THE SAFETY FIRE’S GRIND THE OCEAN IS DYNAMIC AND DIVERSE
Despite what their name might suggest, The Safety Fire are not an indie rock band. The group, having toured with the likes of Periphery and Monuments, are a progressive metalcore band from the UK and their first proper album, Grind the Ocean (hooray for still verbing the noun!), is a rock solid prog metal production that is far better than its fretboard over-caffeination gives it any right to be. The Safety Fire sound right at home within the scene that bred such bands as Sikth, Architects, and The Arusha Accord and, much like those noise specialists, they’re spastic, crazy technical, and quite melodic at the same time. But unlike most of these names (save for Sikth who will always hold a warm and fuzzy place in my heart), The Safety Fire are actually pretty listenable over an extended period of time.
The lead track and first single, “Huge Hammers,” begins with a muffled intro of pinball machine pinched harmonics and heavy syncopation before launching into the expected BANG that, for all of its predictability, still packs quite a punch:
A big part of that zip comes from vocalist Sean McWeeney’s (that’s not a typo) hardcore bellow. His unrefined delivery is refreshing amidst the crowds of faceless growlers that front comparable acts and it works as a nice counterpoint to the fairly sterile production of the record. He is also very capable in the clean department as further showcased in the opener, with a confident and clear upper-middle register that is neither whiney nor over the top in what it reaches for. Occasionally I find myself hearing a little Kim Benzie in his timbre.
McWeeney’s bandmates are nothing to sneeze at either. I’d be willing to bet someone a pretty penny that these guys have probably heard of Meshuggah and Between the Buried and Me as those plentiful sweeps and 7-string bends would more than suggest. Without getting into the whole argument of whether or not the band is just a product of its influences, I will say that they seem to muster a compositional command over their writing that rarely allows for anything inane or jarring to get past the drawing board. A mature sense of Cynic-like melody also surfaces in some of the lighter cuts like “Circassian Beauties” and the stunning title track.
The Safety Fire’s music is dynamic and diverse throughout each song, able to capture and maintain a listener’s attention across their multiple 6-minute epics. However, one speed bump they stumble over a little bit is one many of their peers also have trouble with: the need to showcase every element of their sound in every song. There’s a reason a lot of metal bands today make albums that sound the same from start to finish and I’m pretty sure this is it. Fortunately, this flaw comes across as a little less dire given the reasonable duration of their record.
I’ve heard a hundred bands that sound like The Safety Fire, but for whatever intangible reason these guys do the whole progcore/djent bastard/”insert subgenre here” thing much better than most. Grind the Ocean probably won’t change your feelings on their style of choice, but it makes a strong case for it.