Last year, right around the time they were gearing up for Warped Tour, Senses Fail released four new songs as an EP of sorts, that was bundled with their greatest hits (thus far) album, Follow Your Bliss. These tracks proved to be something different, something new, and ultimately something that needed to happen if Senses Fail was going to continue to exist as a band. After all, they were going through some serious member changes – including the replacement of Garrett Zablocki, a key member in their writing process. It strikes me that adrift in such tumultuous seas, Senses Fail was faced with a choice: change or fade away. Lucky for us, the new songs they wrote were raw, aggressive, sincere, and not at all like a grab at past glories; and yet, I would argue, it refused to totally strip away the past and the (self-perceived) embarrassing trappings of youth. If those four songs were the soft flicker of the flames of a phoenix, then Renacer is it’s inaugural flight.

There are two major sonic changes on Renacer that prove noticeable instantaneously. First, the new guitarists – Zach Roach and Matt Smith (Strike Anywhere) – bring their own style of riffing to the table that is less focussed on technical noodling but more aggro, fast, and downright powerful. The second is that if you are waiting for the screaming to stop and the singing to start, you may be waiting longer than you are used to. These two shifts in style could not be more evident on songs like the opener, ‘Renacer.’ Buddy screams, the guitars establish a dark mood, and the drums kick in to take the song off in a big way. The chorus is a breakdown that is done right (in an era of bullshit breakdowns), followed by a broken down second verse, that is nothing short of haunting as Buddy yelps, “Your flesh, my bones, young hearts, old souls.” It’s a rebirth for the New Jersey boys indeed.

From there it’s an absolute melee, but the brutality is punctuated with melody that always manages to feel well-placed without being forced. I constantly catch bands working melodic flourishes, or breakdowns, or clean choruses,  or whatever their “calling card” is into their songs in order to satisfy a perceived need of their fans, but this record refuses to simply “do it like it was before.”  Renacer still has melodic moments, it still has breakdowns, etc, etc, but they only make appearances when they are merited, and they work perfectly within the context of each song, often catching you off-guard. Overall, it makes for a much more gratifying listen than much of what their peers are offering, and if you need proof, look no further than tracks like ‘Holy Mountain,’ ‘The Path,’ and ‘Ancient Tombs.’ It is also worth noting that ‘The Path’ might contain the dirtiest bass line of all time (a Silkwood shower might be in order after it drags you through its grime).

And then there are tracks like ‘Frost Flower,’ ‘Glass,’ and closer ‘Between The Mountains and The Sea’ that channel the slowed down shoe-gazing (but still heavy) style of terminally under appreciated band Far. Everything was snapped clearly into focus when the liner notes revealed that Shaun Lopez, guitarist of Far, was the producer tapped to produce this new sound for Senses Fail. After that I began to really hear his influence in quite a few songs, and that my friends, is a great thing. Also, that closing track continues the great tradition of their last few albums by saving the best for last. I loved ‘Hold On’ on their previous record, and ‘Between The Mountains And The Sea’ is every bit as stellar as its predecessor. From start to finish, this album holds up.

Senses Fail took some chances here and it paid off. Too many bands are far too worried about either forcing changes to their sound to keep it fresh, or retaining their identity to the extent that things get stale. Senses Fail have laid down a template for doing something different that maintains a continuity of identity. This is the kind of thing that cannot be forced, and the natural nature of these shifts do the album wonders. I hope that some of these newer tracks, as well as more of The Fire,  make their way into the band’s live sets, because as much as fans might want to hear the classics, like ‘Buried a Lie’ and ‘Lady in a Blue Dress,’ those tracks are showing their age while the new stuff is cutting straight to the heart of a fan-base that has grown as much as the band. Renacer is a must for anyone that’s a fan of the band’s previous work, and if you wrote off the band a long time ago for one reason or another, it’s time to come back.

Grade: “Fresh, Reinvigorated, and Brutal. A must own LP”

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