For hitherto unknown reasons I was never a fan of The Safety Fire till now. Whether it was Sean McWeeny’s vocals or the overall complexity of the music I was listening to, I did not give the album enough spins and went on to hold a prejudice against the hype the community created behind this record. Gradually, when a few days back the “Mouth of Swords” album was streaming in its entirety, I took my scepticism off the table and decided to give it a listen: Man, did I eat my words that night!
It takes but a moment to acknowledge that pressing play on “Mouth of Swords” is equivalent to landing smack in the middle of a chemical experiment horribly and beautifully gone wrong. Promptly shifting dynamics to and fro, the title track starts the business in regular fashion till the crazy rhythm section takes reins. If anything, Sean McWeeny’s vocals seemed to sync with the music perfectly for me and was enough assurance of an album I was bound to enjoy more and more with each progressive listen. The band does not come out guns blazing at first but there is plenty surprises up their sleeves, like that lead section that rounds off the first track. “Glass Crush” boasts of one of the most fascinating arrangements of all the tracks on the album. The icing on the cake would be Lori Peri’s precise and crisp bass lines, especially the ambient, mellow outro to the track where Peri further shines, with his intuitive playing as the only thing capturing your imagination. Featuring “gang chants” in a Progressive Metal album would sound like an attention grabbing gimmick from most of the other bands out there, but given the tongue-in-cheek nature with which they conduct themselves, The Safety Fire pulls this one off smoothly enough. “Yellowism” features the perfect combination of fast, hard-hitting grooves and laid-back melodic rhythms. The curve on which the band has matured since their debut album is quite gargantuan (if that’s even possible). There is perfect flow between the compositions, which in itself is air-tight enough to cut off any creeping chance of monotony. “Beware the Leopard (Jagwar)” is another juggernaut to watch-out for with its Jekyll and Hyde nature. Featuring Between the Buried and Me’s Tommy Rogers on guest vocals. This time the band waits a good two minutes before hitting you in the face with Rogers’ low throaty gutturals. McWeeny maintains a steady, measured vocal delivery, alternating between high pitched cleans and the occasional shriek.
“Wise Hands” again focuses much more on the softer side of the bands musical endeavours. While I’m much in love with the lyrics and the melodic rhythm segment, I also tip my hat to applaud the amount of restrain the exercised over their aggressive side to carve out a delicate track like this. At this point, attempting a track by track analysis seems a bit futile because the band clearly has more whence the madness originated from, but it seems a bit wrong to proceed without highlighting the dexterity Calvin Smith flaunts behind the kit, best portrayed on the tracks “The Ghosts that Wait for Spring” and “Old Souls”. Complementing the chunky riffing on “The Ghosts…” Smith does a U-Turn identical to the rest of the band-members with the transition from “Wise Hands” to “The Ghosts…” with much élan. Given how most are uncomfortable with the flatness off the snare on the album, I daresay I am satisfied with how it fits the album perfectly like a glove. Smith’s work is half the charm behind the chorus in “Old Souls”. Pulling the curtain down on the nearly flawless album, Dez Nagle binges on some delicious lead-work, including a solo to stop things from sounding too easy.
“Mouth of Swords” takes its own sweet time to build up the feel, to let you grasp the vast array of musical creativity the band packed the record with. The thing with an album like “Mouth of Swords” is it does not go straight for the jugular; every riff, every line, every drum fill percolate in your subconscious till they host a sick orgy in there and burst into your head and occupies it for hours to come, quite the same way as Between the Buried and Me. And speak of the devil, BTBAM’s frontman Tommy Rogers does a guest stint on the track “Beware the Leopard (Jagwar)”, doesn’t he? Word from the now-wiser, if you truly want to critique this album, reserve your judgement and sit with it for a good 5 times straight before you comment.
Definitely featuring in my Top 5 Albums in 2013, “Mouth of Swords” provides just the right kind of fillip that a nascent band releasing its sophomore record needs, although it goes without saying that The Safety Fire knows their business well and their instruments better. Fans of maniacal Math influenced Proggy Metal would be right at home with “Mouth of Swords”.