Sound — 8
Senses Fail shows a greater depth in its guitar work on the latest CD Still Searching, which is a godsend for a band that often gets mired in the intermittent screams heard in its songs. The new CD shows that Senses Fail has plenty of promise when it doesn't stick to just the screamo genre. There are moments when Senses Fail delves into everything from electronica to slow-tempo grooves, and that is when Still Searching hits its peak.
While the band's fans probably have come to appreciate the screaming, on Still Searching those outbursts really distract from the song arrangements that don't always call for an angry delivery. Thankfully, Senses Fail (vocalist James Buddy Nielsen, guitarists Garrett Zablocki and Heath Saraceno, bassist Mike Glita, and drummer Dan Trapp) shows it has the musical chops to go beyond that and play technically demanding tunes. The standout players are guitarists Zablocki and Saraceno, who offer up dual guitar harmonies that are the most inspired moments on the record.
The CD gets off to a less-than-thrilling start with The Rapture, a short starter song that is not bad, but it also may be just a little too subtle for its own good. When it is quickly followed by Bonecrusher, a song with a title that seems to require an in-your-face delivery, the band still fails to deliver any part that is particularly memorable. While Bonecrusher does have an interesting, almost scale-like guitar intro, it still quickly loses steam with a lackluster chorus and verses.
Sick Or Sane is the first song on the latest CD to feature Nielsen's screamo-tinged vocals. The screams actually get in the way of the polished feel that is heard in everything from the flawless guitar lines to the inspired fills. It is actually the guitar solo that takes the song to an entire different level mid-song, and is even quite reminiscent of classic '80s hard rock backs like Iron Maiden. It is precisely that guitar work that pulls off the task of making Sick Or Sane one of the best tracks on the CD.
The most unique track on the CD is All The Best Cowboys, which starts off with an electronic intro and quickly allows the guitars to mimic the odd timing of what sounds like a synthesizer or sample. Senses Fail never tries to be a band like Orgy during the song, but rather it creates a base arrangement that lays the groundwork for an incredible, yet straightforward rock tune. When the last line of the song abruptly melts into the next lullaby-ish track Negative Space, it brings it to a memorable close. While many of the songs aren't able to pull of the same feat, the band does seem to be evolving in a positive direction.
Lyrics — 7
When it comes to the lyrics on Still Searching, there is a mix of the impressive and mediocre. There are times on the CD where the song themes seem contrived and predictable, but then the next song could throw a curveball with some unique thoughts.
On Lost And Found, there is an overdone castaway-type theme that seems more silly than serious. Nielsen sings, This island has become an ocean; And my boat's too small; The waves are crashing in and I can't save this sinking ship; I sent out signal flares; But no one out there seems to care. The metaphor used just seems a bit forced and actually takes away from feeling a sense of connection to the song.
The Priest And The Matador gets off to the same shaky start, but salvages itself by the end. Nielsen sings, Here I lie; I'm staring at clouds and shapes of dogs and cats; I hear a woman start to yell, 'Oh, dear God I think he fell. While these are original thoughts, they seem a bit silly at the same time. The song does take an interesting turn, however, when the imagery of the scene is painted a little more clearly. Nielsen sings, A priest is rushing to my side; Begins to read me my last rites; Father you're too late; My faith is weak. The unusual images give the song more of its own identity by delving into topics like death and the power of faith, and end up offering a nice addition to The Priest And The Matador.
Overall Impression — 8
If you're a fan of screamo music, the band still provides plenty of the screaming portion of that equation. Unfortunately, those aggressive vocals tend to distract from some of the songs on Still Searching. To Senses Fail's credit, the band doesn't try to force the screams in every song and is even showing more of their acoustic side that was prevalent during their stint on the Warped Tour.
Still Searching does have quite a few songs that will surprise listeners in a positive way, particularly when the band features complex, yet melodic guitar solos in its songs. Guitarists Zablocki and Saraceno show a maturity in their playing, which is just as evident in the slower-tempo songs as the double-time ones. Although there is still inconsistency in the songwriting underneath those solos, fans of Senses Fail will likely be satisfied with the creative growth of the band.