Review Summary: Sure, the combination of pop-punk and metalcore is about as original as combining chocolate with peanut butter, but it still tastes pretty good with the right balance...14 of 16 thought this review was well written
For the past few years, countless pop-punk bands have been experimenting with combining elements of so called "screamo" into their music with mixed results. Many of these bands have exploded into popularity thanks to the advent of sites such as MySpace and Purevolume, but few have been able to stick around for longer than one or two albums, and those that have stayed together have more or less rehashed the same stale ideas from album to album. While 2004's Let It Enfold you was a fairly successful and enjoyable album, it seemed to many as if Senses Fail would be yet another one the aforementioned bands to fade away into the endless expanses of similar bands. While they may not be the most creative and inventive kids on the block, Senses Fail has managed to stick around by making just enough tweaks and adjustments between albums to sound fresh.
Still Searching found the band adding more metalcore elements to their sound. The catchy hooks and power chord progressions where still there, but were now being mixed with actual riffs, leads, breakdowns, and even a guitar solo or two. So how does Life Is Not A Waiting Room compare with Still Searching? Well, it sticks to pretty much the same formula as Still Searching, while simultaneously fixing the negative aspects and expounding on everything that made the album enjoyable. The guitar riffs are slightly more technical, Buddy's singing/screaming has changed slightly (some will probably find the newer delivery a little bit nasally), the choruses are bigger and catchier, the heavier songs are just a bit heavier, but still manage to maintain the overall catchiness of the album, and the melodies are, well, more melodic.
The songs are themselves are fairly varied, which is a bit of an oddity nowadays. When listened to as a whole, the layout of the songs brings up sort of a rise and fall feeling. The songs go back and forth from stripped down pop-punk songs, faster and more melodic songs with a sort of metalcore flair, and heavier songs, and it does so without becoming too predictable. The slower and stripped down songs feature some of Buddy's best performances so far. Album opener Fireworks At Dawn is bit of a regression to the rather nasally pop-punk delivery of Let It Enfold You, while Family Tradition features a rather emotive vocal styling in the verses before shifting into the huge choral arrangement in the chorus. Guitar-wise, the album has an ample amount of leads, solos, and riffery. What sets the album apart is that the solos and riffs aren't there just because the guitarists feel like bringing the shred, but nearly every solo, lead, and riff compliments the mood of the song. The melodic leads found in the catchy pop-punk affair Garden State, and the mid-paced harmonized solo in Wolves At The Door are great examples of this. The rhythm section is solid, though nothing to really go nuts over. The drums stick to fairly standard beats but do throw around a few technical fills and some interesting double bass work. The bass kind of gets thrown in and out of the sound depending on the song. Its almost absent from the heavier songs, but its quite present in the slower songs, and when its heard it adds a nice low end to the sound but doesn't do much to impress past that.
The only real let down is in the lyrical department. The lyrics aren't necessarily bad, but there are few points where they cross over into cliche territory such as the chorus from Wolves At The Door; "I want to drown, in a sea filled with Novocaine/I want to burn, on a beach where the sand is littered with razor blades." There are also a few rather simple and childish rhyme schemes where the same sounds are used for the duration of a verse or bridge, but those spaces are few and far between, and they don't end up being all that detrimental in the long-run.
Basically, this is just a fairly straightforward pop-punk album with a few metalcore elements thrown in, and it doesn't claim to be anything more. If Senses fail would take a bit less of a formulaic approach down the road, they might just be able to produce something genuinely excellent. In all honesty, the album probably won't leave you speechless, or turn everything you thought you knew about music upside down, but it is catchy, melodic, heavy, and more or less enjoyable.