Released: Jun 30, 2015
Genre: Post-Hardcore, Metalcore, Hardcore, Alternative Rock
Label: Pure Noise Records
Number Of Tracks: 11
Senses Fail's latest album reveals a sonic evolution that sees the band dabbling in many genres, giving the album a surprising amount of versatility.
Pull The Thorns From Your HeartFeatured review by: UG Team, on august 06, 2015 2 of 3 people found this review helpful
Sound: Senses Fail is an American post-hardcore band that sprang onto the scene in 2004 with its first album, "Let It Enfold You." The band's second album, "Still Searching," was even more successful, reaching as high as #15 on the US charts and even managing to crack the UK charts at #150. Unfortunately, it has been downhill since then. Each album since "Still Searching" has charted lower than its predecessor has. Even this album is all the way down to #109 on the US charts. Senses Fail has also had numerous lineup changes during its lifetime and the only original member remaining is lead singer Buddy Nielson.
A likely consequence of multiple lineup changes is an evolving sound. Proving this notion, the second song makes it clear that this is not the same Senses Fail. Buddy Nielson's voice and lyrical content may be very familiar to fans, but I venture to say that the instrumentation has gone through a mini metamorphosis.
There is still a fair amount of fast, bone crushing post-hardcore; "Dying Words" is a rather painful example, but "The Courage of an Open Heart" is a winner. However, the really interesting thing is how the album includes soft, almost peaceful songs that draw from many genres. The hard songs appear narrow-minded in comparison. For example, "We Are All Returning Home" sounds like a Deafheaven song with its dramatic clean to heavy changes and its sustained, drone chord sections that are complemented by scream vocals. In a somewhat similar vein, "Surrender" and "Carry the Weight" sound like shoegazing with their respective walls of sound and their calming vocals. "Surrender" also bears a striking sonic resemblance to "Champagne Supernova" by Oasis for its benign, floating-on-clouds vibe. And though it is not a soft song, "The Importance of the Moment of Death" has a very catchy chorus, which is buoyed by a simple chord progression. This song would be a breath of fresh air for the listener who is not a full-on metalhead yet. The last direct comparison worth noting is the bridge of the title track, which sounds like Senses Fail pulled it straight from a Muse song.
Zack Roach and Matt Smith do a great job taking care of the guitar work. First of all, they play with excellent tone. Their hardcore tone is loud and raucous but never buzzy, as often occurs with a distortion heavy band. They also do a good job of cleaning up for the more peaceful sections of the album. Furthermore, much to my surprise, it appears that Roach and Smith are using complex chord structures, allowing them to go past the regularity of power, major, and minor chords, though it would be incredibly hard to purge the album completely of these facile and popular constructions. Above all else, this guitar duo knows how to match their parts to fit the mood of the songs. Aside from Buddy Nielson and his vocal ping pong between clean and scream, the guitars account for most of the dynamics on the album as the bass and drums stay fairly constant.
Finally, the production of the album is of a much higher standard than I would have expected. Someone deserves credit for mixing the album clearly instead of making it sound like it is a low-fi demo recorded in a garbage can. It is even possible that the production of the album accounts for the dynamics more than either the vocals or the guitar parts do. // 8
Lyrics: Buddy Nielson's vocals are impressive. The dramatic turns between clean and scream vocals demonstrate his vocal control and his good decision-making in matching certain styles to certain songs. The only instance where his vocals feel out of place is the chorus of "Pull the Thorns From Your Heart"; it sounds like he is spitting his words from his mouth in such an abrupt manner that the flow of the song halts.
Other than that one instance, it is clear that Buddy Nielson possesses a fair amount of vocal talent. One area in which he particularly excels is his pronunciation; even when he screams, the words are comprehensible. Combining that talent with his above average lyrics results in a venerable vocal performance. Nielson's lyrics are mostly about inner searching (how to live life, one's place in the world, etc.). // 8
Overall Impression: Overall, the most striking aspect of this album is its versatility. The men from Senses Fail do an excellent job interweaving different genres and sounds to mold with the insightful and well-written lyrics. There is a nice balance between the fast hardcore songs and the fresh multitude of songs that makes up the rest. The only real letdown on the album is "Dying Words," which sounds like some sort of deathcore piece gone wrong. Other than that, all of the songs sound good and are different to the point that this album is worth listening to all the way through to get a true sense of it.
Unfortunately though, the band's creative shift away from their earlier material may alienate fans and they probably do not currently get enough exposure to gain a remarkable number of new fans with this album, one that is great, but not nearly groundbreaking enough to fully lift Senses Fail from its downward spiral. // 7
Pull The Thorns From Your Heart
vppark2, on august 06, 2015 2 of 3 people found this review helpful
Sound: Post-hardcore is a very broad subgenre, especially nowadays you essentially need to take into consideration that metalcore and post-hardcore are not the same thing. Where does Senses Fail stand now? Well, two years ago they released their new album, "Renacer," which means "a new beginning" in Spanish. They went in the studio with a new producer, new record label, new mindset, and of course new guitarist, Matt Smith (also guitarist for Strike Anywhere), who also recorded the bass parts until they found someone to replace their old bassist. Whether you consider Senses Fail to still be post-hardcore or not, Renacer brought in some of the tastiest, and most memorable riffs, fast paced drumming, and hardcore-like vocals, while not abandoning the classic Senses Fail cleans. Since then, Dan Trapp, their drummer has left the band, and to replace him, Chris Hornbrook of Poison The Well is assigned the duties.
Once you give the full album a spin, it's clear that they have acquired a new drummer. From songs such as "The Courage of an Open Heart," "Dying Words," and "We Are All Returning Home." "Dying Words" starts off pretty aggressive, but the tempo gets faster as the blast beats come in. The sludgy guitar riffs, and even the intensity of Buddy's screams can be compared to Norma Jean. "We Are All Returning Home" has almost that same aspect, except the tempo stays quick until the spoken word parts, and cleans towards the end of the song. The neat history behind this track, is their producer, Shaun Lopez (also guitarist for Crosses and Far) wrote all of the guitar parts two years ago. One of the coolest parts aside from the heavy tracks are on moments such as "Wounds." During the intro, a crystalline synth is being played. Initially, Buddy wanted to give off a Hopesfall, Envy, and Deftones vibe from it, but with heavy emphasis on Hopesfall. Overall, the song is like a mix between past songs, "Closure/Rebirth" and "Yellow Angels," which is interesting. You can watch the commentary here, and for each individual song. "Three Marks of Existence" is honestly the only song that has so many Converge influences, mainly in the guitar riffs. The band wanted it to be the first song as it just kicks your right in the ass right away. Not to mention the fact that it's only 1:52 in length. "Surrender" brings back some old Senses Fail vibes. If you're not into heavy SF, then you'll definitely like this song since it's all singing. The final song, "My Fear of an Unlived Life" I would say is the most difficult song to listen to, as most of the singing is so softly spoken. // 9
Lyrics: "I used to want to die but now I believe, not in a distant god but there is a love I found in me," Buddy Nielson sings in "Carry the Weight." To me, the lyric is powerful, as someone who has had suicidal thoughts before. Around the 1:43 part is where the song goes into this spacey mode that is very reminiscent towards earlier Senses Fail works. "Wounds" is another song that also has some deep lyrics:
"The pictures they fade, my horrible memories fade They burst into fire when I chose to let love be my guide Depression, anxiety and shame, they almost killed me Obsession, addiction and pain, they almost killed me The wounds that never heal are the ones you refuse to see Be the change you seek."
The song that really took me off guard was the lead single, "The Importance of the Moment of Death." The song has some neat riffs, but the song leaked as a weird music video, but I did understand the message. Buddy explains further in the commentary, and now that I know, the song means so much more to me. Most of the tracks he talks about Buddhism, but this song in particular spoke to me the most in that aspect. From the commentary he says: "You either cling to your life or you let go. It is said that those who cling to their life will be reborn and those who are enlightened will be able to let go and ultimately reach their bottom." The lyric from the song, "I am no longer afraid to die" explains how he's no longer afraid to die in shame for sexuality and who he is. He also explains how he's not sure if he believes in reincarnation. To me, the video really explained well, especially since my cat had just died the other day, and my mom is Buddhist, so hopefully the whole reincarnation thing is true.
Another song that really spoke to me was the title track. I just saw Senses Fail live for the first time recently, and he gave a speech about how he had been drinking for 9 years straight every day because he didn't know where he stood with his sexuality. Personally, I know exactly how he feels. I just opened up as bisexual recently, and I still don't know how to tell my family or some friends. These lyrics go further into the topic:
"I tried so hard to run away from the truth I hated myself so I abused my soul, my heart, my body for the sexuality that I didn't choose."
As I said earlier in the sounds section, "My Fear of an Unlived Life" is a very difficult song to listen to, but once Buddy screams later on in the song, the emotion comes across as very satisfying, and the lyrics portray that emotion. We have all lost a loved one in one way or another, and to me, this song was a perfect way to end the album:
"We are all longing for connection, we are all longing for acceptance There is nothing that shows more strength than meeting pain with compassion Because we all have wounded hearts, we are all just as blind in the dark We all quiver in fear when the ones we love disappear." // 10
Overall Impression: Senses Fail have proved once again that they are capable or writing some very good material. Lyrically, this is some insanely heavy content, so thankfully there is a commentary video on each song. Each song contains some sort of powerful message, and for me some lyrics had brought me to tears because I have gone through some of the same things, whether that be about sexuality, self harm, or an important death in my life. "Renacer" wasn't nearly as powerful, but it was an album that got me hooked on first listen because it was so easy to headbang and listen to. On this album, Senses Fail further that new sound that was found on "Renacer," and go outside of their comfort zone on each track. This isn't an album that may grab you right away on first listen. I had to give it a few listens for it to sink in, and let me tell you, it's a beauty. // 10
Pull The Thorns From Your Heart
cemerson2012, on august 06, 2015 2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sound: Senses Fail have returned with "Pull the Thorns From Your Heart" 2 years after the release of "Renancer" which was a huge shift in the sound of the band from emo/rock to straight up hardcore. "Renancer" was received with mixed reviews as it was such a departure from the poppy vocal hook dominated sound, others including this listener welcome the change with open ears, this album is no different in sound. The hardcore sound continues on, and it is done very well in my opinion. "Pull the Thorns From Your Heart" is a purely emotional display from vocalist Buddy Nielsen. Songs are truly written from his heart. Where past Senses Fail songs were filled with references to alcohol or being neurotic, new songs are about personal change and forgiveness. Released on June 30th, Buddy and the guys were just in time with a new release before hitting the road with the Vans Warped Tour.
Before delving any further into the album details, a little back ground is needed. In the fall of 2014 Buddy Nielsen was a guest on the "100 Words or Less" podcast hosted by Ray Harkins. The podcast itself is a very interesting listen as it is centered on new music and independent artists. During the episode Buddy bears his sole explaining a lot of personal issues from his young and adult life (I won't got into too much detail, but if you haven't listened to the podcast yet I would highly suggest it). After listening to the podcast I have a better understanding of where Buddy got his inspiration for a lot of lyrics. Knowing his perspective has entirely shifted the way I look at his previous works and in some cases has made me appreciate songs in new ways.
"Pull the Thorns From Your Heart" is very similar in sound to "Renacer." Guitars are heavy and hard hitting. The ferocity of the guitars is in part due to the .62 gauge bottom string used by the guitarists, the larger strings give the guitars a full bodied and beefy sound not ever before featured in the Senses Fail sound. Dare I say they are a little sludgy? Whatever term you wish you label it with, they thick as a masonry wall. Distorted bass tones only bolster the weight of the guitar sounds.
Buddy's vocals fit very well with the heavy guitars as his scream has improved since "Renancer," additionally there are parts that are a little softer where his classic singing voice is perfectly performed invoking a whole other emotional response in the title track "Pull the Thorns from Your Heart." The only somewhat negative thing I have to say about the release is that the drums are not mixed super well, but shouldn't be counted against the record at all because it only adds to the splendor that is hardcore. Another point I want to make about the drums, they compliment the sound of the album perfectly. Probably the fact that they are not over engineered lends to this because not one instrument is over shadowed by another. *Beware of blast beats on track 7 "Dying Words"* There is also a fairly complementary double bass section in that song as well, making it a real head banger of a song.
After my first listen to the record I could not remember one singular part that stood out in my memory, which left me disappointed to be honest. However on listen number 2 and 3 I didn't remember parts per say but I remembered songs as a whole which was more satisfying in my mind. // 7
Lyrics: This record displays a dichotomy not featured in hardcore records of recent years. While the music is chest pounding and heavy, the lyrics are soul bearing and introspective. The lyrics are in some ways a continuation of his "spilling of guts" featured on "100 Words or Less." Nielsen's lyrics are cathartic; I get the feeling that "Pull the Thorns From Your Heart" is just another step in his recovery. Track 2 titled "Carry the Weight" characterizes Buddy's feelings of personal shame perfectly:
"I carried the weight the only way I knew I was scared enough to lie and say that I'm okay When inside I was dying, so confused, so alone, so afraid I hope you never know what it's like to hide a piece of yourself inside Or to be so f--king ashamed you'd rather kill yourself than be alive."
Love is also a huge theme throughout the course of the record. No love for fellow man but also love for yourself. Again Buddy is almost singing to himself here. Given (our) past struggles we have to learn to love ourselves again and carry on. Loving oneself isn't vain, but you must love yourself before you can forgive yourself of past failures. This is made known in track 3 "Courage of an Open Heart":
"I was so alone, buried in sadness, love dragged me out of it So alone, buried in sadness, love dragged me out of it I want to love with the courage of an open heart."
And again in the title track "Pull the Thorns from Your Heart":
"I was so tired of being alone I was so tired of listening to the chorus in my head Telling myself I wasn't good enough to be happy or proud or loving to myself What kind of life is that to lead?"
Buddy isn't afraid to write from the heart and really get his feelings out there. I think it works well and given knowing the back story, I can certainly appreciate the way he has formulated his feelings. // 8
Overall Impression: Senses Fail has created a spectacular record with "Pull the Thorns From Your Heart." It is both an introspective emotional ride and a heavy punch in the gut in the music department. This album was very much anticipated by fans and to this point; this is my favorite release of 2015. The transition from catchy/emo to screaming hardcore has been a good one for Nielsen and company. Buddy is on the path to recovery, but his frequent references to Buddhism and the album's overall positive tone are more a reflection of his own journey than an imposition of his beliefs on the listener. It makes for one of the most musically interesting albums of their career and a welcome change of tone for a veteran band. Pairing this release with his "100 Words or Less" appearance is a must. If anything, Nielsen has tapped his closest human emotions and poured himself into every line, verse and chorus. // 8