Sound — 8
The Safety Fire was initially formed in London in 2006, and released their first album in February 2012. The time in between was spent playing local shows and honing their sound, as well as finishing their formal educations. Their debut full length release, "Grind the Ocean," turned some heads in the prog metal scene, and with their second release they've continued to push the envelope. "Mouth of Swords" is the band's second full length release and has a total of 9 tracks with a total runtime of approximately 46 minutes. The track "Glass Crush" was their first single from the album. Listening to the album, it is hard not to draw comparisons to Karnivool and Coheed & Cambria. What sets The Safety Fire apart from these comparisons, however, is the way they switch between clean and distorted sounds, both instrumentally and vocally. The album opens up with the title track, "Mouth of Swords," which immediately caught my attention with the odd guitar melodies created with weird intervals. The vocals switch between clean singing and screamed vocals (but a pitched scream, were not talking " core" style singing here). The song, like most songs on the album go through several time changes, almost like movements in classical music, occasionally coming back around to the musical theme of the song. The next track is the single, "Glass Crush," which immediately goes from a clean little slow guitar riff to some heavy riffing at a healthy tempo, and all of this while maintaining a really strong groove (which is rare in modern prog). Next up is "Yellowism," which has my favorite melody from the album in the intro. "Beware the Leopard (Jagwar)" contains some guest vocals by Tommy Rogers, though the main vocals are still provided by McWeeney. "Red Hatchet" has some fairly strong riffing and comes across as the second heaviest song on the album. "Wise Hands" is pretty light, with clean guitar and clean vocals, and some of my overall favorite guitar and bass work on the album. "The Ghosts That Wait for Spring" comes after "Wise Hands" with a vengeance seriously aggressive compared to the other songs on the album with an interesting little riff making pick scrapes sounding like a laser pistol. "The Ghosts That Wait for Spring" is by far the heaviest song on the album. "I Am Time, The Destroyer" is the next to last track on the album, and it takes the clean to distorted dynamic to another level, with the cleans being an almost lullaby and the distortion coming in crushing and fast. The album closes out with "Old Souls," which somehow comes across both lyrically and musically as very introspective with several "movements" within the composition.
Lyrics — 7
Sean McWeeney (unfortunate name) is perhaps one of the most talented vocalists I've heard in newer prog metal, and definitely utilizes his voice well throughout the album. The mixture of singing styles works well with their composition. Tommy Rogers (Between The Buried And Me) provided guest vocals on the track "Beware the Leopard (Jagwar)" very briefly, and he also did an exceptional job for his part with some guttural screaming to change things up. The rest of the group provides backing vocals frequently throughout the album. The lyrics from the album range between surreal and abstract, which is displayed on the track "Red Hatchet": "The prison surrounds as a perfect guarantee/ Wear curses like roses/ Damn yourself to a freedom/ If you don't believe in anything/ Believe in us/ Psychotic with convictions/ The zealot proclaims/ Our words are dead/ 'Til they're given life/ With our blood." Another good example is from the track "Yellowism": "Put the man on the stand/ A sentence to end him/ The word became cold/ flesh on a noose/ The gallows his picture frame/ I'll talk to god about the souls I've pulled out/ Run my fingers through their hair/ Tyrants of meaning/ Monopolies of beauty/ Even flowers are black at night/ I'll make my morals from the bottom up/ Sweet depravity my god/ My only power not in a word."
Overall Impression — 8
"Mouth of Swords" was my introduction to The Safety Fire, and what an introduction! Between the time changes, amazing (and sometimes schizophrenic) guitar work, and the great use of other dynamics in the music this album has absolutely kept my attention. While traditionally music has used the rhythm to create tension, The Safety Fire is an expert at using their weird melodies for creating tension. My favorite tracks from the album are "Red Hatchet," "Wise Hands," "Glass Crush" and "Old Souls." From what I've read, these guys put on an awesome live show so now I'm off to try to find out if they have any plans to tour in the US in the near future.