Dating back to their debut extended play in 2002, a certain duality has always existed in Senses Fail’s music. For perhaps the first decade of their career, that duality was mainly applied to how the band balanced its pop-punk and hardcore roots across thirteen or so tracks on an album, as frontman Buddy Nielsen’s lyrics trended more on the nihilistic side of things. But their fifth album, 2013’s Renacer, felt like a spiritual awakening for Nielsen, as that duality started to transition over to his lyricism. 2015’s Pull The Thorns From Your Heart followed that same path as Nielsen championed living and thinking positivitely over the negative.
Which brings us to Senses Fail’s seventh full-length album, If There Is Light, It Will Find You. It is the culmination of numerous line-up switches and life-changing experiences, as it is the first record to be solely written by Nielsen. Many of the band’s peers have risen and fallen (or never risen at all) over the nearly two decades of Senses Fail career, yet the band continues to not only survive but thrive, releasing their best album yet.
If There Is Light, It Will Find You also feels like the yang to Thorns’ yin – with Light being more reliant than ever on the band’s early pop-punk edge while diving into some of the real life shit Nielsen has faced over the last two years. There’s a song from the last album that felt like a re-birth of Nielsen – a triumphant realization of one’s life and how to move forward from all the pain (“Wounds,” for those curious) – but that ideology has to fight through a lot on Light, as it’s consistently challenged throughout the album’s twelve tracks. On another Thorns song (“The Importance Of The Moment Of Death”), Nielsen screams that he’s “no longer afraid to die” so naturally Death decides to take him up on the dare for nearly the entirety of Light.
It’s no coincidence that the album cover depicts an image of Death cradling the new life of Nielsen’s daughter – a stunning image that resonates throughout. The visceral “First Breath, Last Breath” has The Reaper staring Nielsen right in the eyes as he visualizes a life where his wife dies giving birth to his daughter. Nielsen wonders how he can raise this little girl without the love of his life, feeling dead spiritually and emotionally. The frenetic “Orlando And A Miscarriage” is a gut-punch of a track with Death confronting Nielsen in the horrifying form of losing a child (“I wish I could see your face, but life I guess had other plans/and maybe you’ll be born again, for someone I never met”), while the slow menace of “Shaking Hands” features Nielsen at his most vulnerable (“You’re slipping away/and now I feel the pain”).
But the light eventually finds Nielsen along the album’s journey, as tracks like “‘You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense'” and “Stay What You Are” show a love of life and cherishing each day; adoring love letters to his wife for saving him from himself. “New Jersey Makes, The World Takes” is a pop-punk ripper that chronicles all the friends lost to drugs and alcohol, yet Nielsen reinforces that he’ll do his damndest to never give in and offers hope to those who still struggle (“I overcame all my demons and I know that you can too”). The juxtaposition between the upbeat, anthemic pop-punk with the heavy nature of Nielsen’s words showcases Senses Fail at their finest. For every doubt that appears on “Is It Gonna Be The Year?”, there’s validation on the fiery opening single “Double Cross,” a spirited number that has Nielsen still believing in his passion (“This still is the only thing that, that is worth my breath”).
The title track closes out If There Is Light, It Will Find You in incredible fashion – it encapsulates all the best parts of Senses Fail over the course of a soaring six-plus minutes. After everything Nielsen has been through the last 24-odd months, the light still shines through the dark, even in the bleakest, loneliest of moments (“Let your love be the thing that defines you”). Nielsen not only smiles back at Death, he’s embracing the duality that it presents.