Album Reviews

Senses Fail
Still Searching
[Vagrant Records]

By Alyssa Zale

Aside from some minor changes in band members, and a continual emotional roller coaster for lead singer James “Buddy” Neilson, it appears that Senses Fail still has it. Vagrant Records released the band’s third CD, Still Searching, in October of 2006 and by the looks of it, the album is doing very well. Over 250,000 copies sold and a U.S. Billboard chart peak of 15 is certainly enough to generate the hype the band needs to continue down their path of success.

The first single off the album, “Calling All Cars,” was released in 2006. This release demonstrated the growth the band has achieved since their first album, Let It Enfold You. Some fans might portray this song and even this CD as an attempt to enter more of a pop genre, but I would argue that it is just an upgrade in the overall quality of their production. Lyrically, the song subtly expresses a depth and honesty not often witnessed in a Senses Fail song. The album as a whole has that same standard, dropping the “in-your-face” aspect, and making up for it musically, lyrically and vocally.

“Still Searching,” the song that rightly titles the album, was written about the lead singer’s struggle with depression. Aside from being one of those songs that you would listen to repeatedly after having a bad day, the band exhibits their mastery of the post-hardcore genre. It has a contagiously emo quality about it, placing breakdowns in just the right areas. It really allows the listener to follow the emotional pattern of the song, feeling sad and angry at the same time.

The band’s latest single, “The Priest and the Matador,” is one of the slower, story-telling songs of the album that has gained a surprising amount of attention. So much so, that they have begun to close their concert sets with it – a position that was previously filled by “One Eight Seven,” a Senses Fail classic introduced on their first EP, From The Depths of Dreams.

Overall this album managed to accomplish what others could not: growing musically, while still keeping the sound that their fans can recognize as Senses Fail.

Grade: A-


By Robert Lach

XBXRX’s new album, Wars, is the next step in the evolution of the hardcore punk that is XBXRX. A band, which traditionally loves to aimlessly scream into a microphone and string together random chords, is definitely trying to move ahead. Unlike XBXRX’s previous two albums, Gop Ist Minee and Sixth in Sixes, Wars is something new, something different, yet the same.

The album’s opening song, “Center Where Sight,” is very reminiscent of what is expected from this band. You are greeted with a pounding drum, a distorted fast-paced guitar riff and lyrics that are definitely very distinctive, consisting of exclamatory statements three to five words long. The political underpinnings are fairly obvious, yet the lyrics tend to be very abstract and non-intuitive. The vocal mix is very distorted and saturated, making the whole album seem like a soundtrack to a riot. The guitar unrolls very chaotically, defying the norms left and right, not allowing you to even begin to predict where the song is headed. Unfortunately, the album, exempting a few key songs, is nothing a XBXRX fan hasn’t heard before.

This album does have a few key tracks that really exemplify the positive direction XBXRX is headed. The song “Minds” has qualities not really characteristic of their previous work, with its distinctive melodies, recognizable lyrics and a strong progression between measures. It is almost as if they are trying to soften the edges while keeping a hard core, which is definitely a direction that will ultimately broaden the scope of listeners in tune with the band. Gems like “Minds” and “Towers of Silence” bring in new melodic qualities absent from previous albums, but the majority of the album is the same old drone.

Honestly, it is very hard to recommend this album to the casual listener. XBXRX is really an acquired taste, and although Wars is trying to soften the blow, it really isn’t there yet. The average listener really can’t connect with any of the songs, but hardcore fans can truly find an amazing album here.

Grade: B-

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