With Follow Your Bliss, Senses Fail has given a lot to please fans both new and old. The retrospective best-of collection provides a mix of 16 favorites from the band’s ten-year career, ranging from the raw sound of their earliest work to the more refined emotions of their past few albums. Rather than serving as a mere presentation of who the band has been over five releases, Follow Your Bliss also gives the added bonus of four new songs to show exactly who they are today. A great blend of heavy and melodic, the new tracks bring out familiar elements from more recent releases while expanding territory just enough to maintain interest and excitement. If you’ve enjoyed the past few Senses Fail records, you’ll find a lot to be happy about in these new songs.
“War Paint” kicks things off with a strong sense of urgency, as a few crunchy chords make way for a brief moment of silence that sets up the heavy hit of the first verse. Buddy Nielsen’s scream is as strong as ever, and it drips emotion throughout the track as it’s broken up with a melodic clean chorus and a powerful bridge around the two-minute mark. The drums propel the track perfectly, and the guitars effectively serve more to provide heaviness and atmosphere than the strong melodies that are found in many of the band’s other songs. The backing vocals behind the screams toward the end give the song another great texture. The track on the whole is exactly what a fan of heavier Senses Fail would want, but it keeps the style fresh with unique components.
For those wondering what new guitarists Zack Roach and Matt Smith have to offer, “Vines” certainly proves that they’ve got the classic Senses Fail feel down. The opening melodic line sets the tone for the rest of the song, appearing later on in the chorus as the verses consist of palm-muted rhythmic parts that maintain the melodic structure. Less heavy than “War Paint,” “Vines” puts the focus on Nielsen’s clean vocals, with driven verses, powerful choruses and a strong bridge. There’s also an emphasis on the band’s instrumentalists, as the guitar riffs, drum fills and bass lines stand out and the extended feel of the intro and outro sections allow these elements to shine.
“Early Graves” continues the melodic riffing, though with a different feel as Roach and Smith explore a few new sounds. The song falls further toward the pop side of the spectrum while maintaining an edge in terms of lyrical content and the guitar tones. The first line of the chorus is probably the most memorable of the new tracks, and the entire track is really strong in terms of both melody and lyrics. Drummer Dan Trapp’s part in the buildup to the chorus is spot-on, and he continues to be solid throughout. If there was to be a single selected from these new tracks, this would be an easy choice.
The final new offering, “Waves,” continues the trend of strong choruses and has the best bridge of the new songs. A pounding drum beat and driving guitar riff kick off the track, and the energy doesn’t let up until the end. Though there’s a lot of darkness in the lyrics, there’s a certain sense of hope about this song. While the basis of the track’s vocals is rooted in clean singing, there’s just enough screaming to kick up emotions to an appropriate level. The chorus features a nice guitar countermelody, while Trapp has some killer drum fills. The short break leading into the chorus is really effective, and there are parts of this song that will stick with you once it ends. On the whole, this is a nice mix of the melodic and heavy elements, even if it tends to fall towards the former rather than the latter.
If you’ve stuck with Senses Fail over the years and enjoyed their more recent releases, there’s a high probability you’ll like these four new songs. There’s a fair sampling of the band’s style in play, from “War Paint,” one of the heaviest songs the band has put out, to “Early Graves,” which would have felt at home on the more melodic Life Is Not a Waiting Room. While these new songs might seem to be somewhat similar to what the band has done on recent releases, they manage to keep the formula fresh and certainly not boring. The emotion behind each track is infectious and consistently draws me in for more. If this is any indication of what’s in the works for the band’s future, count me in to follow my bliss for another ten years.