Sound — 8
Saint Asonia is a new post-grunge, hard rock supergroup. To prove their viability, the band likes to point out the seventeen #1 singles that its members have collectively been a part of. And what do you know, the first single off the album, "Better Place," went to #10 and #7 on the American and Canadian rock charts, respectively. Furthermore, it appears that the band will tour extensively following the release of this, their self-titled debut album, indicating that Saint Asonia is more than just a part time side project.
The sound of this album, as a whole, has exactly what I expected it to have. Downtuned guitars, predominant power chord passages, post-grunge/catchy vocal melodies, a few ballads, and lots of talk about being wronged by women, it's all there. In addition, the album has eleven songs, all clocking in at over three but less than five minutes. None of this comes as a surprise given the band's lineup: Adam Gontier (Three Days Grace) on vocals/guitar, Mike Mushok (Staind) on lead guitar, Corey Lowery (Eye Empire, Switched, Stereomud, Stuck Mojo) on bass, and Rich Beddoe (Finger Eleven) on drums.
And man, I wish they'd gotten together earlier.
I mean, look, they didn't invent a new genre with this album. In fact, this band sounds like a lot of other bands from the last fifteen years. But these guys just do it better. Most of the time, a lot better.
For example, it has been a long time since I seriously enjoyed the ballads on a predominantly hard rock album. However, Saint Asonia's ballads aren't just good, they are better than their traditional hard rock songs. Yet, I cannot pinpoint a specific way in which the ballads are unique. They just are. For one reason or another, they stand out from what I have heard in the past couple of years. I guess to start with, the band made some excellent choices regarding dynamics. They use acoustic guitars effectively and never over-saturate the songs with them. They also manage the guitars' level of distortion well and include guitar solos that are not showy, but rather are tasteful ("Leaving Minnesota"). Adam Gontier also sounds better on these ballads, where he is relaxed and unstressed compared to the rougher songs of the album.
Regarding these "rougher" songs, the largest praise goes to their unity. The riffs are fairly good and the bass/drums rhythm section is fine but when all of it comes together, that is when it becomes clear that this is some of the best music to come from its genre in years.
The production of the album goes a long way in helping the crushing, drop-tuned guitars keep their proper context among the bass and drums. Moreover, the producer did a great job accentuating salient instruments at certain intervals in the songs; the listener always has something to pay attention to.
Lyrics — 7
Adam Gontier's vocals seem to be the guiding force behind the rest of the music, yet unfortunately, they are just average. His performance is one of the few areas where this album could have been markedly better. As I mentioned before, his voice is a slightly better fit for the ballads than the hard rock songs. That being said, his voice fits the hard rock songs, but he could have had a bit of a more personal flair, something to separate himself from the plethora of vocalists who sound similar. Gontier has good separation between his regular voice and his hard, scream-esque voice, but this is expected from a singer of his caliber.
While his vocal performance is average, Adam Gontier's lyrics are below average. Even though the lyrical themes fit the music, the ballads especially, there are instances when it is painfully obvious that Gontier's word choice is lacking (the line is so tacky that it ruins the song's atmosphere for a moment). His pronunciation is superb, which would usually be a positive, but in this case only serves to highlight the poor lyrics. In all honesty though, it could have been much worse and the reality is that the songs sound perfectly fine because his melodies are fine and that is oftentimes all that matters.
Here is a sampling of the lyrics from "Dying Slowly":
"Why am I so numb?
Why do I feel so dumb?
When It's just you and I,
It's that look in your eye.
How do you do this to me?
Make me feel so alive
Why did you do this to me?
So I can't survive?
Without you, I can see
I would be, just another
Sad junkie, mindless freak
Losing sleep, Dying Slowly."
Overall Impression — 8
Describing why this album is special is hard because it doesn't really possess any unique or novel characteristics. But it is special nevertheless, kind of like a new AC/DC album; it's really the same stuff as before yet it somehow sounds new; even though I want to criticize it for being the same old thing, I just can't.
If Saint Asonia wanted a rock radio hit, they have succeeded. If they wanted to gain a new legion of fans, they have probably succeeded. And, if on the off chance they wanted respect and appreciation among guitarists, such as me and other UGers, I think they will be pleasantly surprised.