Review Summary: In his first major project since his controversial departure from Three Days Grace, Adam Gontier brings back the angst and aggression that made him a household name.
If you've heard this band's name in the last few months, you'll know Saint Asonia is a rock supergroup fronted by Adam Gontier, the man behind the infamous split between himself and Canadian hard rockers Three Days Grace in January 2013. While the latter went forward with My Darkest Days singer Matt Walst, the former laid low and remained out of the news. What little solo material Gontier put out in 2013 was just not nearly as appealing and compelling as his work with Three Days Grace. Perhaps this serves reason why he waited until now to resurface with Saint Asonia. Either way you slice it, Gontier's return to prominence on rock radio was well worth the wait.
Featuring Mike Mushok, the guitarist from Staind, Rich Beddoe, the drummer from Finger Eleven and Corey Lowery from Eye Empire, Saint Asonia isn't just a supergroup that's going to play some charity events and then call it a career. On quite the contrary, this group is a serious project and could remain a fixture on the airwaves for years to come.
Saint Asonia released four tracks in preparation for this record's release. The debut single "Better Place", as evidenced by its top 10 success on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart, listeners responded well. The next three songs released as promotional tracks ("Blow Me Wide Open", "Let Me Live My Life", "Fairy Tale") all share a common theme with "Better Place." It's just an interpretation, but these tracks could very well be lyrical jabs thrown into the direction of Three Days Grace. In my opinion, at least, they are. Either them are Gontier's ex-wife, who divorced him in 2013. Put that aside, and you're left with the four tracks that open the album. "Better Place" was rightfully chosen as the debut single. It's easily the hardest and most up-tempo rocker on the record, and is a fitting way to reintroduce Gontier to the spotlight. Lyrically, Gontier definitely has an axe to grind with someone ("I don't owe you anything/And you don't own me/I will not forget.") Instrumentally speaking, the track is more than just a competent radio-friendly rocker. The established personnel manning the guitar, bass and drums are quite adept at complimenting Gontier. It feels somewhat refreshing to be honest, to see new personnel behind Gontier. Especially after years of Barry Stock's guitar solos and Neil Sanderson's backup vocals. Shoutout to both those guys by the way!
Moving on, "Blow Me Wide Open" is another shot fired at you know who ("Why do you wanna be/Forgettable/And so replaceable.") The track opens with distorted guitar work, and to Mike Mushok's credit, he's not only a sound guitarist. He's quite enjoyable to listen to. The bass is audible, something Three Days Grace struggled with early on. The drumming is equally competent as Neil Sanderson's and vice versa. The track doesn't have that wow factor per se. but it definitely gets the point across without being overly abrasive. Aside from the promotional tracks, which we'll discuss again later, we've got some very well executed tracks like "Even Though I Say" and "Dying Slowly." The latter features Gontier uttering the f-word. The first time he's done that in a song since "Gone Forever", which appeared on Three Days Grace's excellent 2006 album "One-X." There's a little fun fact of the day for you. Anyway, the track is very introspective and Gontier asks why is he the way he is. You might think that's analogous to how Three Days Grace beat dead horses lyrically. But while this theme, among others, are very familiar and established, they're executed and performed in a uniquely enough way that you can still enjoy nevertheless.
Other promotional tracks "Fairy Tale" and "Let Me Live My Life" are other tracks in which Gontier urges whoever he's using subtlety to attack, that he wants to be free and branch out on his own. Coincidence" This was one of his primary reasons behind his split from Thre- I'm not even going to say it. "Trying to Catch Up the World" is a great example of how the softer side of Gontier's vocals can shine brightly. It's a near flawless technique for him at this point. But considering his 2013 solo material wasn't appealing, as mentioned, this is a strong return to form, and Gontier deserves credit where credit is due.
This solid and much awaited debut ends with "Happy Tragedy" and "Leaving Minnesota." "Happy Tragedy" opens with a blistering blurry of guitars. A strong up-tempo rocker is just what the doctor ordered, as Gontier again brings a vocal shot of adrenaline to the track. Did we expect anything else from this man" His voice is stronger than ever, and if you're still upset that he left you know who, you now have a new band to enjoy, with a familiar face in the driver's seat. The guitar solo on "Happy Tragedy" is certainly a treat for the ears. It's fast pace is the driving force behind this aggressive rocker. The album closes with "Leaving Minnesota", which certainly feels like it's referencing Gontier's ex-wife. It lyrically opens with ("I wanted to try so hard but/She never wanted to see my face again.") Gontier later reveals ("If you love something/Let it free/And let it fly.") I'm pretty sure I'm paraphrasing as I've only played the track but a pair of times at this point, but nonetheless, the personnel Gontier assembled for Saint Asonia does another great job to compliment him.
All in all, as mentioned, this group and this album, were well worth waiting for. Especially if you were waiting for Gontier to put out serious material in his post-Three Days Grace career, you've now got the treat on your hands that you wanted, as do I. This album will be a great benchmark for what's to come. This group is undoubtedly more than just a supergroup playing some charity shows in the spirit of good, clean fun. Saint Asonia is serious as they come, and with Adam Gontier at the helm, nothing but good things will befall this group in the future.