Music

Senses Fail: Pull The Thorns From Your Heart

The latest Senses Fail album is a journey from the heart of darkness to the heart of the sunrise.


Senses Fail

Pull The Thorns From Your Heart

Label: Pure Noise
US Release Date: 2015-06-30
UK Release Date: 2015-06-29
Amazon
iTunes

Singer Buddy Nielsen has said that this latest Senses Fail album serves as the culmination of a spiritual journey he’s been on since his teens. Maybe so, but it’s also an excellent example of why this band remains as vital today as it was upon its inception all those years ago. A lesser group might have taken the accolades that came with 2013’s Renacer and run with them, unleashing a pale, paint-by-numbers sequel, the kind of lateral move that usually opens the exit door wide for a band, casts it out into the land of has-beens faster than you can say “meteoric rise”. Instead, Senses Fail has pulled together and made a record that is more adventurous musically, more adventurous lyrically, and definitely a promise that Renacer (“to be reborn; to revive”) was as much an album title as a code word for the band’s future.

Pull The Thorns From Your Heart is, in some ways, a new path for the band. There are the familiar post-hardcore sounds you’d expect but also plenty of deeply thoughtful music passages that suggest a collective that is — if not in the Yes sense of the word, then certainly in a broader understanding — increasingly progressive. “Surrender” stands as one of the album’s melodic triumphs and is not only a showcase for Zack Roach’s endlessly imaginative and soul-searing playing but a marvel of production and composition as the quintet traverses just about every shred of musicality it has across the distance of a mere five minutes. That and the album closer, “My Fear Of A Unlived Life”, are equally emotive on the lyrical and musical fronts.

Let’s not forget that anger and frustration are also emotions, which are, to some degree, also in supply here. “Dying Words” wouldn’t feel out of place on a finer Slayer album. “The Three Marks of Existence” and “The Courage of An Open Art” are equally heavy and serve as reminders that, as a wise man once said, anger is an energy, and a potentially transformative one at that. On those songs Nielsen’s vocals are as harrowing the stuff heard in the best of heavy music, while new drummer Chris Hornbrook establishes himself as a more-than-capable addition to the group.

The greatest asset Senses Fail has though is its ability to function as one giant war machine, rolling through the center of your skull and deep into the deepest recesses of your mind: the Roach/Matt Smith guitar axis should give young guitarists plenty to study of a few decades to come and the rhythm section of Hornbrook and Caswell is as good as any drum and bass duos in recent memory. As much as some bands like to boast that heavy music is “cold” and absent emotion, this is music that burns with it, branding its passion into your ears as well as your forebrain. Without that kind of fury and urgency it seems that there is little point to creating or absorbing creations as probing and provocative as this one.

It’s also refreshing that at a time when every numbskull and his numbskull brother proclaims that albums are dead and listeners only care about racing down one song at a time, Senses Fail still gives two bloody Baphomets about how tracks hang together. The sequencing here is superlative, allowing the listener to make the emotional journey alongside the protagonist with all the highs and lows, darkness and light that experiences absorbing each of us, gripping us like the best big screen dramas. When we arrive, at the end, at something like safety, we have an awareness that we did not at the start of the journey and that is no easy feat for any artist, recording or otherwise, to achieve. Those who do it this well can be counted on hands, sure, but let the record show that there will be fingers leftover in the end.

We can only hope that this is just another chapter in a story that will continue to unfold, that the thoughts and emotions here will grow and evolve through another Senses Fail volume and another after that until Pull The Thorns From Your Heart is one day referred to as one of the early entries in the group’s catalog.

8

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image