Review Summary: The real rebirth of Senses Fail, Pull the Thorns from Your Heart sees the band grow into their new, heavier sound.
Pull the Thorns From Your Heart represents a milestone for Senses Fail. After being scene darlings with two hit albums in Let It Enfold You and Still Searching, they sort of faded into obscurity as they went on to release Life is Not a Waiting Room and The Fire. The albums came and went with little fanfare and didn't offer much new in terms of their sound. A few heads were turned with the release of Renacer, an album that showed off a "rebirth" of the unit as heavier and more hardcore leaning, fronted by a more confident, newly invigorated and sober Buddy Nielsen. The album was good, but the growing pains were present as they shifted into their new lineup and sound.
I can't be the only one who was excited for their new album after Buddy's promises of it being their heaviest and most aggressive album yet. It's a common line of bait that often goes on to become unfulfilled or a lukewarm and watered down delivery of what was promised. Here is a rare case where promises were delivered upon in spades.
Pull the Thorns From Your Heart is Senses Fail's most realized and complete album to date. Their new hardcore sound that dabbles in shoegaze fits the band perfectly, and from the opening assault of "The Three Marks of Existence" it's clear that things have definitely changed. The album is a vicious hardcore barrage of riffs and pummeling drums most of the time, and the track is a furious mission statement of what the album will be all about
The following track takes a swift turn sonically with the first appearance of clean vocals, and they dominate the track. The guitars are also melodic and more pop punk influenced. It almost sounds like the band's early days until spacey guitars layered with reverb and other swirling effects take over and morph the track into something uplifting and inspirational. More impressively though, "Carry the Weight" successfully sees the band employs the shoegaze influence without coming off as hackneyed or forced.
Uplifting and inspiring seem to be the band's goals this time around. Buddy's newfound sobriety, acceptance of Buddhism, and general improved view on life fuel a lyrical delivery that is about as subtle as a brick to the head, but more importantly just as effective. The lyrics are odes to Buddy's struggles with depression, addiction, and sexuality, but as opposed to the old Senses Fail, this batch of songs is about overcoming and escaping those moments rather than succumbing to them.
It's positive almost to a fault, and the lyric sheet doesn't reveal any masterworks of literary genius, but if when Buddy screams about the depression, anxiety and shame that almost killed him, about how he ****in' hated himself so he abused his heart, his soul, his body, about how now he finally wants to be alive and wants to believe... well, hell if you don't just want to believe him and scream right along with him.
The heavy cuts like "The Importance of the Moment of Death" and "Dying Words" make up the bulk of the album but the biggest surprise comes in the form of the slower and more melodic cuts such as "Surrender" The song is the album's centerpiece, a layered and lumbering shoegaze number that plods along and slowly adds elements as the song passes, moving to a post rock inspired climax that closes out the song in grand fashion.
The title track meshes the balls heavy hardcore style with the ethereal and spacey guitars found elsewhere to great effect, with crushing verses that lead to a soaring chorus, and one of the album's highlights. The heavy cuts dominate the album, clean vocals are sparse, and the guitar riffs are furious and pace from breakneck to sludgy on a whim, ready to incite the mosh pit at a show near you.
As a statement of intent, Pull the Thorns from Your Heart is a resounding success for Senses Fail. The album sees the band taking command over their new sound and experimenting with some shoegaze in the process without becoming a gimmick, and while the results aren't always deftly executed, the sincerity that permeates the songs here and the passion that the whole album exudes makes a convincing case for the future of the band.