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Senses Fail
The Fire
Vagrant Records
www.sensesfail.com


When I was asked to review Senses Fail's newest release, The Fire, I was excited. I've seen them play live a couple of times over the last few years and was impressed with their performances. Unfortunately, when I popped the CD in, what I heard was simply a serviceable screamo record. It's a decent performance by any standard, but nothing to get terribly excited about.

Now it's probably not entirely fair for me to pan The Fire. I'm a hardcore punk guy. So when it comes to screamo I always come down firmly on the side of the "scream". I can take or leave the "emo". Maybe I'm just showing my age but most screamo bands, to me, sound very samey. The Fire is no exception. There's a razor line in each of these songs separating the emo from the hardcore. This sense of separation makes many of the songs sound like two completely different songs in one. The brutal anger expressed in the scream-y vocals never integrates itself with the emotional, anthemic parts of the songs. The emo side of the band is overly earnest, coming across whiney and effeminate.

There's no doubt that this group of guys can play and much of what they play is quite good. When it works, it works well. The standout track on The Fire is "Lifeboats", a song that manages to meld their two distinct sounds into a cohesive, brutal attack. But one great song does not an album make; and I'm left wishing for more tracks of the quality of "Lifeboats".

As I write, I'm reminded of my brother-in-law; a guy who cannot mix his fruit with chocolate. He has an unrepentant hatred of strawberries dipped in chocolate, or any other fruit for that matter. Maybe when it comes to screamo, some people love a little pop-punk with their hardcore while others are repelled by it. I guess I fall into the latter category.

-George Dow

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Mike Doughty



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