First and foremost, let it be said that I’m a faithful Senses Fail fan – but for the sake of providing an accurate representation, I will attempt to be objective.
First and foremost, let it be said that I’m a faithful Senses Fail fan – but for the sake of providing an accurate representation, I will attempt to be objective. The band’s fourth studio album The Fire is once again the band providing a fantastic example of a post-hardcore record, featuring Sense Fail’s characteristic high-pitched melodic guitar lines, frequent harmonies, emo-tinged vocals and incensed screams. However, the new record presents no dramatic change from their last effort Life Is A Waiting Room (2008) – to the point where the pace and pattern of the introductory riff on its fifth track Coward is even specifically reminiscent of Life Is A Waiting Room track Lungs Like Gallows. Throughout the release, certain sequences continue to cue recollections of tracks from their previous works, but this also isn’t necessarily a negative thing, and merely represents the fact that Senses Fail have crafted a consistent and archetypal sound for themselves.
A distinguishable element of the new album is the increased aggression present in the heavier sections of the tracks. Coward, New Year’s Eve, Irish Eyes and Lifeboats feature strong hardcore riffs and furious screams, transcending the aggression present on earlier releases. Singer Buddy Nielsen vents his growing frustration that, at 25-years-old, he still finds himself consumed by his past and unable to move forward.
Across all of Senses Fail’s releases, Nielsen’s lyrical content has often been concerned with self-conflict and low self-esteem, regret, the prospect of death, alcoholism and the resentment he feels towards his absentee father. The Fire sees Nielsen attempt to extricate himself from these preoccupations.
Coward sees Nielsen reach the realisation that he needs to forgive his father and let go of his anger to move on; but during the song’s climatic point, where Nielsen directs intense, enraged screams at his father, it’s apparent that his feelings of betrayal are still very present. Lifeboats sees a defeated, hopeless Nielsen tired of fighting, and Irish Eyes, Headed West and Nero touch on his struggle with alcoholism, a consequence of the events of his past and an inhibitive factor in his quest to move beyond it.
Always as well-crafted as they are candid, Nielsen’s lyrics turn adversity into artistry as he utilizes metaphors, similes and clichés to deliver his personal content in an accessible and creative form. His use of analogies serves to convey such honest, subjective material in a witty, lyrical fashion.
Senses Fail’s music has always had an ability to generate and emotional response from its audience, as fans attach their own personal meanings to their emotionally bare subject matter. From the opening riff of its first track, The Fire sets a feeling of unease, immediately drawing you into Nielson’s world and suspending you there until its last track Hold On. In terms of melody, tracks Headed West, Lifeboats, Saint Anthony and Nero stand out, presenting memorable vocal lines always aided and enhanced by guitarist Garrett Zablocki’s catchy melodic licks.
The band’s first attempt at a live DVD that comes with the album, though, isn’t great; the sound levels weren’t flattering, highlighting ex-guitarist Heath Saraceno’s strange backing vocals more than Nielson’s leads, and accenting vocal harmonies (if we can call them that) during which both parties were out of tune. The camera jumped shots enough to make you dizzy, and the footage failed to capture the band at their best.
Senses Fail are exhilarating live, whereas the DVD struggles to capture and hold your attention. If you’re an after a more accurate insight into what the band are like in a live setting, you’d be much better off going to a show.