Politics and music. These are two subjects that can incite a range of both rational and irrational emotions and opinions in just about everyone. They are also two subjects that some people believe should never be combined: a ‘leave your opinions at the door and just enjoy the music’ type attitude. If you fall into this category then you may as well stop reading now. Saint Apache are certainly not a band to keep their beliefs and their music separate and Black Days is the third EP on which they are shouting their views loud and proud for everyone to hear.
Opening track Amongst Vultures kicks off with a brief drum roll that builds into the first of many riffs filled with a combination of hard rock class and punk attitude. It is simple, effective and memorable, relying on aggressive picking rather than tonnes of distortion to give it a heavy edge. Once the vocals begin, I’m instantly reminded of Frank Carter, or rather, Frank Carter if he’d been in a hard rock rather than hardcore punk band. There is just enough melodic influence to drag it out of pure punk territory, but the attitude and anger is still there, particularly in the second verse where vocalist Thom Meredith riles against the inevitability of being stuck below societies elite (presumably the ‘vultures’ in the song title) with the line ‘I want what I can never have, I want what I can’t be’.
The Shameful is a more obvious punk track. Another instantly engaging riff throws in an off-key note at the end to add a slightly uncomfortable edge to the sound, perfectly complimenting a shouted vocal delivery dripping with spite. The chorus has a much more modern feel, combining harsh lead vocals with clean backing vocals to create a very While She Sleeps – esq anthem. The same effect is used on the following track, Strive to Survive, whose simpler lyrics and more obvious hook will make an instant crowd pleaser. The lyrics cover themes of freedom, media truths (or lack of) and conforming to a system. These topics are nothing new as lyrical inspiration, but the anger behind the vocal delivery draws you in regardless. It also features the EPs one and only guitar solo. Nothing flashy, just carefully selected and effective melodies.
While three of the four tracks have lyrics that, while obvious in their inspiration, are still fairly open to interpretation, the closing song, Tory Man, leaves no such freedom of thought. The title is a prelude to a scathing attack on the Conservative government and its associations with Britain’s rich elite. It is calculated and blunt, with lines like ‘Hey Tory Man, your policies gone to shit again’ and ‘Hey rich man with that blood on your hands’. While no names are mentioned, the video for the track makes it clear who such lines are aimed at. Thankfully, the far-from-subtle lyrics are wrapped in infectious rhythms and a stabbing riff that Tom Morello would be proud of, forming a sound musical backdrop for a strong message.
Obviously, if you share the political and moral stance of Saint Apache then you will relate to Black Days more than others. Even if you don’t, exposing yourself to different points of view is good for you, so listen to it anyway. The real strength of Black Days is that the poignant lyrics are supported by some of the best punk/hard rock music of recent times. They are not just another angry band making noise, they have some serious musical chops and a clear knack for crafting infectious tunes. This EP is the best example of their talent yet. My only real gripe with Black Days is that there isn’t more of it. When you have songs this good to shout along to, the current state of the world doesn’t seem so hopeless. For a few minutes anyway.
Highlights: The Shameful and Tory Man.
Black Days is released on 22nd February 2019.