Senses Fail - Pull The Thorns From Your Heart

Review by Seth Wood

The Let it Enfold You and Still Searching Senses Fail is gone, folks. History. Two great albums, spewing raw energy and angst, assaulting the emotional psyche of anyone caught in their bone-crushing shockwaves—that band has moved on, in a new but very interesting direction. 

All of the fans who have stuck with the band for all these years know it. It happened in 2010 with The Fire. Senses Fail always had an edge to them, but no one foresaw it boiling over like it did with that album. Since then, the band has just continued to step up the energy with each new release. 

There are some who first jumped onto the Senses Fail bandwagon back in the band’s early days thinking that this was another good pop-punk band, on the same playlist as New Found Glory and Yellowcard. Those very people will hear the band’s new album Pull the Thorns From Your Heart and probably hate it. Absolutely nowhere in the album will you find the same sing-song melody like the verse from “Calling All Cars” or the cheerful pop in the line, “So let’s play doctor, Babe!” from “Buried a Lie.” 

There is another group of casual fans who will gag once they hear singer Buddy Nielsen spout lines like “There is so much beauty in being brave / I learned how to love myself” (from the new album’s title track). So many of Senses Fail’s fans loved Nielsen’s brutally depressing lyrics. Clearly, there were so many wounds inside of the vocalist, and it felt to listeners like he was pulling them apart even further every second his voice rang out. It made us feel less ashamed of our own depression and anxiety. It allowed us to really feel ourselves there in that depravity, trudging around in its vapid abyss. In truth, those older songs may have helped us understand ourselves just a little bit more clearly. We can certainly cherish what he gave us, but we must also remember that he is a person. No one could have expected that kind of emotional torture to carry on forever.

For those that don’t know, Nielsen recently posted an interview on his web page in which he opens up about all of the unhealthy, tormenting aspects of his life that have plagued him over his entire career as the vocalist of Senses Fail, including problems with alcohol and anxiety, and confusion over his sexuality (listen to it here: http://buddynielsen.com/post/101854564281/please-read-listen-and-share-thanks-from). Listening to him speak, one will firstly be shocked by all of the baggage that this man carried for so long, but will also be astounded by the ease with which the singer speaks about all of it. It comes across very clear that, while one could never completely resolve problems like these, Nielsen is at least coming to understand himself and his feelings more fully, and has begun to see the light shining out from the other end of the rabbit hole. He carries this new perspective with him into the songs of Pull the Thorns From Your Heart. It takes a bit of an adjustment at first to hear the new approach to the lyrics, but after a few songs one realizes that though the attitude is different, the music still carries the same energy and passion that it always has. 

One cannot simply equate new Senses Fail and old Senses Fail. These are much different musicians and people than they were ten years ago and it certainly shows in their new album, which is nothing like any of their others. There is a more introspective aspect to their lyrics. There are more experimental melodies and tones coming from the instrumentation. There is more allusion to hardcore punk and even metal than before. We knew based off of previous releases and Buddy’s interview that something that sounded like this was coming, and yet it still hits you with force and surprise. You don’t expect the chime-like guitar tones or the mutterings over the verse of “Wounds.” You don’t even expect the hysterical eruption at the end of the final track, “My Fear of an Unlived Life,” and it almost makes you crazy because how could you have not known that these guys were going to weaken the boundary between music and emotion yet again? We knew something like this was coming, and yet Pull the Thorns From Your Heart completely turns your head around, giving you something unlike anything you have heard before.  

Whether you look at it as the highest point in the evolution of Senses Fail, or as something totally disparate from the other releases, it is clear that this is a very special album for the group and their fans. 

Rating: 4.5/5

Listen to "Pull The Thorns From Your Heart"