“Who the hell are these guys?” you might be thinking. Don’t worry, you’re probably not alone. Not many people payed attention to The Safety Fire‘s EP Sections that was released in 2009, but it was pretty good. It didn’t rock your world or make you instantly look down at other bands; but it was catchy and you could tell these guys were a step ahead of their peers in terms of songwriting and instrumentation. So were the three years in between Sections and their new full-length album Grind The Ocean kind to The Safety Fire? Well, to be blunt…not really.
Grind The Ocean roughly falls somewhere in the progressive-metalcore area. People might immediately want to lump them in with bands like Periphery, but I would argue that The Safety Fire puts much more emphasis on the “progressive” side of their music than Periphery does. Unfortunately, at least on Grind The Ocean, The Safety Fire doesn’t seem to have the restraint that the “progressive” side of metal needs at times. Songs frequently feel like their running too long, a problem that could absolutely kill any album. In fact, as far as problems go, that’s one of the biggest ones on Grind The Ocean; songs just often feel overwrought. Most of the time I found myself checking the playtime hoping that the song was coming to an end fairly soon; how many times could you hear the same riff start-and-stop between pointless “atmospheric” pauses separating passages of music within the same song? Well I hope you like that a lot, because you’re going to be getting tons of it while listening to Grind The Ocean.
More problems? Sure! Some of the lyrics during the album are downright embarrassing; especially when vocalist Sean Mcweeny chooses to sing instead of scream. Turn on the albums closer “Grind The Ocean” and you’ll hear a prime example during the opening minute or two, it shows up throughout the album also. It’s rather disappointing; especially for a vocalist who has shown how talented he is: great range and easy to understand, even while playing live (so this isn’t just a case of the albums producer making him sound good). Progressive-anything always has the chance of becoming cheesy for lack of a better word, especially when it comes to lyrics. That may be fine for some bands like Dream Theater, but I get the sense that The Safety Fire didn’t actually mean for them to come off this way on Grind The Ocean.
The instrumentation doesn’t fair much better either. Drums are ho-hum and completely forgettable, serving merely to push the song forward and fill in dead air when convenient. The guitars are at best tolerable and at worst completely irritating. Something about them seems to overpower everything else in a bad way. The technicality seems out-of-place and forced; nothing interesting ever happens. No riff turns into something that makes you go “wow” or take notice. It all just seems to mesh together into one big blob of mediocrity. There is something about the album where the individual pieces just do not mesh together well at all.
In essence, the genre has past The Safety Fire by. Bands like the aforementioned Periphery have taken this same sort of music and have done better. If you want the progressive instrumental side, than you might as well listen to Animals As Leaders. See where I’m going with this? As it stands right now, they’re just isn’t a compelling reason to voluntarily listen Grind The Ocean. They’re are many bands that do this same sort of thing much, much better.