The Safety Fire
Mouth Of Swords
2nd September 2013 – Inside Out Music
01. Mouth Of Swords
02. Glass Crush
04. Beware The Leopard (Jagwar)
05. Red Hatchet
06. Wise Hands
07. The Ghosts That Wait For Spring
08. I Am Time, The Destroyer
09. Old Souls
Metal is, by and large, a serious business. Its screams and scowls are a catharsis for anger and frustration. Souls are tortured and spleens are vented – but this doesn’t seem to apply to The Safety Fire who, by all accounts, are having a whale of a time as they release second album Mouth of Swords.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the procession of tremendously silly YouTube videos, which the band have been putting out since before debut Grind The Ocean was released. These videos seem to be infused with the type of in-jokes that can develop between long-standing, close-knit groups of friends.
Not only do the band not take themselves too seriously, they also appear to enjoy purposefully enraging the legions gormless and superficial commentators. This pleases me greatly. I also can’t help but wonder if it is some of these more facile comments that provided some of the lyrical inspiration for lead single “Yellowism“.
However, for all this levity, The Safety Fire are clearly deadly serious about the music they create. Grind The Ocean was a strong debut by any measure, but with Mouth Of Swords they have raised their game on all fronts.
Like its predecessor, it takes at least a couple of listens to start to get the measure of Mouth Of Swords. There are moments of immediacy peppered through the album – such as the introduction to “The Ghosts That Wait For Spring”, which must count as the most straightforward, balls-out heavy riff the band have penned to date – but, in the main, the sound is just too rich to fully take in on the first listen. But this is no bad thing.
The band’s tech-prog (trog?) metal reminds me most of Aconite Thrill. but for everyone other than the dozen people that will remember them, it could be said that they sound like TesseracT might have if they’d spent more time listening to Sikth and Glassjaw than to Tool and Meshuggah.
Although the band as a whole have clearly been challenging themselves in their approach to their instruments, this is most obvious with singer Sean McWeeney, who spends a significant proportion of the album pushing the upper limits of his range. This is showcased with particular effectiveness when juxtaposed with some fearsome guest bellows from Between The Buried And Me‘s Tommy Rogers on “Beware The Leopard (Jagwar)“.
The bass nerd in me notes that Lori Peri‘s basslines sit more prominently in the mix than they had previously, and his more over-driven tone locks in tightly with Calvin Smith‘s taut, snappy drumming to provide a fuller backdrop for Joaquin Ardiles and Dez Nagle ‘s stunt guitar fretboard acrobatics.
On “Glass Crush” the trademark frenetic arpeggios give way first to gang vocals, then to a languid coda that demonstrates the variety on offer here. “I Am Time, The Destroyer” erupts in a single beat from delicate introspection to a full-throated rage.
The fact the guys have been playing together since they were in school is clearly paying dividends, with the band now a sleek and well-oiled machine. I suspect this is also a prime reason behind how the band have turned around an album of such high quality so soon after their debut.
So, if Grind The Ocean set the outline of The Safety Fire’s sound, Mouth Of Swords has coloured it in. Richer, deeper and more accomplished, the album represents a genuine progression.
Fundamentally, The Safety Fire are a collection of pleasing contradictions; they are light-hearted but serious minded, they play head-bendingly complex music with self-assured ease, and that music is unabashedly heavy without succumbing to directionless aggression.
2013 is proving to be a landmark year for progressive metal, and even with so much quality to choose from, Mouth Of Swords should be considered a priority purchase.