If there ever were a band so complicatedly quaint — caught between the boundaries of such trends from which they gained their platform, and the true propensities at the very core of the group, seldom embraced, yet hinted at, time and again — Senses Fail would unequivocally be it. Since emerging in the all-ages/DIY scene at the height of the early aughts’ sing-scream convergence of screamo and metalcore, the band has deliberately embarked on a slow metamorphosis of public perception which, coupled with the sub-genre’s swift disintegration and the band’s businesslike foresight, has allowed the group to maintain a relatively sustainable career within their ranks
Renacer, the band’s fifth full-length album — and their first since dissolving a longstanding partnership with the stalwart Vagrant Records — marks yet another step in this cunning, yet cautious evolution of timbre, proclaiming itself as the largest step forward in revealing the honest-to-goodness band behind the banner of Senses Fail. Unfortunately, as these assertions generally go, it’s all posturing, a quick sleight of hand that will undoubtedly leave their fanbase satisfied but ultimately focuses on staying relevant to today’s bent over crafting music worthy of a band whose members include alumni of the staunch Strike Anywhere, Hot Water Music, and Bayonet. To put it another way, if this record and the group’s many permutations are to be taken seriously, none should argue the suggestion that if Senses Fail had surfaced today, in 2013 rather than a decade ago, below their heavy riffs and beefy guitar chugs would certainly be the wobble of a dub step chord and the inevitable “drop” such fads promote.
Nonetheless, Renacer isn’t all strut. Intentions aside, there are few, yet significant moments of redemption on this record. The noisy and Chariot-esque dynamism of “The Path”, and “Glass”, the album’s most congruent melding of throaty growls and lithe harmonies, are decent, to name a few. Regrettably, none make up for the inauthentic and quite frankly insulting “Mi Amor”, the band’s foray into Spanish language lyricism, a language that singer Buddy Nielsen describes in a Spotify commentary track for the song as one he is not fluent in whatsoever. To Neilson’s credit, whether in English or Spanish, these are the weakest lyrics of the set and it serves the record to have them disguised them in a language most listeners won’t understand. More than anything, the song comes off as inauthentic and a token fan service to their growing South American audience, which will unlikely take to it kindly.
While times have changed and the umbrella of post-hardcore from which they came out of is more principled now than it has been in nearly a decade, Renacer paints a clear portrait of a band lacking the courage and will to abandon the tendencies they have clearly grown out of and no longer stand behind. Never more obvious than in the melodic portions of the album — noticeably forced and fiercely compartmentalized within most songs — Senses Fail are at a crossroads: either carry on with a mediocre consorting of subtle pop and breakneck intensity, or let nature take the reigns and welcome the latter.