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.
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