October 22, 2019 Saint Asonia – Flawed Design (Album Review)
It can be hard for musicians to part ways with the bands that helped them gain traction in the industry. Where many try and fail at coming back with something fresh and independent of their origins, Saint Asonia has managed to succeed. Co-founded by former Three Days Grace Vocalist Adam Gontier and Staind Guitarist Mike Mushok, this Hard Rock supergroup recently saw two new additions to the fold in the onboarding of Adam’s cousin and Art of Dying Bassist Cale Gontier and Staind Drummer Sal Giancarelli.
Prior to Cale Gontier and Sal Giancarelli joining their ranks, Saint Asonia’s former incarnation took a break back in 2017. During this time, Mushok took ‘the longest break of his career’ and focused on family while Gontier became a father for the first time and focused his energies on fatherhood and seeking treatment for substance abuse. Now, freshly reconfigured and re-energized, the band has hit the studio to give fans the long-awaited follow up to their self-titled debut album. After four long years, Saint Asonia will be releasing Flawed Design October 25th, 2019 via Spinefarm Records.
Complete with eleven new songs, “Blind” kicks off the album with chugging chords and sharp snares. At the heart of the song, it boasts an effervescent lilt and uplifting message. The song is a great jumping-off point for the album because it has Gontier clearly stating his determination singing, “The fire in me hasn’t died. Always trying to put it out, you made it so bright. Now you’re blind.” Here is an anthem for those that never gave up and used the doubt and criticism of others to fuel their drive and achieve new heights. Next up is “Sirens,” which features the airy vocals of Sharon den Adel of Within Temptation. The core of the song is accented by the heft of the bass line courtesy of Cale Gontier and the gossamer twinkle of den Adel’s vocals. It’s diaphanous and alluring, much like the sirens of legend.
On “The Hunted,” the band taps into the cool melodic tones Staind was known for while infusing some One-X era Three Days Grace grit. It is here that Gontier is joined on vocals by Godsmack’s Sully Erna. The gravel in Erna’s vocals adds that primal growl to the underside of the track and gives it depth. Transitioning into “Ghost,” there is an ethereal and haunting ambiance to this song of addiction. Gontier sings about his struggles with addiction and the sense of desperation that comes with the memory of substance abuse and being “haunted” by the remnants of this chemical dependency. Co-written with Dustin Bates of Starset and Keith Wallen of Breaking Benjamin, the song has the emotional compulsion of a Breaking Benjamin song and the orchestral synths of Starset. Gontier’s vocals rip in the chorus of “Beast” creating the signature sound he’s become synonymous with over the course of his career. Despite its title, “Beast” has a surprisingly easy flow and comes across very soulful and melodic.
“The Fallen” is Gontier’s tribute to the music legends we have lost, most recently including Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, and Singer-Songwriter Gord Downie. It is emotional and compelling with a choral swell that almost comes across anthemic in tempo. The soul of the song is rife with deference and a sense of longing.
As the album nears conclusion, “Justify” has a subliminal darkness to it that isn’t overwhelming, or sinister, but just a hair unsettling. The crunch of the guitars and the weight of the percussion makes this a sludgier track than its predecessors. It’s the tonal difference that separates its from the other tracks makes it interesting to the ear. There is a story to be heard here and by slowing down the tempo and changing up the dynamics at play, the band makes it easy to pay attention and to care about what you’re hearing. There are plenty of songs and bands that make for an easy listen, but using your sound to emphasize your storytelling is a true gift.
Closing things out on Flawed Design is “Martyrs.” Here the band gives another sharp contrast in tone, this time changing things up from the darkness in “Justify” and giving the listener a lighter, breezier ambiance. Despite the possible darkness implied with the thought of “martyrdom” the song “Martyr” is actually one of freedom and letting go. This song seeks to embody the freedom and beauty in letting things go. Sometimes we have to sacrifice parts of ourselves, or who we thought we were, in order to move on to who we can be and that feels like the story here.
Overall, the band has put together their journey set to music and it’s a complicated yet organized orchestration. While not every track is a standout, the messaging and symbolism within Flawed Design gives listeners a new chapter in the Saint Asonia story that scratches the itch created by the four-year wait between albums. So, for storytelling, organization, and layered orchestration, Cryptic Rock gives Flawed Design 4 out of 5 stars.