I already know that most of you have written off Senses Fail due to their previous recordings, which while completely understandable, will more than likely cause you to prematurely judge Still Searching. The unfortunate aspect of that fact is that the band's new album is actually a huge step in the right direction, and is more than just another mediocre sophomore attempt . Instead, the band has actually evolved, learning from their mistakes on Let It Enfold You and seemingly going back to their roots, with some tracks sounding as if they could have been ripped straight off of From the Depths of Dreams. While not perfect by any means, the listener does receive a Senses Fail album that rises above not only what Buddy Nielson and the gang have done previously, but every other band in their respective genre has as well.
As mentioned before, Senses Fail has gone through a slight change or evolution both lyrically and in sound. While From the Depths of Dreams was a breath of fresh air in an overcrowded, monotonous, and extremely generic field of garbage unfortunately mislabeled as “screamo,” their first full-length Let It Enfold You was a step backwards and only seemed to ride the tired waves of this overplayed genre. Full of worn-out clichés, lyrics that consisted of nothing but suicide, murder, a distinct distaste for the female gender, and terrible screaming that plagued nearly each and every song, Let It Enfold You was far from what many expected from the then up-and-coming band. However, with the release of Still Searching, Senses Fail have not only redeemed themselves, but proven that a band accused of catering their music to 14-year-old girls can indeed show maturity.
While the band has improved many aspects of their music, perhaps the biggest and most obvious change in Still Searching is the sound. The first thing that the listener is hit with when hearing the album is the distinct “poppiness” that Still Searching carries. For the majority of the album, the dark overtones that plagued Let It Enfold You are gone, instead replaced with catchy hooks that drill into your brain the first time you’re exposed to them. This new sound is nowhere more apparent than in what is sure to be the band’s next single, “Can’t Be Saved.” This song truly showcases just how much Senses Fail has changed as a band, both lyrically and musically. While their new sound isn’t as pop driven as let’s say, Fall Out Boy, it is a bit more comparable to Boys Night Out’s 2003 release Make Yourself Sick. True to that album's overall tone and feel, Still Searching combines pop-punk with just a tad of hardcore influences.
“Every Day Is a Struggle” is another Make Yourself Sick type of song, including gang vocals and, believe it or not, mature lyrics. While their EP and prior full-length were guilty of such lyrics as "Well I had a dream last night and in my dream I took a knife to you / I slit your throat from ear to ear / The wound was gasping for the air / Your scream so clear,” Still Searching's lyrics are completely different. Gone are the images of blood, murder, and revenge. Instead, these issues have been replaced with depression, struggle, and everyone’s favorite drug, alcohol. In fact, some of the lyrics could be compared to Good Mourning-era Alkaline Trio. Lines such as "So much for the past year / I poured it down the drain with all the alcohol and pain I got from / your eyes, oh your eyes / I’m burning out my bedside / And I’m rotting out my insides slowly," and "I've got something to say / About the last twelve months I've lived / I'm not the same kid / I was when I was younger / I just thought you should know / I take a pill every day / To help me deal with life," really help showcase just how far the lyrics have progressed over the past two years. Sure, they’re still dark, but at least this time they’re not overly wrought with images of bloody chainsaws.
However, some songs still carry a bit of Let It Enfold You, showing that Senses Fail couldn’t completely part with the horrendous screaming that made their last album somewhat unmemorable. Songs like “Sick or Sane (Fifty for a Twenty)” and “Shark Attack” are two examples that fall victim to pointless screaming, with the latter featuring just two lines of lyrics that for some reason were chosen to be screamed rather than sung.
Another unique and unfortunate aspect to “Sick” and “Shark” is the random guitar solos that appear in these two songs and only these two songs. These meaningless guitar solos occur right after the “screams” on both tracks and, at least for me, make it suddenly sound as if I’m listening to The Curse by Atreyu, which, needless to say, no one wants. It perhaps wouldn’t be so bad if the whole album showcased these solos, but the fact that they appear in only two songs seems as if they were just an afterthought, something tacked on to appeal to those kids who perhaps miss the more “hardcore” Senses Fail. Either way, these solos are excruciatingly cringe-worthy and are a major detractor from the album overall. Yet all is not lost. The title track of the album does feature “screams,” but they surprisingly work well with the heavy tone of the song and the constant drum beats. Though perhaps the fact that a guitar solo is nowhere to be heard in “Still Searching” might have a huge reason to do with it.
Overall, this is a solid release for a band that many won’t even give a chance, which in reality is a shame. For not only have Senses Fail changed the overall tone of their music, they’ve matured in just about every aspect a band can as musicians. Sure, their music still isn’t going to blow anyone way as it’s still not groundbreaking, nor is it going to be in anyone’s top five at the end of the year. But one thing is for certain: Still Searching defines Senses Fail as the band to beat when it comes to what so many of you like to call “nü-screamo,” and while that may not be much, it’s still something.