Audio Mixer: Eric Stenman.
Recording information: Lavish Studios, Burbank, CA; The Airport Studios, Burbank, CA.
Maintaining any sort of consistency is always a challenge for a band, but when you've had the kind of revolving-door lineup that New Jersey post-hardcore unit Senses Fail has had, it becomes especially tough. Originally formed in 2002, the Senses Fail of 2015 is led by singer James "Buddy" Nielsen, the band's sole original member, who continues to keep the home fires burning on their sixth LP, Pull the Thorns from Your Heart. With a new label deal in place, the band begin their tenure at Pure Noise with a surprisingly diverse effort. Some tracks, like album-opener "The Three Marks of Existence" and "The Courage of an Open Heart," are among the heavier tracks they've ever done, with massive 62-string gauge riffs that are practically heart-seizing. Along with the heavier material, though, are a number of more exploratory songs, like the slow, dreamy "Surrender," which favors rich harmonies and gauzy guitar swells over an aggro thump. The two-part album standout "Carry the Weight" also dips in and out of hazy shoegaze textures, showing off Nielsen's vocal range as he confronts his past in order to reach a place of love and compassion. Thematically, much of Pull the Thorns from Your Heart plays out like the tell-all interview Nielsen gave on a 2014 episode of the 100 Words or Less podcast, where he opened up about his battles with alcoholism, his sexuality, and his spirituality. With that kind of emotional resonance tied up in the music there's often a risk of becoming almost evangelistic, but that's not the case here. Nielsen is on a path of recovery, but his frequent references to Buddhism and the album's overall positive tone are more a reflection of his own journey than an imposition of his beliefs on either the band or its fans. Above all, it makes for one of the most musically interesting albums of their career and a welcome change of tone for a veteran band who could probably have continued to rest on their laurels. ~ Timothy Monger