Venue: The Garage, London
In the calm before the bands took to the stage at this packed-out show at London’s The Garage, you got the sense that the crowd who’d gathered there was not your usual metal rabble. Sure if you glanced casually round the room you might have missed the subtle giveaways, but on closer inspection you’d find everything was not what it seemed.
For one thing, you got the impression that everyone who was capable of growing respectable facial hair was sporting a full beard or thick hipster moustache – perhaps inspired by The Safety Fire’s Derya Nagle, who’s own face fur contributes significantly to the band’s North Londoner image.
But that’s more of an aside, really. If you’d struck up a conversation with any one audience member tonight you’d more than likely have picked up instantly on what really defined this audience, as they gushed about the new pickups they’d imported specially for their 8-string guitar or lectures on the benefits of analogue pedals over digital ones.
Yes, this was a prog show – and an excellent chance to catch one of the UK’s finest upcoming acts.
Unusually, there was only one support act on the running order at this show, with openers Zoax finally kicking things off at eight. It was up to them to whip up the crowd into a frenzy and prepare them for the main event. Happily, they were more than up to the task.
Bearded Irish frontman Adam Carroll is a born performer, and provided many of the highlights in this intense half hour set. What he lacks by way of a singing voice, he more than made up for with sheer attitude and charisma. He set the tone almost straight away by coaxing the crowd forward to the edge of the stage… so he could dance at (and scream angrily in the faces of) anyone unfortunate enough to be standing with their arms crossed.
This short, sharp dose of aggression was exactly what was needed, and the room was noticeably warmer when this brief noise maelstrom drew to a close.
Tonight was The Safety Fire’s first live performance in eight months, having been locked away recording their phenomenal sophomore offering ‘Mouth Of Swords’. But as they took to the stage and kicked things off with recent single ‘Yellowism’ it was immediately clear the time off hasn’t impacted on their stage skills, as they expertly executed a barrage of chugging riffs and cool snare accents.
Already the room was full of energy as the guys launched into their first surprise of the evening – ‘Grind The Ocean’. Despite being the title track from their 2012 debut LP, this was the first time the song’s ever been performed live, and the crowd responded warmly to this rare treat.
It wasn’t until ‘Beware The Leopard’ that it became really obvious that The Safety Fire were playing over a backing track. Sean McWeeney introduced the song by apologising for Tommy Robinson, who’d selfishly chosen not to stop by tonight. As they launched into possibly the best song from the new record you couldn’t help but wonder how Sean would recreate the BTBAM frontman’s guttural guest vocals. When the time came, and Tommy’s unmistakeable roar bellowed from the PA, it became clear that he would not.
Next came ‘Old Souls’. Sean’s awesome shouted vocals in the verse sounded every bit as cool tonight as they do on record. But it was THAT SOLO that provided the first truly epic moment of the evening, as Dez churned out the distorted chords that precede it before plunging into those soaring note slides.
Everyone laughed as the second half of this expansive set got underway, as the band decided to have a little fun with their backing track by executing one of those cheesy ‘rewind’ DJ effects during the intro to ‘Huge Hammers’.
Next the room bellowed out the ‘vest choir’ parts to ‘Glass Crush’, and by the time the end of the set finally drew near everyone in the room was suitably hot and sweaty. (By this point, Dez’s saturated moustache was visibly dripping with perspiration.)
‘Animal King’ served as the penultimate song of the night, and the band stormed through it with the same combination of precision and ferocity they’d been displaying all evening – and topped everything off with another stonking solo from Dez.
‘Red Hatchet’ was the obvious choice for set-closer, and that’s exactly what the guys went with tonight. This is everyone’s last chance to dance and they know it. Spurred on by members of The Safety Fire jumping down into the front rows, the show ended on a frenzied metal-induced high.
‘Mouth Of Swords’ is a remarkable album and these guys are putting on a great live show right now – catch them if you can!
Reviewer: Solomon Radley