Review Summary: Breaking News: Buddy Nielson has been seperated from his testes. Senses Fail has lost its manhood, and has fallen into a state of mainstream regression. Have fun with this one critics, your gonna have a goddamn field day.
I'm out...I am without a doubt the biggest fanboy of Senses Fail on this site. Introduced to me by a local scene girl I was forced to work with in my English class three years ago, I was instantly hooked and jumped on the bandwagon just in time for the release of Still Searching, which ranked among my favorite albums of all time; but then again, I am just a typical 15 year old with no musical taste whatsoever. What I am trying to get at here is that basically, Life Is Not a Waiting Room is nothing but a shadow of what Still Searching was; and coming from me, the ultimate fanboy, that makes it an utter disappointment.
Not that Senses Fail is a spectacular band in any right, I just found their corny lyrics as something relevant to everyday life, many a critic had said that my personally rabid interest in Still Searching and the band in general would fade as I listened to more diverse forms of music . They were wrong, Still Searching stuck with me, I listened to it almost daily and used it to think, motivate before games and work out to. I had massive expectations for the follow up, and anxiously waited for the release. I avoided the MySpace stream due to the poor justice I found it did New Surrender and waited until it was available on Rhapsody to get it in good musical quality and found that it fell apocalyptically short of what I expected.
Senses Fail's strength had never been in its instrumentation, for one, they played generic pop-punk laced with traces of metalcore elements. Their lyrics had always been the driving force behind the music. Whether it be corny, relationship metaphors on Let it Enfold You, or the deep story of personal struggle that made Still Searching what it was, Buddy's thoughtful lyrics and emotional delivery always kept listeners coming back. Although not the most talented of vocalists (to say the least) Buddy’s rather lackluster vocal ability was always covered by clever production, group vocals, background singing, or denser musical structure. Unfortunately, the producers drastically altered and exposed Buddy's delivery for this work, his voice now nasally and prepubescent (see Hair of the Dog) and his screams higher (Wolves at the Door). The songs have lost their magic and lack the IT factor that made tracks such as Buried a Lie, Calling All Cars, The Priest and the Matador and Bite to Break Skin what they were.
Musically, it appears the band has taken a step forward in creating a more unique sound. The instrumentation, although as previously stated not being the band’s strength, was always catchy enough to cover the vocals and has taken a few steps in a positive direction. More complex riffs and new guitar effects replace what would have previously been basic power chord progressions, and more metalcore type elements have been incorporated; among them faster, thicker double bass, used more extensively by drummer Dan Trapp than on the band’s previous effort, and more breakdown type sections. Zablocki and Saraceno’s dueling guitars are as stated previously more complex, and play a more varied style than in the past, generating a dare I say; progier effect than before.
The opener, Fireworks at Dawn, seemed to be building up to something epic, just like The Rapture on Still Searching, but just in general, Life Is Not a Waiting Room just failed to meet its potential. It drags on as an album filled with what-if and if-only. Songs like Map the Streets and Chandelier fall in the ok-average range, something I’m not used to at all. The passion in the songwriting and vocal delivery is all but gone, a shallow shell of its self. The screams can only attempt to compensate and come across as poorly done, and sometimes exist only as background effects that do a horrible job of covering Buddy’s apparent pubic regression, his voice still coming across as whiney and shrill. A few bright spots do appear throughout the album however. The catchy Garden State and anguished Ali for Cody feature some excellent solo riffing and guitar harmonies and the depressed Hair of the Dog, although marred by a poor vocal performance, is still emotional enough to suit my tastes. The real highlight is the lead single, Family Tradition. With that old sense of personal passion and conviction, excellent lyrics and a solid delivery, Buddy brings back the old days as the song explodes into an unbelievable chorus laden with group vocals and double bass, the best moment on the album.
Senses Fail is inching closer and closer to the mainstream, softy ballad Yellow Angels and the vocally disabled Four Years, although not terrible songs, show that the band may be in danger of selling out, if they have not already. With this new found love for the mainstream and no real changes in between releases save for the loss of bassist Mike Glita, Senses Fail has nothing to account for their change in sound.
Senses Fail have shown nothing short of progress over their relatively short music career, just three albums in, they had already proved to me that they were at the forefront of the horribly boring pop-punk genre. Their unique mix of metal elements, pop-punk harmonies, and deep, reflective lyrics, kept listeners interested, and always made for a fun listen. Still Searching was intensely passionate, albeit depressing, but was so perfectly structured and produced that it had earned its place among my favorites to this day. Unfortunately, this album disappoints in most ways for fans expecting something.. My opinion is biased, and casual listeners will see nothing more than a bunch of above-average, more deeply thought-out pop-punk songs, but to true fans of the band, Life is Not a Waiting Room will seem like an epic fail, coming across as drained and tired, as an exhausted Senses Fail desperately tries to regain thier former footing.
The Clear Best
Hair of the Dog
The Bottom Line: Buddy’s apparent castration has ruined this promising band at the core, crippling its foundation and ruining the only thing they had going for them; unless something changes, this band will go nowhere fast.