Dealer‘s Saint has landed. The second EP from the band is a four dimensional capture of life set to a soundtrack featuring Aidan Holmes, Martin Wood, Joe Abikhair, and Maurice Morfaw. The 14 minutes of Saint grabs Soul Burn by the hand (or maybe by the throat), and follows threads of similar themes, in its own way.
Listeners will still feel Soul Burn‘s presence in EP opener “Tourniquet”, with its guitar scribbles and screeches and rhythmic familiarity. This is something that could either detract in its sameness or be affectionately enjoyed for the same reasons Soul Burn was. But Saint is far more than Dealer trotting out the same tricks for a second time.
The noisy pulses of “Tourniquet”‘s introduction forms a mental scene of being alone in darkness. A protagonist (voiced by Holmes) is then thrust under a brutal spotlight and the emotional blood-letting begins. Sheared and severed by a serrated guitar and hit by crushing beats, there’s a looming presence, and a dark sense of something to come, or at least a continuation of present difficulty. The track’s erratic rhythms with sharpened accents seem to have no rhyme or reason, and come across as life’s unexpected brutal thumps.
Deep hurts become moulded and manipulated in the mind and act like an unrelenting and fatal illness. The line “Too fucked to live. Too bitter to die.” captures a state of in-between, where merely existing is war. When things are at their worst, digging into the mental/emotional core of it all offers up a promise, but even going near that inflicts pain.
There’s a shift in the song as “Tourniquet” two-steps along, revealing greater awareness of what’s harming the protagonist, with also another person tangled up in it. Holmes’ voice hits an edge of unsettledness and disbelief at how that tangled mess is a path that leads to nothing. Moving into a more crushing and blistering state of confusion and frustration, “Tourniquet” is then erratic and wild of sound, capturing the impact of life’s storms. As it lyrically loops back to the start, it’s as if the effort of rebandaging the wounds is done, while simultaneously staying stuck in limbo. But there’s still more that’s shared here.
Darker still, shadowy selves remove knives from their backs, seeing hatred even in their own reflection in the mirror. Raw and drenched in black, the protagonist spins in a state of pure obliteration from all sides, courtesy of a punishing breakdown section and the weight of pressure via Abikhair’s prowess on drums. Through this capture of the ‘dark night of the soul’, there persists effort and working at the process of healing.
Toward the end of “Tourniquet” is where it shifts into overlapping and cascading layers of realisation, hitting dead end points of stuckness, before a turning point occurs: “I hold a gun to the leech as it screams for the warmth of my cold fucking soul!”, Holmes cries. The breakdown that follows is free-er and more open with possibility, even though it is stomping and striking rhythmically. Defiant and throaty comes a final refusal even though it’s instrumentally tangled. There is fight left here, after this many faceted experience of hurting and healing.
Lighter and slithery, “Blade In A Bullet Wound” winds its way through my ears, where peoples’ truths are becoming transparent to the protagonist. Amping up then in pace and aggression, tumbling rhythms and guitar flares hit hard. A trancey/mesmerising robotic voice shows up asking to look within, and a lump in the throat of honesty hits like a thud; where life and death and truth and lies have become one big ball of entangled threads. A key lyric stands out noticeably: “I guess this dirt is my bed, so I’ll fucking lie in it”.
“Blade In A Bullet Wound” is more of a random kind of song, effectively giving me a sense of not knowing where I’m going and feeling the panic of that aimlessness too. Cavernous open moments with vocals stretching across them works effectively, matching the line of questioning that wonders why opportunity wasn’t taken. Existing in complete distrust and feeling isolated, the protagonist asks for lies and fantasy to be perpetuated. I find taking this in to be extremely uncomfortable; this limbo of confusion, wanting to die but not being able to, and seeming to be surrounded by dishonest people. It’s a feeling of being tossed around without grounding and instrumentally it sounds like it too. It’s tumultuous and uncomfortable in more ways than one.
But there’s a shift then, where evenly placed beats and clarity replace the randomness and set a scene for “I refuse to bleed here anymore”. Shifting into a higher gear, with bark-accented energy, the rapid-fire moment demands a choice; to fight or hide, and with there being something to be found regardless. There’s even more fire gained as the track progresses, with a “Fuck you, I’m not done yet!” sense of defiance. An electric breakdown matches the fury and refusal, as do Holmes’ feverish screams. The lyric “Another severed limb to ensure survival” comes across like jettisoning the toxic; the surgical removal of a gangrenous leg to stem the septic tide and live. This is most likely about a person given the following line “Another piece of shit begging for revival”.
What’s most impressive to me on the second track is how its ending moment captures that unfiltered raw emotion that Holmes pours into his vocals. It seems relatively rare to hear something sound hard and heavy and also raw and vulnerable at the same time, and it’s something that Dealer do well.
Third track “Violent Stimuli” is dance-like at its intro. Over the lengthy introduction, it feels like something is brewing, and a flatline of sound runs through the subsequent heaviness, with a “This is not good” vibe communicated through the riffage.
Wild and chaotic when the vocals kick in, there’s a shift in pace and frustration about “Always fucking fighting this toxin laced fate”. Lines hammered home have it come across as negative influences (perhaps trying to break free of addictive habits), and the more danceable moments may reflect the loss of control and momentary absence of inhibitions/pain with intoxicants.
A burst of energy sees “Violent Stimuli” darting forward in confrontation. Calling for honesty instead of spin, it’s as if the protagonist is asking “Do you see what you’re doing?” or even “Do I see what I’m doing to myself?”. We move then into something off-kilter and like non-real, featuring drumtasia and bouncy guitar work to set the scene.
Similar to the lighter moment in the track before it, a decision for self-preservation prevails.. until it doesn’t. The return of the chorus (if I can call it that) is catchy along with it’s wailing guitar melody and lyrics being smashed home. A virtually poisoned end has drum chaos and bombardment with static vocals buried underneath, with darkly menacing guitar runs. Intoxicated, it’s a dancey ending like where we began.
Dark, punishing, heavy, and paranoid is how “Suffer In Rhythm” comes across from the start. Drums seem determined to knock the listener over, like a torrential storm with nothing to grip onto. It took me awhile to wrap my head around the lyric “Sacrificial happiness doesn’t render selfishness void”, finally deciding upon “someone sacrificing their happiness for another person’s happiness doesn’t mean they’re not selfish”. Through that perspective, the song comes across as sharing remorse for the past and who they were and how they treated another. They’re seeing with the clarity of hindsight that they had beside them a perpetual healer that they didn’t recognise or acknowledge at the time.
The suffering of the two in rhythm is understood (by me, anyway) as a separateness but with parts still shared; riding twin waves of life but separately. The parallel lines of the breakdown and the days, months, years of disconnect form a morse code-like rhythm of distance but unrelenting sameness too. To me it’s like “We are the same breed, even though we can’t be together.”
The song shifts into remembering and facing the rawness of that time. Ghostly and mesmerising of sound in small pockets along the way, it expressed for me how there were still parts that were frozen in time and needing to grow and be seen. The chorus reiterates for me the self-punishment for how the protagonist treated their healer.
Though I wasn’t entirely sure what was meant by a merger of blood and salt in the lyrics, I took it as regret and pain combining with an “Oh fuck” intensity. Each word enunciated and instrumentally bracketed, it was like a cautionary tale being slammed home for understanding: Rock bottom needs to be remembered and never repeated. The deeper realisation and the anchor underpinning all of this is:
… a person who is a culmination in the present moment of experiences and pain and everything else. The statement is underlined by a breakdown with a squiggly signature scrawled underneath via guitar. Continuing with “It’s just another December”, “Suffer In Rhythm” takes us into the first singing on the EP. Sounding relatively calm in a wide-open atmosphere, “like the deep and desperate blue”, the heart-heavy moment captures a belief in solutions, belief in remedies, belief in something better.
But things take a dark turn with ultimatum-heavy beats, and the soaring serenity has become menacing. A quest to numb has been warped and mangled into a distorted and otherworldly breakdown, and desperation has climbed again.
And then it ends, with no clear sense of resolution, matching all the ups and downs and twists and turns that Saint had shared in its entirety. The songs of the EP capture the experience of being pummelled by life and attempts to go beyond that. There’s glimmers of possibility and trying to move forward, but also a violent backward jerks that snap with teeth, like a trap that snares around an ankle and its chain runs out of slack.
What hit home for me on Saint were the moments when a crunching land at rock-bottom inspired decisions for change. There were decisions to stem the bleeding, to eradicate the leech, to face the pain, to erase the toxicity, and to face the past and learn from it. And even when things didn’t work out, there were questions from the rubble; wondering why and trying to make sense of it all.
Saint is a slick metalcore/nu-metalcore experience throughout, with anger, breakdowns, and moshable moments, not to mention impressive instrumentation from each of the band’s members. The entirety of Saint is energetic and captivating, and sounds sharp and clean courtesy of Lance Prenc’s efforts of production.
Most importantly, Saint has done a stellar job in being very REAL when it comes to the process of healing, learning, and facing your demons and how that journey isn’t necessarily a straight line. I felt every word of this authentic capture that also manages to be sonically enjoyable. From the darkened room of Saint, the curtain is being pulled back (even if just a little) and a lighter world with its carnations and clouds is in view.
Captivating, heavy, palpable, and delivered skillfully. What more could you want?