Review: Senses Fail – If There Is Light, It Will Find You

There is a true rage on If There Is Light, It Will Find You, the new album from Senses Fail, that can only manifest with age. Eighteen-year-olds can scream all they want, but they haven’t lived life long enough to see everything truly collapse yet. The demons haunting Buddy Nielsen, lead vocalist, and the album’s writer, are the type that inspire not only true art, but also unconditional emotional failure. Coming out on the other side of these issues is what gives If There Is Light such a powerful message that few bands can mimic.

You can buy If There Is Light, It Will Find You on Bandcamp.

I won’t claim to be a big Senses Fail fan, but I know the essence of their sound and the horror tinged lyrics that accompanied many of their early albums. I also know of the Drive-Thru Records pop elements that fused into their hardcore edge. As the first album from the band written entirely by Nielsen, If There Is Light captures the sound of Senses Fail and puts me in the mind of what the band were hoping to achieve on their debut LP, Let It Enfold You.

The guitars thrash with heavy power chords and hard pop, reminiscent of The Movielife. However, rather than forcing the harder edge of mid-career Senses Fail, Nielsen relies on the pop element to lift the songs to catchier highs and sharper hooks. A few Queen-inspired guitar solos help lift the spirit of the music from time to time, too.

The poppier elements are a juxtaposition against the darker lyrics that also shows the light beaming through the nightmares. Rather than rely on lyrical screaming, Nielsen’s clean vocals are more than enough to communicate the depth of the real-life horror of this album, as well as how thankful he is to be on the other side.

One of the recurring themes of If There Is Light, is that Nielsen is one of the few his age still relying on music. At this point in my 30s, everyone I grew up with listening to the same music has abandoned listening to it, much less still performing. “Double Cross” finds Nielsen reminiscing about the passion he shared with others while singing from the stage, but now age has made them jaded.

“Is It Gonna Be The Year?” may be one of the most open songs pop punk has ever seen. Nielsen is split between wanting to pursue music forever even as his peers fall away, and the realization that maturity kills the genre. It’s genuinely a stab to the heart to hear him shout, “I never thought that it would last this long / And neither did the others, that’s why they’re all gone / When is it time to give it up, and how long is long enough? / And when should I throw it in, cause I don’t wanna be a washed up old man”.

But where the theme of the album finds its truth is in the songs clearly dedicated to Nielsen’s wife. “First Breath, Last Breath” is a true hell, as it tells the story of watching his wife almost die during childbirth. The guitars chug slowly, letting every note bleed as Buddy sings, “I have never felt so crushed / The sadness buried in my bones / How the hell am I supposed to raise a daughter on my own?” Following later on is quick burner, “Orlando And A Miscarriage”, which seems to be a title that needs no explanation, as the pain that flows from it is visceral.

However, knowing that she survived, “You Get So Alone At Times It Just Makes Sense” is a glorious redemption. The music blasts as Buddy praises her for giving him the strength to keep moving. It’s playful (“I love the way that you don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks / And I’m trying so hard to think like that / but I’m the singer in a fucking band and I’m still neurotic as shit”), and a confession of true love (“All my life I’ve waited to kiss your perfect face / Into the darkest night I’ll take you by my side”).

What makes If There Is Light so redeeming is that each song, and each theme has a callback. For each song that fears being the aging punk, he rallies the troops of youth in a rage against the government (“Gold Jacket, Green Jacket…”) or relishes the memories of Saves The Day from 12 years ago (“Stay What You Are”). For each song about potentially losing his wife, he sings her praises for making him stronger. For all of the darkness swirling across the album, closer “If There Is Light, It Will Find You” ends with a note of hope, as the last lyrics of the entire album are, “Don’t be afraid”.

If There Is Light, It Will Find You is a heartbreaking experience. It’s also something so real and terrifying, the horror pop lyrics of early Senses Fail seems childish in comparison. The poppier aspects of the album may turn off fans hoping for a harder edge, but this is a masterpiece considering it was written by Buddy Nielsen alone. I can’t claim to have any idea of where it will stand in the band’s discography, but it is an album everyone should experience. You’ll be thankful once you’re on the other side. Cheers.

4.5/5

Photo Credit: Tyler Ross

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and discovered Senses Fail moments before he discovered The Early November, one of his all-time favorite bands. He also saw Senses Fail open for Saves The Day, another of his all-time favorite bands. It took over 15 years, but he is finally in love with Senses Fail without overshadowing them with something else. Please throw apples at his temples if you see him.

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