The Safety Fire

Grind The Ocean

01. Huge Hammers
02. Floods of Colour
03. DMP (FDP)
04. Anomolous Materials
05. Animal King
06. Circassian Beauties
07. Sections
08. Seagraves
09. Grind The Ocean

[04/10/12]
[InsideOut]

When I first heard London’s The Safety Fire, I was completely blown away. Of course, I’m talking about the opener of the album, ‘Huge Hammers’. It’s a very unique and memorable song that is quite technical and overall awesome — but let me take a step back; The Safety Fire perform what I’d call technical/progressive alternative metal. They sound like a mixture of Sikth and Mudvayne and Tides of Man, but with a lot more technicality and jazz influences thrown in. Grind The Ocean is their debut album; a flurry of mind-bending riffs, enchanting vocals and memorable licks. But the main question is: Does it all come together?

Mostly. It’s a grand premise, and each of the components are nigh-perfect, however, some of the magic is lost when putting them together. But don’t fret, it all works out! Let me elaborate; there is not a single dull riff in the album. Every riff is interesting, unique, and challenging. Guitarist Dez Parka (real name Derya Nagle, but his nickname is cool!) is clearly in a different class than most guitar players. I always make a big deal out of riffs that are both technical and memorable, and this album is just an exercise in how to do them right — but therein lies the problem. A lot of the riffs are just strung together one after another, and since there’s a constant onslaught of complicated technical riffs, there isn’t any baseline to hold them together, so they end up sounding like guitar exercises at times. Unless the guitars are explicitly playing a rhythmic riff (and man, those chugs are heavy and those grooves are groovy), there is very little in the way of a rhythm section, so Grind the Ocean may sound directionless at times. The bass and drums follow the guitars most of the time (which is no small feat with all the stuff going on), so this issue is exacerbated even further. Though once you acknowledge that issue and move beyond it, the riffs are just so good.

Every song has an incredible hook. Each song is very distinct, and I constantly find myself just playing a single song to listen to all the sweet riffs within. A short while later, I realize that I’m listening to the entire album on repeat because all the songs are awesome. It’s that good. On that note, I want to talk about the other negative thing about this album; the songs are a bit slow at times. I understand that it’s not easy to play all that stuff, and I understand that they’re trying to set a mood here, but having an awesome riff followed by a riff that is just a bit too slow sometimes kills the momentum. Since the band are very fond of stop-go riffs, the slowness becomes even more apparent and sometimes lessens the impact of the buildup and drive established by the other great riffs. However, sometimes they also use this as a tool. When the pace slows down to a crawl, they come in with a really heavy riff that feels like a solid punch to the face (in a good way). And in the end, the overall songwriting quality prevails.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let me get to the vocals. Man, the vocals. Singer Sean McWeeney alone is reason enough to listen to this album. His voice is very unique, haunting at times, and heartbreaking at others. His screams do remind me of Chad Gray of Mudvayne (especially during ‘Sections’), but it fits perfectly into the music. The fact that he can make his weird scream fit over the heavy sections, and then sing beautifully over the jazz breaks and epic choruses is very impressive. The instrumentation is no doubt awesome, but the vocals are just as great. I keep saying this and that is awesome, but that’s because that word is perfect for describing this album.

I’ve given high praise to the guitars and vocals, but the bass and drums aren’t to be taken lightly either. The bass is clearly audible almost all the time, and even though it usually follows the intricate riffing of the guitars, it sometimes sets the mood by doing something funky, like in the beginning of the amazing title track. The drums also complement the guitars most of the time. There’s always some fill going on, but usually it’s just a similar pattern to the guitars. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and they fulfill their purpose; and the occasional extra touch the drums add makes the music even spicier.

Overall, this album is a slightly flawed masterpiece. It’s beautiful, provocative and evocative, challenging, and at times suffering from its own machinations. It’s definitely not for everyone; it’s slow at times and more jazz influenced than you would immediately assume, but there’s also an unprecedented amount of very high-quality guitar work  and an endless stream of memorable, epic sections. Even though it’s slightly lacking in certain aspects, I believe that the positives outweigh the negatives, and I’ve listened to this album more than anything else this year at this point. That alone speaks to the power of this album. It gets better and better the more I listen to it, so I’d recommend that you don’t come in with any expectations, and set aside some time to let it sink in. Grind The Ocean is soothing yet fierce, familiar yet unexpected, and a great debut. I didn’t regret giving it a chance, and I hope you won’t either.

The Safety Fire – Grind the Ocean gets…

4.5/5

– NT

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxyrV3Bgf50]

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