To some, Saint Asonia will inevitably represent one of the lows that US radio-rock is willing to plumb in order to cultivate recognisable names above any discernible amount of talent. The most key name in this point (and somewhat ironically, the most impressive) is ex-Three Day Grace vocalist Adam Gontier at the helm, leading the charge alongside a rogue’s gallery of capital-A artistes like two members of Staind, and the bassist from Art Of Dying (who also happens to be Gontier’s cousin for some extra nepotistic salt in that particular wound). Indeed, to call Saint Asonia a supergroup would be one of the more liberal uses of the word ‘super’ that the English language has seen, but given how much hard rock loves to take care of its own, this second album arrives as their first signing to Spinefarm and in advance of a US amphitheater tour with Disturbed and Breaking Benjamin. Somehow Saint Asonia look to be worming their way into a scene that – let’s be totally honest here – doesn’t need any more of these bands, especially if the less-than-stellar track records of their individual members are anything to go by.
Granted, it’s not like Flawed Design is the worst thing ever, or even the worst US hard rock album released this year, but it easily feels like one of the most inessential, running the clock with tired tropes and the typically underwhelming palette of clean production in order to produce something nice and safe that’ll fall in line with every other band vying for the exact same thing. It’s not even that it’s particularly horrendous as much as it is painfully boring to get through, simply because there’s clearly not an ounce of creativity running through Saint Asonia, and yet they seem to have doubled down on that rather than rectifying it. It leaves Flawed Design as the sort of anonymous listen that, if not for the names attached, would’ve barely gotten out of the planning stages with how little there is to work with.
It’s not like there’s the sort of musical pedigree that would’ve promised much more though, and for a group of artists who cut their teeth in post-grunge and are taking the short step over to modern rock, Flawed Design is pretty much what you’d expect. There’s no real colour to the guitars even if they aren’t as putrid in tone as some others, and the general mid-paced, arena-ready nature of Ghost and Beast is rather standard, even going so far as to omit most flash or pyrotechnics a lot of the time to really hammer home that authenticity. None of that is good, mind, but it’s not surprisingly awful, and even if it doesn’t feel like the production is doing this band any favours with how polished it is (and how the electronic clinks peppered around the mix are so distracting), it’s not exactly the worst thing ever. At the very least, Gontier has the pipes to give it all a leg up in terms of bombast, as does Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel on Sirens who effectively steals the show with the regality and poise that’s typically where she shines the most. That’s just one song though, arguably the sole break from Flawed Design’s homogeneity that’s more comparable to Godsmack’s Sully Erna’s guest appearance on The Hunted – unchanged from the main formula, and most of the time, you can barely tell it’s even there.
It’s not like the writing does anything to pull this album back up either, because again, Saint Asonia are clearly playing to their experience within hard rock’s B- and C-list with a set of songs that are virtually interchangeable with vast swathes of both their contemporaries and their forbears. Naturally, rising up against the nebulous ether that’s typically the subject of these tracks plays a big role in Blind, Sirens and Martyrs, serving as the garnish for a generally bland and uninspired load of tracks that never goes anywhere distinct enough to care about. It’s roughly as capped by expectation as it comes, with barely even an attempt made to clamber over what’s already a tremendously low bar and do anything more than the bare minimum.
And really, all that does is make Saint Asonia as an entity feel totally redundant. They’re bringing nothing that so many others haven’t already been harangued for recycling a million times already, and they’re about as sonically run-of-the-mill as a hard rock band comes in 2019. If it wasn’t for Gontier – because honestly, would anyone even care if it was just the others? – this would be another dead-in-the-water project destined to prop up the bottom end of US festival bills until the end of time. The reason there’s not more vitriol towards them is because Flawed Design is about as innocuously forgettable as it comes; this will inevitably be forgotten in about a week’s time, and no one will likely complain too much when it does.
For fans of: Godsmack, Three Days Grace, Breaking Benjamin
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Flawed Design’ by Saint Asonia is out now on Spinefarm Records.