Damaged and torn, SENSES FAIL frontman Buddy Nielsen tried to dream, he tried to disarm himself from the clutches of alcoholism, preparing to burn the pressures of living a life on a line between life and death…
With Life Is Not A Waiting Room — the band’s 2008 emo masterclass — he planned to thwart demons and their destructive patterns. On that record, there’s songs abundant in grievances and notes describing severe mental torture. We expect this from the emo challengers, their music highlights disenchantment, alienated feelings, agony, substance abuse, unhinged thoughts.
And Senses Fail aren’t the biggest band, they haven’t been plunged into the mainstream, and they’re dutifully circling an underground bountiful and brimming with talent. Through and through, the underbelly is full but commercial music is lacking.
Life Is Not A Waiting Room was released on June 25th 2008. It is Senses Fail’s 3rd studio album, and it contains some of their most complete tracks, which are masterfully pessimistic.
Buddy wrote the record under a mask of alcohol and drugs. He was coming to terms with life’s upheavals and hardships, suicide was a grim option. The enigmatic singer/songwriter, monumentally kept his heart beating and his muse ticking by. He’s one of the most underrated wordsmiths, using his words as prescriptions and eulogies.
And Senses Fail are now a unit of survivors. Their music clings onto their fans minds, kick-starting personal revolutions. They aren’t going to change the world, but the band couldn’t care less. They’re offering a sound which resonates and is purposeful. Fans flock to see an act broken-hearted just like them, who feel just like them, and it’s a momentous feeling.
Ten years on, Life Is Not A Waiting Room, still sounds relevant. Lyrically it’s a journey of self-discovery, a potent contribution, littered in meaningful notes. It isn’t charming or bathed in roses, it’s for the darkened traveller blazing a trail for solace. Lungs For Gallows is a true statement and a fight to be loved and respected, Nielsen sings: ‘I give blood to prove to myself that I can matter to somebody else’ this is a stark realization of someone craving to be noticed. The song sparks fully when the soaring guitar solo breaks in.
Garden State is a behemoth song. The guitar sequences truly empowering as well as these lines ‘My regrets are what keep me still alive/I need to make up for all the lies’ these lyrics certainly tell us what the record is trying to imply. Nielsen is trying to piece together broken ties, although he is gazing into the abyss. Also, Garden State strikes again as a poetic wonder ‘Here I am/Looking down at the bottom of the glass/Is this all my fault that /I need a sign like shooting stars’ Nielsen is remarking on his battle as an alcoholic here.
Yellow Angels allows the engine to settle. It’s a sombre song, beautiful in its deliverance. The instrumentals are on point here, the chorus wonderful. Nielsen bellows ‘I’ve said goodbye so many times in my life/I’m surprised it’s still so hard for me/To see that I should start living my life Or I will die unfulfilled and empty’ this contribution opens eyes, it directs the listener into Neilson’s source of weakness, although he strives to be someone.
Life Is Not A Waiting Room could be perceived as a brutal listen. Senses Fail acknowledge that they’re close to the bone and blunt, but it makes their music unique and powerful. The record is Buddy Nielsen’s note to the world and his struggles.
Words: Mark McConville
Notes: Formed by vocalist James “Buddy” Nielsen with guitarist Garrett Zablocki in the summer of 2001, the influential band Senses Fail issued their first emo/screamo album “Let It Enfold You” in Sept 2004. The album “Life Is Not a Waiting Room” was released on October 2008 via Vagrant. The Midtown guitarist Heath Saraceno announced his departure from the American post-hardcore band in the subsequent tour. He was replaced by Zack Roach.