Pull The Thorns From Your Heart
30th June 2015 – Pure Noise Records
01. The Three Marks of Existence
02. Carry the Weight
03. The Courage of an Open Heart
05. Take Refuge
07. Dying Words
08. The Importance of the Moment of Death
09. Pull the Thorns From Your Heart
10. We Are All Returning Home
11. My Fear of An Unlived Life
The band that has just released Pull The Thorns From Your Heart is not the same band that put out Let It Enfold You back in 2004. That record – replete with youthful charms and a handful of gems – featured lyrics that were juvenile and disappointingly misogynistic, in addition to some unimaginative songwriting. Revisiting the discography of Senses Fail, it’s hard to think of another band from the Warped Tour and Hot Topic scene (aside from Brand New) that have transformed and matured so thoroughly, so drastically, and so holistically.
Since the massive leap in quality between Let It Enfold You and the still fantastic Still Searching, Senses Fail have been consistently making well-advised and intentional evolutionary steps that, more importantly than anything, have felt sincere. Their tunes have always been catchy, but also always had an edge. With prior album Renacer and now with Pull The Thorns From Your Heart, it is clear that the newest iteration of Senses Fail couldn’t possibly care less about getting radio play. They’re here to spread the wisdom of thinkers like Joseph Campbell and Ram Dass; it just often comes strained through a filter of paradoxically violent riffs and acidic screams.What used to be a vehicle for the catharsis of singer Buddy Nielsen’s alcoholism and broken relationships with parents and partners is now about his finding peace within and encouraging that in the band’s listeners. Where entire albums were once about co-dependency and finding temporary comfort in substances and toxic relationships, we now hear proclamations about mindfulness and love from a healthy person who can express empowering spiritual concepts with alacrity.
Past albums have opened with beautiful intros like “Fireworks At Dawn” and “The Rapture”; slow and simple tracks. Needless to say, when that’s what you’ve come to expect, and in return you get a Converge-esque blast to the face, it’s rather jarring. However “The Three Marks of Existence” – with vocals like a rabid dog, blazing guitars, and frenetic drum work – is an appropriate start to Senses Fail’s heaviest album so far.
Dreamy standout “Wounds” sounds like the band worshipping at the altar of the almighty Deftones. It showcases the masterful balance between the venomous and the ephemeral Senses Fail achieve a on much of Pull The Thorns From Your Heart. The only track that almost entirely separates itself from this unprecedented level of aggression is mid-album lullaby “Surrender”, which has the same uplifting blend of Buddhist and humanist messages as every other song on here – but unfortunately none of the excitement.
The metal elements of the core Senses Fail sound that were more pronounced on Renacer are almost fully realised on this album. Songs in the latter-half are fairly relentless instrumentally, with “We Are All Returning Home” by far the closest Senses Fail have come to sounding like a black metal band, and “Dying Words” featuring never before heard bellowing growls from Buddy. The title track itself bravely alludes to Buddy’s process of accepting his orientation by stating, “I tried so hard to runaway from the truth // I fucking hated myself so I abused // my soul, my heart, my body for the sexuality I didn’t choose.” It’s a triumphant high-water mark for the band that has a few lovely clean singing passages amidst the chaos, as well as an outro that is heavy enough to be confused for a Triptykon riff.
On Pull The Thorns From Your Heart you’re not going to get anything nearly as poppy as “Family Tradition”, “Can’t Be Saved”, or “Saint Anthony.” What you will get is a band that is as unafraid to face the psychological shadows of their personalities as they are to potentially alienate a swathe of their fanbase by playing by far the most abrasive songs of their career. There is a lot to be said for the overt authenticity that Senses Fail have cultivated in themselves and put whole-heartedly into Pull The Thorns From Your Heart. It is by far their least accessible album, by far their most vulnerable album, and the biggest risk of their career. Pull The Thorns From Your Heart is a risk that has paid off.