EP’s darkest musical moment, but it contains some surprises. As the song approaches its conclusion, the band dramatically pulls back on the reins and finishes things off with some expertly woven atmospherics. The depth of emotion in “A Perfect Rose” is breathtaking on both a lyrical and musical level. It’s a sure contender for one of Monroe’s finest vocals on the album and his deliberate singing invokes all of the grief, anger, and gentleness of the song’s point of view. Simon Templar ends with “Breaking Just to Bend”, a final convincing depiction of addiction’s price that immediately wins over listeners with its fast pace and elastic musical power.

Saint Blasphemer’s first release sets the stage for a wonderful future. Their across the board talents are polished and they never content themselves with an one-dimensional approach to songwriting or performance. For an indie, DIY effort, Simon Templar has impressive production that casts the songs in their best light. These are five songs that have ambition and immense humanity, but they reach each of their goals with room to spare.

SPOTIFY: https://play.spotify.com/album/3tB6Q6bKCrFmCJnZR9Pjr0?play=true&utm_source=open.spotify.com&utm_medium=open

by Lydia Hillenburg

Review

Criteria - 90%

90%

Rating

Saint Blasphemer’s first release sets the stage for a wonderful future. Their across the board talents are polished and they never content themselves with an one-dimensional approach to songwriting or performance. For an indie, DIY effort, Simon Templar has impressive production that casts the songs in their best light. These are five songs that have ambition and immense humanity, but they reach each of their goals with room to spare.

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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