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Album Review: TBA

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Album Review: The Safety Fire – Grind The Ocean

Formed in 2006, , like fellow UK-based did, have taken their sweet-assed time to getting around to releasing their delayed debut album. You know what they say though – “if it ain’t delayed, it ain’t djent”. It’s certainly unfortunate that Grind The Ocean arrives, just as the dial on the ‘djent-o-meter’ has ventured into the red ‘Saturation’ zone, but luckily these Cockneys aren’t just polyrhythmic heft and no trousers and have some neat tricks up their collective sleeve to warrant anyone’s attention.

They open with the crushing caterwauling of “Huge Hammers”. With the video having been plastered over numerous websites, there are many who will be familiar with the track’s madly scribbling arpeggios. They smother the listener, climbing up and down the walls as a boxed-in Sean McWeeney bellows himself hoarse to offer a counterpoint to snatches of vocal harmony; these babies are the delicious goo in that savagely hot pop-tart you were burning your lips off on earlier. Jarring lyrics like “Black beak, weapon to pierce, delirium scribbles” and “Piece of flesh in my eye, what’s not mine doesn’t hurt” had me hooked and the sharp mix working in tandem with their hardcore edginess is a factor that will help the band stand out from their rivals.

The meets double-action of “Floods Of Colour” offers up the chance to properly compare McWeeney’s tirades and serenades. The former, with their lack of tonal variation and damaged, grating quality, sometimes find McWeeney over-reaching, at the edge of his range, whilst the latter are prettily effective and delivered with panache. For those who’ve followed the band since the release of their Sections EP it’s a shock to hear him sounding so polished. In the negative column, electronically-tweaked spot-welds on those cleans mean the vocal harmonies occasionally flirt dangerously close to sounding auto-tuned.

Two offerings from the EP pop up here in the form of the solo-trimmed (yet still writhing) “Sections”, with Martin Goulding () and Pin (, ) guesting, and “DMB” which gets a face transplant, even though (from what I can tell) it’s musically identical, to become “DMB (FDP)”. The band insist DMB “doesn’t really mean much” but FDP “means a lot”. The latter acronym could stand for anything from Flat Display Panel to Flood Damage Prevention but, speculating wildly, I’m going to plump for “filho da puta” which is Portuguese for “son of a bitch”. It’s certainly still got the kind of smack in the face that might prompt such an utterance.

There are moments where the band drift fully into post-rock mode, initially hooking you in, but ultimately these tracks seem to lose their way. “Anomalous Materials”, for instance, drifts through the ether like a lost soul whilst the circling riff of “Seagraves” is but a half-thought. The band also seem to have a bad habit of getting trigger-happy when it comes to flicking switches, tying themselves in knots attempting to cram both action and relaxation into one space. Witness the challengingly-muddled “Animal King”. Strong and familiar at its opening, the track minces itself into a lather with plain old bad songwriting. It’s the musical equivalent of a dropped dinner, as the hard-edged, mathy spasming of your main course leaks into the softly-padding ambience of your dessert.

It’s odd having had only their grim-faced EP to listen to for so long so it’s yet another surprise to find both the sumptuously light “Circassian Beauties” and craftily airy title-track are where sound most comfortable. Having nicked back the pace without compromising their music’s honest approach, McSweeney, who at no point pushes too hard, masterfully croons his way through the verses, punches in with the mega-catchy riffs, owns the choruses and then easily struts back and forth as the guitars, bass and drums jink their way through complex sequences of technically-astute attack and release.

End of the day, this doesn’t really feel like djent at all. You could argue, with their combination of hardcore and progressive soundscaping, they don’t even qualify for the confines of the genre at all. The last bombshell is to discover that Grind The Ocean, as innovative as it may be, is stuffed full of promise yet, ultimately, ends up falling short in so many areas. However, with so much of their unique personality being stamped on their music like this, are still most certainly a band to keep a close eye on for the future.

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