Review Summary: Emotional turmoil making for more substantial content: Exhibit #23456789
The road that Senses Fail has taken over the years is not one that could be easily seen as smooth. In the eyes of some, Buddy Nielsen had become notorious for injecting political messages into many of the band’s social media posts as well as their live performances. Whether or not you agree with either his sentiment or that of his critics, the reality is that it did bring forth a wave of controversy. It was announced that Senses Fail would be re-recording tracks from their From the Depths of Dreams
EP to remove derogatory language that Nielsen had penned, so it appears this hasn’t changed a whole lot. What has changed, however, is their approach to songwriting with their latest effort, If There Is Light, It Will Find You.
Hearkening back to the sound of Let It Enfold You
and Still Searching
, this album manages to retain the maturity that comes with age in the process while providing a rejuvenated version of their youthful, pop-punk influenced roots.
It’s difficult to truly call this “back-to-basics” when considering Senses Fail’s evolution; it’s more so paying homage to the old while still bringing a new spin to it. Their last two efforts before this showed them becoming heavier and more reminiscent of melodic hardcore, but the latter of which sacrificed too much of what made Senses Fail great to begin with. Thankfully, the boys still had it in them to write this, as this is arguably their best since 2008’s Life Is Not a Waiting Room.
It’s definitely not without its misfires, but they are so few and far between that it’s near-completely excusable. While “Gold Jacket, Green Jacket” may give off the idea that Buddy Nielsen had tried to ghostwrite for Prophets of Rage but missed the cut, songs like the title track, “First Breath, Last Breath”, and “Orlando and a Miscarriage” contain a far more devastating emotional aura than anything off Pull the Thorns from Your Heart.
For all his technical shortcomings as a vocalist, it’s hard to deny that Nielsen has passion for what he’s singing about, which is why this album works so well.
On that note, the lyricism has easily taken a step up this time around. While half-baked clichés and less-than-ideal vocal performances ended up bringing down their last release, the blunt writing here works to its advantage. It’s not unthinkable that Nielsen has been through quite a bit in his life, and this feels like well-needed catharsis for the man; “First Breath, Last Breath” in particular is about how his wife almost died during childbirth in 2017. Opener “Double Cross” is meant to be a reflection on the band’s lineup changes over the years, “”You Get So Alone At Times That It Just Makes Sense”” details how Nielsen had desired death for years, “Stay What You Are” pays homage to the band Saves the Day, and the title track closes the album brilliantly. “New Jersey Makes, The World Takes” is a reference to substance abuse and the opioid crisis, as well as those who have unfortunately lost their lives as a result of said crisis. It’s true that “Gold Jacket, Green Jacket” may come off as overly preachy depending on which side of the aisle you align with politically, but it’s no worse on that front than anything in BackWordz’ catalogue.
Years of suffering, lineup changes, and other controversies can certainly make or break a band, and Senses Fail proved with If There Is Light, It Will Find You
that their strife wasn’t enough to pull them down, as this is one of their best releases in years and a significant rebound from its predecessor. The weight of their inner turmoil, much like that of many powerful empires and their debts, could have served to set them up for an eventual collapse, yet Nielsen and co. seem to have prevailed thus far. The only question now is this: will they continue on this path and retain their strength and maturity, or will they veer off the road of prosperity and into an abyss that they may not even be able to come back from next time？ Prospects are high for the former, but there still remains the possibility of the latter. Like the saying goes, all we can really do now is hope for the best and prepare for the worst.