Review Summary: A worthy 10-year-anniversary collection which bodes promisingly for the future
The first thing to note about this aptly-named Best Of collection is that it is aimed at thanking the old fans just as much as it is a round-up of everything they've done thus far for hailing newer fans; owning a physical copy of this CD (or, CD's) leaves no doubt whatsoever. The booklet is what embodies this gratitude; firstly, it features a thorough breakdown of tracks 1 through to 16. Numerous band members have made a comment on each song - essentially, a track-by-track - addressing all the nostalgia of the band's uprising the past decade. Rather lovingly, the track-by-track does not ignore ex-members; Heath Saraceno, Garrett Zablocki and Mike Glita all have their own section on the various songs they were involved in the writing and production of. It is a small sign of gratitude to old fans, and perhaps a comfort, to see that old band members are not forgotten and are still in good relations. Secondly, the booklet is almost overflowing with a plethora of fan-submitted images, some of them taken with the band, some of them tour posters, some of them set lists, so on so forth. One of the most remarkable image collections is a double-page spread of fan's tattoos that tribute Senses Fail - it is, perhaps, emotionally moving to see how great an impact this band has grown to have on people's lives.
The point is, there is a handsome and powerful collection of images and commentaries that span the bands career, in keeping with the ethos of this record. Senses Fail are a group that do not, for so much as a single second, take their fans (or their career for that matter) for granted. The physical copy of this collection is a treat in its own right. And so, as the Best Of portion does not require a specific review, we proceed onto the four new tracks.
'War Paint' is a highly promising opening to the Follow Your Bliss EP; fuming open with Buddy's shouts, this is proven to be a worthy marker for their 10-year-anniversary. The opening lyrics of "I've still got passion, I've still got guts, but I no longer give a f*** about what you want" are, in their own right, a call-out to the criticism surrounding the band's supposed slow progress musically over the last few years. Senses Fail have suffered some fleeting criticism for refining their sound across Life Is Not a Waiting Room
and The Fire
- facing accusations of playing it too safe. While some recognise this as a negative thing, and others identify with it positively, one thing is cemented in the minds of the audience through this EP: James Buddy Nielsen is just getting started. 'War Paint' notably takes influence from Buddy's side project Bayonet
, while retaining and mixing in Senses Fail's own keystone progressive style. The track briefly holds up for a gentle bridge, detailing the more melodic stylings of the band, before jumping forward again to hit you in the face like a slab of concrete. 'War Paint' is a good mix-up of clean and unclean back-and-forths 'New Years Eve' style, yet with a darker sound to it, and it is nice to see a consistent experimentation of verse structure as opposed to the ever-increasingly stagnant "screamed verse to sung chorus to screamed verse" song structure. The track closes with a combination of the band's prominent traits: the fury of Buddy's shouts mixed with the melodic musicianship of his peers. This is Senses Fail.
'Vines' bursts forth again with a typical unique melody played above ever-powerful drums and bass. This second track again showcases the talents of Senses Fail - that they are capable of writing catchy riffs that still connect with fans on an emotional level. The song doesn't let up until the end and the chorus features the intro melody that pays homage to earlier tracks like 'Can't Be Saved', beneath those trademark Senses Fail powerful vocals. The opening to the third track, 'Early Graves', again hails the unforgettable melodies that stay with you, that you almost annoyingly find yourself humming on the toilet, in the shower, or while cutting the carrots for dinner. However, 'Early Graves' sees a faster-tempo and slightly fiercer melody than 'Vines', with the proceedings of the song exploding in recognition of the pop punk side to Senses Fail. 'Early Graves' is a highly catchy track that is a classic highlight of the band's ability to consistently write memorable songs that nonetheless never risk sounding the same. These two tracks consolidate the knowledge that Buddy does not need to rely heavily on his screaming, and are also a good display of his genuinely ever-improving clean vocal work.
Closer 'Waves' is an appropriate way to say see-you-early-2013-for-studio-album-number-five-hope-you're-excited-it's-going-to-be-big etc. And it does seem to accomplish that message. 'Waves' most impressive aspect is, again, the trademark Senses Fail soaring chorus. 'Vines' has a solid chorus, but it's only when you come to 'Waves' that you understand just how accomplished this band is at writing their soaring choruses and bridges. Interestingly, 'War Paint' and 'Waves' (the first and last tracks) correspond to The Dangerous Summer
's opening and closing tracks of the same names, respectively, on album War Paint. Senses Fail strongly (and perhaps fortunately, encouragingly, cleverly ...) make no recognition of even breakdown-esque moments in the EP which again is a promising sign. Senses Fail have never been big on breakdowns but they still are refusing to succumb to the early graves that their post-hardcore peers are at an alarming rate; they're not drowning beneath cliché waves or struggling, tangled, in vines of normality through the failed attempt of giving their music a little war paint (ha).
Production - 4.5/5
Crisp and powerful, upholding that familiar Senses Fail production refined over the last 2 albums
Lyrics - 4.5/5
Poetic, Buddy Nielsen again at his best
Sound - 4.5/5
Solid entry in their discography that catalogues everything they've done best while hinting at what they're going to do next
Replay value - 4/5
Hard-to-forget hooks and rhythms that will keep you going happily until their next release and beyond
Follow your bliss, goes the band's encapsulating statement. And we believe and understand them, because they do what they love and they love what they do and, so, that bold declaration is cemented by 10 years of success still ever growing. A good way to close the review would be to quote the ultimate line in Brendan Manley's sweeping overview of a tribute for Senses Fail's impressive career in the opening of the booklet: "It's a decade later, and still, there's so many miles more to go. Guaranteed, it'll be one hell of a ride."