Senses Fail might be the most consistent group of guys in the scene today. If you have ever listened to this band, you will find little, if anything, on this album that will come to you as a surprise. The songs on The Fire have emotion, they have above-average instrumentation, and they have integrity. However, they find Buddy Nielsen singing and screaming as well, if not better than, he ever has, and the songwriting present here is thoughtful and well-executed. As a whole, the album flows better than any of the band’s previous work. It is the continuing perfection of these small things that allows Senses Fail to keep their music fresh and interesting, and these things combine to make The Fire some of their best work to date.
The album begins with its title track, an energetic song that fits its name very well. Featuring lyrics that are more positive than one might expect from Senses Fail, this is a new side to the band that blends well with the musicianship and raw emotion that fans have grown to love. It’s strange to think of Senses Fail as an uplifting band, but when Nielsen sings “it’s okay to be lost” in the chorus, it’s difficult to feel anything but good. This is a great opening to the album, and definitely one of the strongest songs on The Fire.
The next song, “Saint Anthony” (patron saint of the lost), is the first song that the band released to promote the album. Though the track shows the band experimenting with their sound just a little, the lyrics are classic Senses Fail. I wasn’t really a fan of the way the verses sound upon first listen, but they’ve really grown on me, to the point where it’s almost difficult to remember why I didn’t like them.
Though “New Year’s Eve” opens with a short guitar intro, the song truly begins when we get a full dose of screaming about ten seconds in. By this point, it’s overwhelmingly clear that Nielsen is at the top of his game on this album. His screams are great, and the transitions between the heavy portions and the singing parts of these songs are executed very well. This song features my favorite chorus of the album, with lyrics that remind me of why I fell in love with this band with Still Searching and Life Is Not a Waiting Room. All of this combined with an excellent bridge made this the song that really raised my anticipation level for this album prior to its release.
“Safe House,” the first song from The Fire that was not used to promote the album, has lyrics that would be at home on any of the band’s previous work, and finally gives listeners a break from the intensity present on the first three tracks. That’s not to say that there is a loss of focus, only that the band knows how to mix things up some in terms of dynamics without losing interest. This is yet another strong piece of writing.
An early fan favorite from the album, “Coward” is one of the heaviest Senses Fail songs in years. This is perhaps due to the similarities between the guitar riffs present here and on the band’s previous work and the power to be found in Nielsen’s scream. Furthering the theme of contrasting a newly found positive nature with the trademark negative present throughout the rest of the album, this is an aggressive song with a crushing breakdown. Though the singing parts aren’t quite as good as on the preceding tracks, the screams more than make up for where those parts lack, and it’s easy to see how this song could be incredibly effective in a live setting.
If you enjoyed the lyrical themes and overall sound that was present on Life Is Not a Waiting Room, then “Landslide” very well might be your favorite song on The Fire. Another break from the heavier side of the album, this song is one of the most intimate sing-along tracks the band has ever done. Immediately following it is “Headed West,” which might be the weakest song present on the album, speaking volumes as to exactly how solid this release is. Buddy has a knack for writing nearly flawless choruses, and this song is no exception. There is also some very interesting guitar work throughout the verses, but at times it seems that the song as a whole is just a bunch of parts that don’t quite match as well as parts of other songs do.
If you enjoy the heavier side of Senses Fail, “Lifeboats” is another song that will fill your desires. One of the darker songs on the album in terms of lyrics, this one relies heavily upon Buddy’s scream, though there is a refrain and a bridge with clean vocals. “Nero,” immediately following, might be the antithesis to “Lifeboats,” at least in terms of sound. While the introduction begins with instrumentation not unlike something that might be expected from Angels & Airwaves, the song quickly breaks into guitar parts that sound more like the Senses Fail that fans have grown to love. The lyrics reference the alcoholism present on the band’s previous work, though this time it seems that Nielsen is doing his best to break free, both from the liquor and the person leading him to drink.
The album picks up once more with “Irish Eyes,” a song that continues the darker lyrics of the past few songs. There are definitely some great lines in this song, including one of my personal favorites: “stars remind me that light shines from the past.” If you like the guitar and drum parts from the band’s previous work, then you’ll find yourself pleased here. It’s everything a Senses Fail fan could want, from great guitar riffs to catchy, emotional melodies. Finally, the album comes to a close with “Hold On,” a song that sounds like a more upbeat version of “The Priest and the Matador” from Still Searching. While the lyrics are somewhat morbid, they manage to be uplifting, in part due to the guitar parts that back Buddy’s singing. They feel as though they are rising up from despair to hope, and create the perfect setting in which to end the record.
I would be lying if I said that Senses Fail was doing something new on The Fire. I would also be lying if I said that this was a bad thing. This album shows the band doing exactly what they do best: writing emotional songs with catchy melodies and instrumentation. The lyrics are heartfelt, intimate, and honest. While the guitar work is not quite as impressive as on other albums (the band changed guitarists since the release of Life Is Not a Waiting Room), the songwriting is as solid as it has ever been, and these songs don’t ever feel as though they are lacking. I had my doubts leading up to the release of this record, and every doubt has been proven wrong. Buddy’s voice has only improved, their lyrics are still strong, and this album is fun and inspiring to listen to. Though I’ve had the album for less than a week, I have a feeling this may stand as my favorite by Senses Fail. Only time will tell if that holds true, but that feeling says a lot about this record considering how much I love Still Searching. In a year when many of my favorite bands released some of their best work, Senses Fail is no exception and The Fire will definitely have a spot reserved near the top of my year-end list.