Review Summary: The senses of unpleasant sounds, for the most part, fail.4 of 4 thought this review was well written
It’s been a few months since Senses Fail’s fifth studio album dropped. What many may be unaware of in this digital society is a live DVD comes with a physical purchase of The Fire
. Halloween 2009 marked the first time the band would shoot such a release in their hometown of New Jersey at the Starlight Ballroom. Unfortunately, Senses fail has been regarded as a consistently atrocious live act, so perhaps the marketing seems to be barking up the wrong tree. Shockingly, the performance standards that have eluded this group for what feels like a century appear freshly rejuvenated this time around.
The best line up reunites for this special event, with the triumphant return of influential guitarist Heath Saraceno. Members periodically share brief interviews in between a worthy set list about their experiences up to this point. The DVD also has some pretty impressive camera angles, covering all the action in close up and wide shots. Things get under way with the classic oldie ‘Steven’ and right off the bat you can notice a staggering improvement in the unit. The powerful screams of front man Buddy Nielsen have drastically improved but how does the singing fair compared to all the suspected wear and tear? The answer is quite miraculously and it seems a youthful voice has somewhat reemerged.
The energy on the heavier songs is definitely admirable but despite musically never having sounded better, a cringing bravado lingers when the focus is taken off the harsh delivery. The main component in saving the weakest link during some of the more challenging requirements remains an uphill battle for both guitarists. Never the less, the dual harmonizations undeniably increase and enrich a majority of the blunders. The songs selected from Let It Enfold You
are where Buddy clearly gets to shine because they don’t stress the vocal chords like the post albums. In reverse, the instruments stun during the more technical arrangements from Still Searching
and Life Is Not A Waiting Room
When ‘Irony of dying On Your Birthday’ hits, it’s impossible to ignore how much it’s evolved in a live setting. The first warning signs of old habits commence once ‘Lady In The Blue Dress’ rolls around, but I’ll be damned if Heath’s voice isn’t goose bump worthy at the end. ‘Wolves At The Door’ contains excellent shredding from Garrett and Dan’s precise drumming resonates as the most consistently strong attribute.The second EP track 'Bloody Romance' captures prime execution but ‘Calling All Cars’ marks the turning point where everyone looks a bit flustered.
The pace picks back up for ‘Bite To Break The Skin’s’ climatic bridge and reminds fans of why they fell in love, but by the time ‘Can’t Be Saved’ arrives, one begins to forget. The performance is a jumbled mess that is slightly unrecognizable from the studio version. The nostalgic closer 187 isn’t much of a different tale and puts assumptions to bed that this outing was bearable due to remastering. When Buddy belts, “The pain that breaks my heart, each day, I’m not okay,” it’s as if a newborn shrieks out of the womb. Perhaps this lack of effort can be blamed on a long and tiresome set mixed with a rather misadventures crowd for a documented home show.
I’ve watched Senses Fail grow up through the good and the bad moments; In essence, that’s exactly what you'll experience on this DVD. People have been swift to spread or defend rumors that the negative comes from Buddy’s panic attacks and excessive drinking. It’s refreshing that the gossip finally gets addressed when he opens up, “I warm up an hour before, drink some whiskey, never get drunk, and most people think I’m drunk on stage because I act like an asshole a lot and say a lot of ridiculous things...but that’s just me.” Here lie the most interesting highlights that derive not from the performances, per se, but the blunt and fascinating confessions. In a nutshell, acquiring this is a worthy bonus addition to a fans collection and proves, for the most part, high quality on wax can still transfer on stage.