Senses Fail have always been a guilty pleasure of mine ever since they released their debut EP in 2002 on ECA Records. Yes, I have one of those rare original copies – so I’ve been a fan for a while.
Yet, their output has always had their ups and downs. I’d love one album, thought their next was somewhat bland, loved the follow-up and then was disappointed again. The distinction between their last two albums – Still Searching and Life Is Not A Waiting Room – was the most drastic. Still Searching was strong, energizing, impressive lyrically and a complete package. Hell, I think it even made it to my top ten list at the end of the year. Life Is Not A Waiting Room was pure shit – bland, forgettable and boring to the point that I can’t name you a single song from it.
I wanted The Fire to redeem them, to follow the trend and be an album that I loved. But it wasn’t. After the first few listens, all I felt was that Senses Fail had, once again, delivered a bland and generic album. It was heavier than most of their earlier stuff – that I couldn’t deny – but it was too polished, too clean and just oddly forgettable.
After a few more listens though, I realized that The Fire isn’t the same as Life Is Not A Waiting Room or Still Searching. Instead, The Fire is a grower. It’s a record that doesn’t jump at you but slowly grows. I still can’t get behind it as much as From The Depths of Dreams or Still Searching, but The Fire is growing on me as a complete album rather than individual tunes.
Sadly, very few tracks really stand out in the mix. There’s a few – Saint Anthony, Landslide and Nero for example – but they’re few and far between. Instead, The Fire works as a complete album. Playing through, building up intensity and momentum so that even though many tracks don’t really stand out per say, they work together in the package.
As mentioned before, it’s heavier than ever before. Former Hot Water Music bassist Jason Black has added some depth into the rhythm section and front man Buddy Nielsen has expanded his vocal reach. More so than ever before, Nielsen lets go and screams bloody murder. Yes, I like it more when he’s melodic but to deny his talents as a hardcore screamer would be impossible. In fact, the juxtaposition of screams and harmonious group chorus on Lifeboats makes the tune an album highlight. What starts off jarring and out of place soon grows and leads the song into one of the very few that can easily stand alone.
Lyrically, it appears that they’ve taken a step back as not many lines are really that memorable. It could be due to the fact that very few songs stick out which makes the lyrics unremarkable as well. This, once again, is disappointing because I’ve always enjoyed Nielsen’s lyrics despite their overly depressing content; there’s just no clever turn of phrase here that I want to repeat.
The Fire is a middle of the road Senses Fail album – not their best but not their worst. It has definitely grown on me but still feels as if it’s lacking something. It’s still a little too safe and too polished, but maybe a few more listens and it’ll sink in some more.