August 14, 2022 Saint Asonia – Introvert (EP Review)
Formed in 2015, Canadian-American Saint Asonia has worked diligently to make a name for itself that is independent of each member’s origin and thus proving it to be more than simply the sum of its parts. Composed of former members of Art of Dying, Three Days Grace, and Staind, the quartet definitely has the credentials to support their ‘supergroup’ status. Birthed initially as the brainchild of ex-Three Days Grace Vocalist Adam Gontier and Staind Guitarist Mike Mushok, Saint Asonia has reconfigured to be a powerhouse group whose sophomore album was named one of Loudwire’s “50 Best Rock Albums of the Year (2019).”
Currently composed of Adams Gontier (vocals, guitar), Cale Gontier (bass, backing vocals), Mike Mushok (lead guitar), and Cody Watkins (drums), the band has returned with their third musical endeavor Introvert. Written during the Covid-19 lockdowns, the seven-track EP was recorded and produced by the band remotely, an experience that seems to have inspired not only the title but much of the content on the record.
Released on July 1, 2022 through Spinefarm Records, it opens “Above It All” while sweeping guitar sound and soaring chorus snatch the ear right away. There is something effervescent about the orchestration on the track and the way guitars soar in harmony with Adam’s voice. It is intoxicating and easy to get caught up in. The messaging here is compelling in its call to action, “It’s time to take a stand and save our lives (Rise before we fall).” In a world inundated with multiple avenues of stimulation and opinions, it can be overwhelming and it is up to every person to look out for their best interest and wellbeing. Coming in with an anthemic opening, “Better Late Than Never” showcases the kind of vocal dynamics ranging from soft subtlety to resounding fortitude that Adam came to be revered for during his time with Three Days Grace. The participatory elements of the background chants on this track draw in the listener and make it easy to get caught up and sing along.
Taking a slightly different path on the album is “Chew Me Up” featuring guest vocals from Johnny Stevens aka “Terrible Johnny” of Highly Suspect. There is something inherently cool and charismatic about Johnny’s voice that feels effortless with notes of grunge influence. His smoother, clean vocals work as an interesting contrast to Adam’s grittier, more emotive vibrato. This song has a strangely more emotional feel to it that digs in deep and carves out the rawness. This song is both vulnerable and harrowing in places. It’s this roughness that places it in direct contrast to the more upbeat rhythms of “So What.” Here the messaging is still on brand for the album with its reflectiveness, but the drums and strings are bouncier, creating a different visceral effect on the listener. It has more of that classic hard rock anthemic quality than its predecessor which makes it an infectious listen.
Heavy guitars chug at the opening of “Bite The Bullet” and the chorus here is one of the most open and full-chested sounding on the record. Here we get the open reverberating near screams from Adam that pierce the ear and resound in the brain. The entire song is guttural without the chuggy darkness that usually implies and once again brings about that visceral, punk-reminiscent dirtiness that flies all over you. It’s grungy yet piercing and thick with bass.
“Blinding Lights” brings into focus a new spin on The Weeknd’s smash hit single. With pounding drums and building energy, Saint Asonia’s cover of the 2019 hit aims to bring a new intensity that feels like standing in rush hour traffic. It is enveloping, unexpected, and a bit thrilling. The way they layer the grit of Adam’s voice with the pounding drums creates an adrenaline rush that sweeps up the listener effortlessly. There are moments of vulnerability that border on ethereal which work in wonderful contrast to the sharpness of the chorus. It’s because of this balance that Saint Asonia manages to avoid the triteness that can occur when rock bands cover Pop or R&B/Soul. The synth/new wave elements of the original song provided the perfect launchpad for an effective hard rock cover which Saint Asonia seems to have capitalized on perfectly. They didn’t reinvent the wheel but they did effectively put chrome rims on it.
With Introvert, Saint Asonia explores the many aspects and potential pitfalls of looking inward. The perils and pleasures found in introspection. Given the period during which this record was crafted, it should come as no surprise that these themes and more are explored here. The band has encapsulated the insular experience of turning inward and self-assessing your strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, and mental fortitude.
Thematically, the EP stays on track, but much of it does share a common sound. While consistency is key for most bands there is a fine line between consistency and homogeneity. Here Saint Asonia manages to toe that line delicately, keeping just enough dynamics at play to diversify their offering while playing with various elements. So, for an introspective perspective on the human experience and covering The Weeknd so brazenly, Cryptic Rock gives Introvert 4 out of 5 stars.