Senses Fail
Still Searching

Senses Fail - Still Searching

In the August issue of Alternative Press, Senses Fail vocalist and lyricist Buddy Nielsen had this to say about his lyrics for the new album: “No violence; no blood; none of that stupid shit. I want to be as honest as possible. Most of the songs are about the past year of my life, when I had a mental breakdown – I basically went crazy.” These words hold true on the New Jersey quintet’s second album, Still Searching. Gone are the songs about chainsaws, digging up dead girlfriends, and his obsession with fire. Instead, Nielsen’s lyrics are self-reflective and open about his struggles with depression and alcohol. This is a nice change from the cliché-ridden lyrics from Let It Enfold You and instantly you can tell Senses Fail have grown up, which was helped by Midtown guitarist Heath Saraceno, who joined the band on tour and then played and influenced the sessions of Searching. Immediately, the musicianship, most notably the guitars, have improved tenfold, thus strengthening all thirteen songs. The effort still has some notable flaws, but that’s not to take away from how much this band has matured and improved over the course of 2 years.

Surprisingly, the album has some nice variety in songs, from the spacey intro of “The Rapture” to the industrial-like sound of “All The Best Cowboys.” The anticipated “Bonecrusher” doesn’t disappoint, as it is a raucous rocker that highlights Dan Trapp’s drumming and the improved guitar work. “Sick Or Sane” produces mixed results for me, as the chorus is quite obnoxious after a few listens, yet the guitar solo in the bridge is sweet and is what keeps bringing me back to this track. “Can’t Be Saved” is one of the catchiest songs of the year, as the guitar riff needles into your brain and never leaves, and the sing-along factor in the chorus is at an all time high. “Calling All Cars,” which is the first single, is reminiscent of a Taking Back Sunday song, while “Shark Attack” piledrives you into submission with bruising guitars and some nice drum work. The title track is one of the harder songs on the album, as Saraceno and Garrett Zablocki’s guitars crush through the song. Nielson sings about how he is losing grip on his life, and his improved screaming helps the cause. Sure, screaming for the most part never sounds pleasant, but he’s improved from the whiney bullshit scream on Enfold to a deeper growl here. “To All The Crowded Rooms” is another barnburner and uses the nice harmony of Saraceno’s vocals to compliment the chorus. “Lost And Found” is my least favorite track, as it kills the vibe of the album. I can respect them trying something different, but it just doesn’t hold my attention. “Every Day Is A Struggle” picks up the pace, as it barrel rolls into your chest with drums at a breakneck speed and dueling guitars. Again, Nielsen tackles past demons in the form of a girl. “Negative Space” is a gentle, atmospheric intro track that continues on into the closer “The Priest And The Matador.” “Priest” is easily the best song Senses Fail has ever written, as the music is equally melodic as it is heavy. Nielsen’s vocals are at an all time best here. “Matador” is the highlight of the album and closes the album in fine fashion.

The two things that always come up in any Senses Fail discussion are Nielsen’s lyrics and vocals. While neither are amazing, they have improved dramatically. At least Nielsen has taken the right direction in his writing, dropping the violent lyrics shtick, as it is outplayed and quite annoying. The honest, opened up approach in his lyrics works well for him, although I feel he is one more album away from reaching his peak in writing, as his lyrics are hit and miss throughout Searching. Vocally, he is improved some, but let’s face it, the vocals are never going to be the strong point of a Senses Fail album. The best thing is for Nielsen just to focus on the strengths of his voice and downplay the weaknesses, which I think he does an admirable job here. In the end, the vocals and lyrics have improved, yet they still could use some tweaking. 

Still Searching is an interesting album. To me, it’s like listening to a new band, that’s how much I think they’ve improved. Their previous EP and album did nothing for me, in fact, I think they are pretty terrible. So, take notice in the fact that I’m not some Senses Fail fanboy blowing smoke up your ass about this album, I honestly think it’s one of the most surprising albums of 2006 and Senses Fail are one of the more improved bands this year. The musicianship on this album is what sold me, Heath Saraceno is the MVP on this album, which is not the take away from the other members of the band, but his influence is evident on this release. Overall, this album is going to do it for those on the fence with this band, as I believe it’ll change some minds. Still Searching is quite the improvement, and while it leaves some to be desired, it shows that Senses Fail are on the right path to fully discovering themselves. 

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