Saint Asonia is a supergroup that has come in with much less fanfare than I expected. I remember hearing about the band in 2015, before they released their self-titled debut album. Adam Gontier (formerly of Three Days Grace) has one of the most unique and solid voices in any genre of our generation. This dude can sing. When I heard he had a new project, I was instantly on board. Then when I learned he teamed up with Mike Mushock (formerly of Staind), my excitement grew.
As I have mentioned (a lot lately, as it seems), I used to be a massive Staind fan (still am, for what it’s worth). Even after the mainstream stuff came out, they still had enough heavy to keep me engaged. Aaron Lewis has a strong, unique voice with a phenomenal range, much like Gontier. The thought of taking the musical mind behind that very successful metal band (yeah, I said it) and adding Gontier made me almost giddy.
After their debut album the band went away for a few years, losing their founding drummer and bass player, replacing them with Sal Giancarelli (also of Staind) and former Art Of Dying bassist, and Gontier’s cousin, Cale Gontier. The announcement of Flawed Design, due for release October 25, 2019 via Spinefarm Records, came with the first single “The Hunted,” featuring Sully Erna of Godsmack. This was the perfect song to lead with because it was the song that launched Saint Asonia. Before forming the group, Mushok was going to record an album featuring the friends he made over the years on vocals. He had Erna lay some vocals for a demo of the first song he wrote, which became “The Hunted”. When Saint Asonia was born, Adam Gontier added his part to the collaboration. Not only does it give you the extra star power from the feature, but this song absolutely rocks. It has mainstream appeal, but isn’t necessarily of the “arena” type Staind picked up on in their latter years. It still has a heavy vibe and the collaboration between two of the best voices in heavy music today.
The album has two other early release singles. “Beast” is highlighted by a massive chorus that has strong instrumentation and huge vocals. It has a heavy intro that grabs your attention and a strong bridge that echos the vocals with a distinct, short guitar riff.
The other pre-release single, “This August Day,” is on the slower side, maintaining a heavy feel to it. The transitions from chorus to verse are among the most powerful riffs on the album and Adam’s vocal range is definitely the highlight of this track. The song is the most emotional on the record and highlights some of Adams struggles at his lowest point.
Another emotional track is “Ghost.” Adam wrote this track about losing a loved one with analogies to the constant struggle that addiction has brought to his life. It is a slower tempo song that is incredibly fervent and powerful. The song absolutely explodes into the bridge and last chorus, picking up the tempo, going much heavier and jacking the vocals up an octave.
The album kicks off with “Blind.” The song has a heavy intro and an upbeat pace, which is a welcoming intro to the record (and probably a solid live set opener too). The song comes across as an anthem for not giving up, with an uplifting hook that is highlighted by that signature, throwback growl at the end. The song placement on this album really adds to its listenability, with the final track “Martyrs” being a slower anthem that fades to the finish.
My favorite song on the record is “Justify.” It has a very heavy riff to lead it in. The song is again slower paced, but so heavy. It feels like a classic Mushok-written track from the Staind days, especially in the transitions to the chorus when the low, garbled stop-tones open up to highlight the big sounds of the chorus. And the absolutely scathing guitar solo leading to the bridge doesn’t hurt. Nor does the sheer amount of passion in the vocals and the classic Gontier growl.
Another highlight for me is “Sirens.” This song has big potential. It begins with guest vocals from Sharon den Adel of Within Temptation, sounding more like a Three Days Grace track with the early transition, heavy stop beats and effects. It has another huge chorus and the featured vocalist comes back for a duet through the end of the track that adds impressive depth. “The Fallen” is an emotional track Adam wrote for some of the greats we’ve lost in the past few years; specifically Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington and Gord Downie. The track comes from a place of pain, anger and emotion that is instantly felt when listening.
From beginning to end, Flawed Design delivers. It has heavy elements, is instrumentally diverse and features some of the best songwriters and musicians in the modern hard rock scene.