During the emo takeover of the early 2000s, bands like Dashboard Confessional and Jimmy Eat World were stealing their fans’ hearts with their catchy, heart-on-sleeve alt-rock. However, on the other side of the spectrum, bands like Thursday and From Autumn to Ashes showed a much more aggressive side to emo – a side characterized by piercing guitars, memorable choruses, and a scream here or there. With the genre of post-hardcore becoming an honest, personal affair, New Jersey rockers Senses Fail broke into the scene a few years later with the release of their debut LP, Let It Enfold You. The band’s rookie release was impressive – in fact, it was superb. It’s just a shame that it falls a foot or two short of being a classic.
In a nutshell, Let It Enfold You is a punk record. But when taking the time to fully delve into it, the album proves to be much more complex than that. While it is punk rock, it’s on the verge of being post-hardcore. At the same time, though, the songs are as catchy as a Further Seems Forever track, and the band’s sound is more along the lines of My Chemical Romance than From Autumn to Ashes. Most of the songs retain huge replay value because of both nostalgia and angst, and they’re equally memorable as they are relatable.
While not being a game-changer instrumentally, lyrically, or vocally, this album still has enough power and connection to win big. Opener “Tie Her Down” succeeds from the very first guitar riff, and Buddy Nielsen’s vocals glide along with a potent stench of negative emotions. The energetic opener fails to match the succulence of “Lady in a Blue Dress” and the acoustic-tinged “Buried a Lie,” two of the album’s standout tracks that flourish thanks to their emotional resonance, musical straightforwardness, and – like much of the album – Nielsen’s agonizing vocal cries. Although lacking depth throughout the record, his lyrical content is addicting because it feels both sincere and sinister. As repetitive as the theme of death gets, the album’s overall vibe isn’t overrun by this suffocating sense of macabre.
Because of its strong musical direction and instrumental pungency, The Thrice-esque “NJ Falls Into the Atlantic” is one of the album’s best jams, and “Choke on This” is a great track mainly because of its speedy attack on the senses. The album is a pop-punk tour-de-force for a majority of the time. At the other times, the hardcore vibes and Nielsen’s vocal brooding remind the listener that they’re on an emotional roller coaster, and the lyrics having an overlying sadness that drive the songs home rather than having the instrumentation fulfill such a task.
It’s very clear that Senses Fail has moved past the “emo” moniker and has progressed into a more matured, solidified shell of the more-punk-than-pop band that they once were, but their debut full length has the sort of spirit that only a handful of emo records possess. This record retains a high amount of worth and appreciation regardless of how instrumentally profound or boisterous Still Searching is. Let It Enfold You is a near-classic because of its excellent combination of angst and nostalgia, heaviness and catchiness. And luckily, this record has aged like fine wine to the point that it’s a Vagrant Records classic. Someday, maybe it’ll even be regarded as a scene staple. Today, though, it arrives just short.