Saint Blasphemer – Simon Templar
Few albums of any length this year aim as high as Saint Blasphemer’s first release. The five song EP Simon Templar chronicles the drug scene that has decimated so many lives in Southern California in a multi-faceted way that doesn’t spare listeners any of the associated pain and horror. Vocalist and chief songwriter Thomas Hudson and his musical collaborators work in perfect concert with one another and create a seamless artistic experience that works on every level. The production has a raw and intimate feel that never sacrifices anything for quality and frames the music and lyrics in good balance with each other. None of the songs veer into self indulgence, but Saint Blasphemer has excellent instincts for song construction and never rush a single minute of any of these songs.
They turn the intensity up at the start and rarely back off. “Nullify” tosses listeners head first into the dark world of substance abuse with a sharply evocative description of an addict’s ultimate motivations. The self-immolation depicted in the songwriting is strongly embodied by the band’s fierce musical attack, but the fury never rages at such a temperature it loses all coherence. Thomas Monroe’s lyrics are full of straight-forward clarity and flashes of often vivid imagery. “Simon Templar” tackles the painful topic of premature death due to addiction and the broken lives the dead leave behind them. In some ways, it’s probably the most difficult song to hear on this release because of the innocence of those so deeply affected by tragedy. Monroe’s tormented singing hammers the song’s situation home with the same intensity. The aforementioned intensity reaches a fever pitch on the track “Scarecrow” and the lyrical content darkens accordingly. This track is the black burning heart of Simon Templar with band and singer alike delivering their most passionate, committed performances yet. It strips away any lingering doomed romantic veneer surrounding drug use and, instead, highlights the dehumanizing murder of the body and spirit that occurs.
Like the title track, “A Perfect Rose” illustrates Hudson’s ability to draw convincing characters in song with just a few key strokes, but this lyric is every bit as much about his reactions to the character’s turmoil as it is about the nominal subject. Saint Blasphemer plays with their customary combination of skill and power, but there’s surprising delicacy in the performance. “Breaking Just to Bend” is the perfect closer for Simon Templar for many reasons – one key factor in its success is its noticeable break with the tempo heard on earlier tracks. “Breaking Just to Bend” races along at a much faster clip than any of the earlier songs, but it never threatens to run off the rails and the focus their skills brings to the arrangement helps makes this an intense closer. Simon Templar is an EP release, but the five songs pack enough punch that the album feels much weightier than typical EP’s. This is the complete package – music and lyrics alike are working at a high level and are assured to both enlighten and entertain its intended audience.
9 out of 10 stars