From the stark desert of Joshua Tree National Park, Rock and Post-Hardcore connoisseurs Senses Fail perform two livestream sets in homage to their classic albums, Still Searching and Let It Enfold You (Vagrant Records). With the former being presented at sunset and the latter at sunrise, they utilize the barren yet persevering environment to bring the deeper meaning of their music to life. A 360-degree track camera and surrounding steadicams capture it all, complemented by flashing lights and projected images of the band’s skeleton mascot beaming from each towering rock.
Vocalist Buddy Nielsen begins each set with a heartfelt speech about bringing meaning to his life by turning pain into freedom, thus creating his musical legacy. Shots of vast desert landscapes are shown until the first song kicks in. It is immediately apparent what a fitting location Joshua Tree is, as it enhances the performances like a pair of symbolic fifty-minute music videos.
After a decade and a half of playing these songs, it’s no surprise that the band sounds as solid and nearly identical to the studio recordings as they do. Nielsen’s voice maintains its wistful edge and his hulking screams appear effortless. Complete with the gleaming guitars, charging basslines and accenting drums, they merge as one whole to show how close they are to each record.
Finely-polished playthroughs of emo hits ‘Can’t Be Saved’ and ‘Calling All Cars’ hold up to their hype and would instantly get a crowd off their feet if present. The haunting energy of ‘All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues’ is brilliantly recreated (Nielsen even wears a stylish cowboy shirt for the set), and the flow into the twinkling licks of ‘Negative Space’ and ‘The Priest And The Matador’ make for a mesmerizing ending to the first performance. The final two minutes were especially captivating, wielding blazing guitar octaves that smoothly turn into tranquil acoustic chords.
Guitarists Gavin Caswell and Jason Milbank provide strong harmonies that blend with Nielsen’s melodies so naturally and cleanly, while drummer Steve Carey pummels away rigorously through every song. The transition between ‘Buried A Lie’ and ‘Bite To Break Skin’ as the sun starts to rise adds an effectual touch to the lighting with an alluring horizon. The slow-burning progression from title track ‘Let It Enfold You’ into ‘Irony Of Dying On Your Birthday’ is well executed, especially with Nielsen’s pristine reenactment of the piercing low-to-high scream.
Though they put on two undeniably steadfast shows, I would have liked to hear Nielsen speak between some of the songs. For him to talk about the background of some of their oldest, most beloved tracks and where he was in life when they were written could have added a great deal to the sentimental and nostalgic spirit they presented.
Despite the lost opportunity, it was refreshing to see a veteran Post-Hardcore band have so much respect for and dedication to their first two records. It’s not every day you get to hear a band like them play their oldest albums in their entirety, let alone with so much remaining passion for them. Senses Fail really gave back to the old-school fans with this one.
The live sets will also be available on vinyl, limited to 1000 pressings with an exclusive Joshua Tree merch line, that can be bought at: https://www.sensesfail-joshuatree.com
Tour dates and more info here: