Sound — 8
On their 3rd full-length album Life Is Not A Waiting Room, Senses Fail delivers 12 tracks that, although do tend to branch out into styles every once in a while, stays relatively true to the band's classic sound. Producer Brian McTernan was once again brought into the studio, and he does seem to be an expert at creating a larger-than-life, sleek sound. The guitars always come to the forefront, and the final mixer did them a great service. You get melodic guitar lines aplenty on Life Is Not A Waiting Room, and at times they are catchy enough to get stuck in your head immediately.
Life Is Not A Waiting Room kicks off with the low-key, brief opener Fireworks. It may not have the energy of some intro songs out there, but the quiet build-up really draws you in. Fireworks doesn't necessarily have that much going on in terms of the instrumentation in the first half, but that allows the vocals (possibly many layers) to come to the forefront. There is a brief moment in the song where you do get an explosion of distorted guitars, but the song once again closes with it's initial quiet sound.
Highlights on the album include Garden State, which features one of the most infectious guitar hooks on the entire record. Guitarists Garrett Zablocki and Heath Saraceno are constantly offering up little lines here and there to enhance the song, and it's cool to hear more than just chords underneath the vocals at times. Lungs Like Gallows is another track that does feature some intricate lead work underneath the chorus vocals, and that adds so much to the listening experience - particularly if you're able to pick up on every note through headphones.
Senses Fail aren't always convincing when they try out some different styles, but they do make some admirable attempts that are still structurally solid. Hair Of The Dog is a throwback to U2's The Edge, and at times that makes it distracting. It still sounds very cool with the amount of delay used, but it's hard not to shake the image of The Edge. Map The Streets dabbles in pop punk slightly in the verses, and for whatever reason, it falls a little flat. The choruses usually end up sounding a bit more like Senses Fail's usual sound in any case, complete with memorable guitar lines that end up driving the song.
Lyrics — 8
There is definitely a focus on personal emotions and turmoil on the new album, and the band does it's best to deliver a fresh perspective on topics that have been covered before. At times there is some rather unusual imagery used, as is the case in Wolves At The Door. Vocalist Buddy Nielsen sings, I want to drown in a sea filled with Novocaine; I want to burn on a beach where the sand; Has thousands of needles poking at my skin. Not every track takes this type of descriptive style, but the others tend to have more of a straightforward, honest feel to them.
Overall Impression — 8
Pretty much every track on Life Is Not A Waiting Room ends up having a thick wall of sound, but you also thankfully get to hear every instrument very distinctly. That is probably the direct result of the producer, and it's easy to understand why they have continued to work with Brian McTernan. There is a bit more emphasis on Buddy Nielsen's traditional singing, but the band hasn't discarded the screams altogether. Even so, it's still the guitars that drive the entire album and you'll have to listen to the record more than a few times to hear the little nuances that Zablocki and Saraceno have laid down underneath the vocals.