I’m almost never compelled to buy the CD of an opening support band. Usually, their music might be decent enough but it isn’t more than a warming up. I’ve seen more than enough opening bands make a complete failure of themselves on stage so I’ve come to expect little of them.
Hence I was very pleasantly surprised by the musical gem that’s called Safemode! Halfway during their first song I had to admit that I loved it! Actually,I happen to think they’re the definite winner of the evening but let’s leave that to the concert reviewer. I’ve never seen such a solid musical presentation before in an opening band – an engaging stage presentation, great music – well done guys!
After headbanging my head and neck sore, I simply had to buy that CD – even the price is no limitation, as it’s priced at a very reasonable €10. How on earth they manage to break even with such stunning artwork is a mystery to me – no failed Photoshop creations for this band; this looks like they’ve been doing it for years.
Apparently, they’ve only existed for 4 or 5 years, Last.fm lists their starting year as 2007. It’s very hard to find more information about this band so please forgive me if you miss certain bits of information you’d like to know. Most importantly, they won a major Swedish band contest in 2009 (think about it, just two years after they started!). In between all of this, they recorded a few EPs and released their first full length album in 2010 – the subject of this review.
Now, on to the music. To just say it’s great wouldn’t do enough justice to it. What is awesomer than a flawless integration of Scandinavian melodic death metal and US metal core? Some reviewers interpret this as shallow or ‘not unique enough’ but I fear they failed to pay attention to all these small details that make this music worth a listen.
At first, you’ll indeed hear the very polished sound of your average metal core band. Very melodic songs, a couple of breakdowns and some heavier parts. That doesn’t do the band any disservice but I’d say, there’s a lot more to discover. Say, for instance, the lead guitar. In both In Reverse and I’ll Show You The Exit, you can clearly hear the Scandinavian sound creeping through in the melodies, effortlessly mixed with the solid foundation of chords that the rhythm guitar produces. This influence can be found throughout the CD and adds a nice Scandinavian flavor. At times, there’s even some real melodic death metal detectable!
They’re definitely not afraid to play with soundscapes. The intro of Don’t Take It To Heart is a great good soundscape that gives me goose bumps. I like how the drums almost play a melodic role, supported by the ethereal sound of the lead guitar and the clean vocals. The often lamented ballad is also a perfect example of how this band can’t be stuck in standard genres. I’m sorry to all who might disagree, but I’d be VERY happy if all bands made ballads like that! It’s definitely not a cheesy song in a major tonality, actually they use this combination of chords that make it sound rather suspended. I wouldn’t describe it as a ‘song’, it’s more a soundscape (compare with Nahemah’s work), just let it wash over you and listen how Safemode manages to take you on yet another musical journey.
And yet, they don’t fail to write engaging, solid songs. All this playing with sounds and genres always results in enjoyable music that isn’t hard on the ears. As We Fall, We Will Rise Again perfectly demonstrates how they effortlessly mix various genres to produce a solid song, sometimes reminiscent of Before the Dawn, sometimes more of Killswitch Engage or even Demon Hunter. In Need of Answers is a nice, powerful song that displays so many interesting parts that I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow overview, I’m just saying that it’s structurally unbreakable and clearly shows the songwriting capabilities of this band.
As for musicianship: they don’t show off their skills in lengthy solos but I think this CD is a tribute to their musical abilities. I haven’t seen any extraordinary guitar work but you just can’t produce songs like this without being a terrific musician. The main vocalist certainly deserves a word of praise, as his versatile grunting adds just the right touch where the music demands it (how on earth can you call this music ‘screamo’? ). And let’s not forget the other band members, as the clean vocals are mainly provided by them. I wasn’t able to found who exactly sings when or what, so I’ll have to suffice with telling you that their singing is a great addition to the music.
A small point of criticism might be that their music doesn’t sound very original. Not to accuse them of plagiarism, but the harmonies and chord patterns are rather predictable at first. Still, they don’t fail in adding these little gems that immediately pique your interest, like rhythm shifts, a little breakdown or an interesting new melody line. I’d definitely like to see more of this in their next work. Perhaps not in the area of melodical innovation -as it is very hard to develop new chord patterns that are as pleasing to the ear as this – but more in breaking free from their various genres. For instance, the last part of Charitable Deeds adds some new elements to the music, even a choir, going into an entirely other direction of what you might be expecting.
Their song structure received some criticism, as it is said that their songs are too much structured around a chorus. I’ve got to politely disagree. While I agree that their choruses are generally quite melodic and the interludes somewhat less, I wonder why this is perceived as negative. Hide Behind Words has a very nice breakdown where I don’t miss the fact that the main chorus is missing for a while. Especially as they aren’t afraid to play with soundscaps-ish melodical interludes, I don’t see why their song structure would be a point of criticism. For instance, in Don’t Take It Too hard, they start a melodic line that continues and slightly changes throughout several breakdowns (like the critically acclaimed Becoming the Archetype). This also shows in Guide Me Right, where they add a new staccato melodical line, remove it for a while and transition back to the chorus.
Finally, I’d like to congratulate them on their flawless transitions from song to song! It makes the CD a very pleasant listening experience as you’re kindly guided from song to song.
In sum: great band, great music – immediately buy this CD if you’d like to hear something both comfortably familiar and refreshingly new! Fans of Before the Dawn and Insomnium will be delighted to find a Christian band in this genre.
Written by ChingChuan
01. In Reverse
02. I’ll Show You The Exit
03. As We Fall We Will Rise Again
04. Charitable Deeds
05. Guide Me Right
06. Don’t Take It To The Heart
07. Hide Behind Words
08. In Need Of Answers
09. A Cry For Help
10. There Is Hope
Label: Independent / 2011
“Die To Live”, 2009
“For a Better Tomorrow”, 2011