Senses Fail

Pull The Thorns From Your Heart

Written by: PP on 07/09/2015 00:12:14

Unless you checked out Senses Fail's previous album "Renacer", you're in for a surprise on their sixth album "Pull The Thorns From Your Heart". Opener "The Three Marks Of Existence" launches the listener directly into the realm of raucous hardcore punk with a d-beat and raw screaming that'll make you double check if you accidentally popped on a wrong record. The contrast is so surprising that older fans are left wondering if the band that wrote "Let It Enfold You" eleven years ago really can be the same one writing songs like this. Likewise, "The Courage Of An Open Heart" underlines the latter sentiment with metallic, down-tuned hardcore riffage, lightning speed tempo, and chaotic screaming by vocalist Buddy Nielsen that highlights the internal struggle within Senses Fail that has led into such a radical change in direction.

Then again, if you listened to "Renacer", you're fully aware of the band's newly found embrace of heavier and more aggressive music, although this one takes that approach many steps further. In that sense, their evolution largely parallels Story Of The Year, who also made the shift from stadium-sized emo into hardcore punk during their career. However, it's not that Senses Fail have entirely abandoned post-hardcore. "Carry The Weight", for instance, echoes their earlier emo/post-hardcore expression. "Wounds" is another example, though here the band show a different kind of evolution with an atmospheric and majestic soundscape characterized by spacious post-rock instrumentation, electronic samples, and all clean vocals that take us back to their early records. Thick screams stand in great contrast during the chorus making it a highlight track on the album and give off prominent Poison The Well vibes (and maybe even some Deftones in there, too). "Take Refuge" then follows with Nielsen crushing it vocally on a bombastic hardcore track that has a huge breakdown during its "JUST LET GO" chorus parts. But here, too, the song takes a surprising turn where a tranquil post-hardcore passage borrows from post-rock atmospherics in a weird shift mid-song.

It's perhaps the best single song example symptomatic of "Pull The Thorns From Your Heart" in general, which showcases a confused band in search of an identity. Do they want to be a hardcore band? An emo band? A metal band? A post-hardcore band? Perhaps something in between all four genres? Each of the styles is represented on the record in one form or another. For instance, "We Are All Returning Home" offers a crazy twist by diving head first into black metal (!!) with high pitch tremolo shredding and rapid-fire blast beats. Think Deafheaven here. Compare that to the quiet and progressive "Surrender" that builds atmosphere through calm guitars and an expansive soundscape with plenty of effects pedals and soothing cleans by Nielsen. You'd imagine one style to completely triumph the other in terms of quality of songwriting, but it actually doesn't.

Most songs on the record are surprisingly good and arguably the best material Senses Fail have written since their debut album (though some fans of "Still Searching" might disagree). They're artistic and experimental, offering a unique way of blending the different styles together in a manner seldom heard in post-hardcore. "The Importance Of The Moment Of Death", for instance, effortlessly mixes ravaging hardcore punk with emo-driven clean vocals in the middle without it sounding tacky. The title track is equally testosterone-driven, and probably a turn off for most emo/post-hardcore fans in general, but works brilliantly within its context.

But looking at the record from a bigger perspective, it is easily the songwriting peak of Senses Fail thus far. The songs often have progressive undertones embedded within the piercing hardcore tunes, not to mention the many beautiful experimental post-hardcore moments that still rear their head from amidst the chaotic sound every now and then. Soaring vocals may be a thing of the past for Senses Fail, but this is certainly the most relevant they have sounded in a decade or so, likely gaining the band a wealth of new fans of heavier music that previously never would've gotten into Senses Fail prior to "Renacer". Especially the second half of the record is drenched in depth-laden structures that tap into songwriting prowess we never assumed Senses Fail were capable of - many songs here reflect similar structure as Thrice and Thursday wrote during their heaviest and most experimental records. Finally, a band changing their sound for the better and not the worse; many others could learn from Senses Fail swimming against the current instead of with it, which is why "Pull The Thorns From Your Heart" is an existentially important record for the genre in 2015.

Download: We Are All Returning Home, Wounds, My Fear Of A Unlived Life
For the fans of: Story Of The Year, Hopesfall, Thursday, Poison The Well, Thrice
Listen: Facebook

Release date 30.06.2015
Pure Noise Records

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