A few things have remained the same since the early 2000s: I still don’t drink enough water, I still read Harry Potter, and Senses Fail still puts out epic albums. Their seventh release, If There Is Light, It Will Find You, was the first that frontman Buddy Nielsen–and the only founding member of the band–wrote completely on his own. The record tackles topics ranging from death to modern politics to feeling unfulfilled with the current state of your life… and it might just be Senses Fail’s best work thus far.
The first taste of the album came back in November of last year, when the band dropped its first single, “Double Cross.” Reminiscent of the band’s earlier work, namely Let it Enfold You and Still Searching, it jumps headfirst into punchy guitar riffs and heartfelt lyrics, with Nielsen singing, “What have I got here left to prove? / all I got, all I really got is this music that’s left of me / and all I want, all I really want is a reason to believe.”
This song is one of many that touches on Nielsen’s addiction, something he spoke about at length in his open letter in 2014. The song also corresponds directly to the seventh track of the album, “Is It Gonna Be The Year?” which features Nielsen singing about all the “stupid and selfish” things he did and how he “never thought that it would last this long, and neither did the others / that’s why they’re all gone.” Still unsure of where his place in the world is, he lays it all out for listeners, showing that even your heroes can feel confused and uncertain.
Though Nielsen has never been one to shy away from sharing his thoughts, “First Breath, Last Breath” takes his honest lyrics to even greater heights. The track describes the traumatic birth of his daughter, during which his wife almost died. As Nielsen sings, “And our daughter’s first breath is the last one you will ever take,” you can feel his pain. The song transcends into his subconscious as he imagines his wife’s death, singing, “How the hell am I supposed to raise a daughter on my own?”
The standout song–one that is quickly being deemed as a millennial anthem–is “Gold Jacket, Green Jacket.” Although fueled by the current political state of the world, Nielsen speaks out not only about politics, but also about the way the world has been mistreated (“We destroyed the environment / fuck the government / it’s an embarrassment / we’re all gonna die in debt”). It even throws a light swing at the current president with the lyrics “Don’t you know Jesus Christ likes America? That’s why we’re always winning,” using the president’s own vernacular in a sarcastic spat. Calling himself a “millennial son of a bitch” and saying he’d “rather die poor than give in” are just some of Nielsen’s many one liners that will make listeners turn up the volume and scream along.
The closing track, “If There Is Light, I Hope It Finds You” is a song written for his daughter. From the beginning, the lyrics “My father meant nothing to me / but I hope I mean something to you” set the tone. As Nielsen repeatedly sings, “If there is light, I hope it finds you / if there is love, I hope it finds you / let the good dig inside you / let your love be the thing that defines you,” it is clear that he just wants what is best for his daughter–and that includes her not inheriting the bad habits of his past. The song is everything at once, yet it is not overpowering. It’s soft and poetic when it needs to be, but rough and messy when it is called for. Mixing clean vocals with uncleans, Nielsen opens up and fully allows emotion to carry this song, and the album, to completion.
If you didn’t like Senses Fail before, you’re probably still not going to like them. But if you did like them already, you’re probably going to love them now. They are one of those rare bands that have been able to stand firm in their ground, unswayed by mainstream temptation to move into a new direction. Though we may be losing Warped Tour, we’ll always have the nostalgic trip that is Senses Fail.
WORDS BY KELLY FADDEN