It’s amazing how one album can change the public’s perception of a band. Thanks to remarkable improvements Senses Fail made with their second album, Still Searching, many changed their opinions on the New Jersey quartet. The band had found a niche, and Life Is Not A Waiting Room progresses from the themes and vibes of its predecessor.
Senses Fail does little tinkering with their successful formula, enlisting Searching producer Brian McTernan once again to mesh the twelve tracks into a seamless journey. Still present are Garrett Zablocki and Heath Saraceno’s sick guitar riffs, as well as Dan Trapp’s persistent work behind the skins. One new wrinkle is Hot Water Music’s Jason Black temporarily filling in for the departed Mike Glita on bass. But the glue to Senses Fail is still vocalist Buddy Nielsen. Once an easy target for his vocals and lyrics, Nielson has made incredible strides in both his writing and delivery, as the whiny screams from the debut album have been replaced by unforgiving barks and his lyrics have become his own form of self-medication of anxiety and depression.
Waiting Room begins with the dreary and slow “Fireworks At Dawn,” setting up the theme of the album. It transitions into the frantic “Lungs Like Gallows,” where Nielsen vocally shreds the track. Senses Fail definitely knows how to balance aggressive verses with huge hooks. The guitars zip throughout “Garden State,” one of the catchier songs in the band’s discography. “Family Tradition” emphasizes some gang vocals in the chorus and needling riffs from Saraceno and Zablocki, while Nielson touches on addiction.
“Four Years” and “Yellow Angels” work together, displaying two different vibes (one is aggressive, the other more atmospheric), yet both come full circle with the same outros. It’s an interesting way to combine themes and portray them in two ways. Sandwiched between the two is the infectious “Ali For Cody,” which is highlighted by a pulverizing bridge and Nielsen’s improved screaming. “Map The Streets” may stick out from the other tracks, as it harkens back to some of the poppier songs the band had created earlier in their career.
In the end, Life Is Not A Waiting Room takes what worked on the previous album (big hooks, tantalizing riffs, and self-reflective lyrics) and tweaks them just a little bit. If you were a fan of Still Searching (or air-guitar), you will definitely enjoy this. Vocally, we know that Nielsen will never sound like Aaron Marsh, but he has found his niche by staying in the range of each track. His vocals will never be great, but they will never be as bad as heard on Let It Enfold You. While this album gives us nothing groundbreaking or genre-shattering, Senses Fail have created a consistent product without resorting to the trends that are abundant in the scene today. Life Is Not A Waiting Room is full of anthems, beatdowns, and is just a fun-as-hell record to rock out to. Nothing more, nothing less.