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Album Review: TBA

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Album Review: The Safety Fire – Mouth Of Swords

Five years back when The Safety Fire first popped up with their debut EP, Sections, their take on progressive metal involved swathes of broken, discordant shouting and harsh instrumentation powered by a rumbling war machine of bass-loaded guitars and drums. As they have developed their style they have wound back the distortion and begun showing off a surprising lightness of touch and wicked sense of melody that is characterized by their evocative arpeggiated stringwork. Now with their new album, Mouth Of Swords, continuing this upward trend they have easily their most accessible work to date.


These gentle footsteps away from the heavier end have allowed vocalist Sean McWeeney to really shine. Once viewed as the weakest member of the group, frequently tested by the songwriting to deliver a range that was quite clearly beyond his ability, there is now a solid case to be made for him being their greatest asset. No longer is he to be found wanting by requests to scream without self-destructing; no more is he overstretched when asked to deliver a pin-point high note. Part of this may be down to the higher recording values which now bring a multi-layered, polished finish to all areas, but there can be no doubt that he is now simply just a much improved singer. His tone these days beguiles, fusing eloquently with the pulsing underscore to create an ultra-smooth finish.

One thing that hasn’t changed is his lyrics which are still mad, rambling pastiches of sentences. ‘Glass Crush’, for instance, offers up “We´re here to help you / To protect you from yourselves / Like a rambling priest / Fill the gaps with the myths”. It’s not all bonkers though – here, McWeeney does find time to write recognisable verses and choruses that demand repetition. Realistically, there’s not much to grab onto up top (though its hardly filler) but when you reach into the belly of the album there are songs that are mind-blowingly good. ‘Beware The Leopard (Jagwar)’ is a total beast of a track. Comparison with Between The Buried And Me‘s work had already been worthy of mentioning, but with Tommy Rodgers guesting here, the link is nailed down. By turns, soothing and vicious, the music glows with a fluorescent vitality and the interwoven dual vocal attack is the pounding heartbeat of the album.

Elsewhere, ‘Wise Hands’, being soft, dreamy and sensuously poppy, is hugely reminiscent of Twin Atlantic and Athlete. It is easily McWeeny’s finest hour. What’s most satisfying is that even though it slows the pace to a sway, at no point though does it threaten to weaken the momentum. If you‘re in any doubt, you’ll find the Gojira-esque bass-heavy powerplay, string slides and adjacent, atonal delivery of ‘The Ghosts That Wait For Spring’ a welcome bedfellow. With the apoplectic roar of ‘I Am Time, The Destroyer’ and the mesmeric bassline and falsetto hook of ‘Old Souls’ finishing things off, this UK quintet have produced a near faultless sequence of tracks.

Considering all these pros, what is Mouth Of Swords greatest achievement? Perhaps it is, in fact, that within seconds of spinning it, you’ll know the artist. The constantly burbling, rise-and-fall guitarwork, the crisp tone and accurate switch-up from ripped invective to soft melody can only be one band. That’s a desirable quality to have and, consequently, makes them pretty darn formidable. Although you’d never describe them as a finished article, they must be getting pretty close now. They have become a unique, inspirational force and the verve of Mouth Of Swords has rightly set the benchmark, not just for them, but for much of their competition.

This review also online @ Heavy Blog Is Heavy = http://www.heavyblogisheavy.com/2013/09/09/the-safety-fire-mouth-of-swords/
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