Review Summary: A rebirth done the right way.
Senses Fail’s fifth album “Renacer” is the band's biggest departure in sound, lyric and overall feel though their decade long career – and it should come as no surprise. Well perhaps it does come as a surprise to some people, but for the hardcore SF fans that have taken the time to read up on the album details or those who have taken at least one semester of Spanish, “Renacer” is an open book. The album title is a Spanish verb in the infinitive-form meaning “to be reborn.” With that knowledge it is not difficult to understand why this is the heaviest, most explorative and dare I say visceral Senses Fail album to date.
This new incarnation of Senses Fail begins with a glaring change in sound. “Renacer’s” eponymous opening track is by far the heaviest opener of any SF record and is one of the heaviest songs they’ve recorded in general. This is in part due to the departure of guitarist and songwriter Garrett Zablocki and producer Brian McTernen, who had worked on the last three Senses Fail records. Nevertheless, Renacer
is the perfect track to start the record not only because it’s one of the album’s highlights but also because of how successfully it sets the tone for what’s to come. It’s almost as if the “Reborn!” chant in the background is a battle-cry, forcefully urging you to forget what you “think” Senses Fail is – because this time around they’ve truly switched things up.
While many things are certainly different on the new album, it is safe to say the Senses Fail we’ve come to know and love remains. Picture any of the bands past releases and turn it inside out. That is how “Renacer” feels, to an extent. Take, for example, vocalist Buddy Nielsen’s typically aggressive and very personal, inward lyrics. That aggression is now channeled through the heavier instrumentation on the record instead of the vocals. Following suit, the typical contrast to Buddy’s lyrics (poppier song structures and tones) now manifests itself through the more positive and almost uplifting lyrical direction. It might be hard to believe until you feast your ears on Buddy screaming, “love will set me free” and “It doesn’t matter if you fall down, get the *** back up” amid a crushing breakdown in Glass.
In terms of the album as a whole however, “Renacer” is a consistent and cohesive release. While that may not seem like a huge deal, it kind of is seeing as a change in sound can often lead to the pitfalls of disjointedness and lack of direction. Luckily, Senses Fail knows exactly what they want to do with the record, and they do it right. In an interview with Nielsen about the album, he mentioned the band wanted to utilize “space” as a means of heaviness. Standout track The Path
is the perfect representation of that because of how slow-burning yet devastatingly heavy it is at times. Some other notable standouts are the Spanish lyric-laden Mi Amor
and the thrashy Snake Bite.
Another conscious effort that really brings the album to a new level of cohesion is the lyrical connection between the first and last songs. The title track poses the question “When you look in the mirror are you the person you thought you’d be"” A similar line is present in the haunting final song Between the Mountains and the Sea
asking “Is the person that you are the person you were meant to be"” as if to revise the original question after being taken through the ups and downs of “Renacer” as a whole. It’s little additions such as this that make the album worthy of many repeated listens.
“Renacer” is certainly not run-of-the-mill fare for the New Jersey four-piece, and it benefits endlessly for that. To deviate even slightly from an established sound that so many fans have grown accustomed to is a risky yet commendable move. To do all that and succeed is an entirely different thing, and thankfully Senses Fail have achieved just that with their 2013 release. It deserves our respect and it commands our attention. This is a rebirth done the right way.