Artist: Brave Saint Saturn
Label: Department of Biophysics
Release Date: September 15, 2008
Review by: Eric Pettersson
1. Here Is the News
5. When You Burn Too Fast
6. Through Depths of Twilight
7. Hero’s Homecoming
9. Fields of the Fallen
10. Always beneath the Dawn
11. Fortress of Solitude
12. Blessed Are the Land Mines
14. Begin Again
15. These Frail Hands
Right now I’m taking a Communication Theory course, and in the theory we just studied we talked about parasocial relationships. This term refers to the false feeling of intimately knowing someone in the media that you have never actually met. For me, Reese Roper would fit in that category. As a long-term Five Iron Frenzy fan, I memorized way too many lyrics to not feel like I knew the guy when he was being so honest and personal in those words. I even bought a couple of copies of that terrible Roper album when it first came out and gave them to friends just because I wanted to help him out. Looking back, it was not the best decision. Neither was naming my cat Reese just as FIF broke up and no one would ever know where the name came from. However, with label deadlines cast aside, Reese Roper has finally done with his other band, Brave Saint Saturn, what I had originally hoped he would do with Roper: create a freakin’ amazing record.
The final episode in this space trilogy, Anti-Meridian finds the crew of the USS Gloria back on Earth, having achieved their mission studying Saturn’s moon Titan. I won’t spoil the plot for you, but I will say there are some interesting twists in this epic concept album.
But I must admit, having been five years from the release of The Light of Things Hoped For…, the second album in the BS2 series, I’ve kind of lost some of that steam. While I still have all my CDs, those Five Iron records are not on my mp3 player. I probably wouldn’t have even known about this release if IVM hadn’t promoted it so strongly. But I thought it would be fun to reconnect with my old friend Reese, to hear the mission come to a close, to see what would come of Brave Saint Saturn so much later.
What I had expected was another album in the vein of The Light of Things Hoped For, which would be a good listen for the sake of nostalgia but nothing especially pertinent to the modern musical landscape. What I found instead was a brilliant record with good music that could probably stand its own without the previous reputation, and an amazing set of lyrics speaking on a variety of topics, showing Reese has certainly had time to contemplate between this record and the last.
While maintaining the loose thematic connections from song to song necessary to run a successful concept album, Anti-Meridian addresses issues of life and faith ranging from a broken father-son relationship (“Always Just Beneath the Dawn”) to trying to escape all the crazy Five Iron fans that won’t leave Reese alone (“Fortress of Solitude” ends with him screaming “I hate you all! I hate you all! This will not sleep!”). Political as always, Reese doesn’t hesitate to condemn Christian warmongering and the prosperity gospel (“Blessed Are the Land Mines”), share his hope to see an end to racism (“Through Depths of Twilight”), and reach into childhood experiences to talk about the dignity deserved by all life, including animals (“Starling”). Guitarist Dennis Culp makes his routine appearances on the lead mic to sing about the fakeness of major label music (“Underground”), the joyous return of the astronauts in BS2 to Earth (“Hero’s Homecoming”), reaching to God in times of darkness and loss (“Fields of the Fallen”), and the hope given us by the One who makes all things new (“Begin Again”).
The music takes a new direction this time around, with acoustic guitars blended into normal rock songs like “Starling” and “Always Just beneath the Dawn.” On other tracks like “,” there is an urgency and near-sloppiness that I can only compare to The Chariot, but obviously in more of a pop-rock setting. The result may sound awkward compared to their slower material, but in the end I’ve decided it was perfect production, because it adds to the feeling of passion behind these songs and shows how desperate these musicians are to get their points across and their hearts out for all to see. The electronic programming is still here in good measure, from the synths throughout to the TV broadcasts/computers talking during a number of the bridges. So in that sense this is the BS2 we already know and love. The chorus to “Mercenary” is classic Reese Roper, and the guitar riffs on “Begin Again” are easily recognizable as Dennis Culp’s. And of course, the album ends with two beautiful songs about giving our weaknesses to God and our deep need for Him (“These Frail Hands,” “Invictus”).
Our friends have ended the trilogy with grand style and with uncompromising heart. It was well worth the wait. But many of you will ask, if this is the end of a side project, why should I pay any more attention to this band? Well, these four gentlemen included on this record what they included on almost every other record they touched in the past: a hidden track. On this track, we hear one of the astronauts talking to a news reporter. Again, I won’t give away the plot, but you can only imagine what this brief clip might have to say.
Buy the album now through Brave Saint Saturn’s webstore, emusic, AmazonMP3, or iTunes.