ALBUM REVIEW: Senses Fail – ‘Hell Is In Your Head’

An altar, with candles, flowers and a skull

Senses Fail’s status as emo lifers has most in common with a band like Silverstein in each of their modern incarnations, namely in how they’re tied to their origins without the circumspect view that would leave them shackled there. Over a decade-and-a-half after Still Searching, they’ve reached a point where they’ve been able to mature that sound without doing away with it, making for material that generally has more to it than will likely be given credit. After all, the invasive whiff of nostalgia is an easy workaround for genuine quality, of which Senses Fail prove you can still have both of. Hell Is In Your Head is a prime example, in which the post-hardcore stylings of old are blatant, but also used to hold Buddy Nielsen’s perspective since becoming a father and the ways he views the world because of it. There’s more weight given to ruminations on grief and death, and some unfiltered revelations about his own family on End Of The World / A Game Of Chess that feel robust and lived-in. Similarly, when they open out into concerns about the environment on Miles To Go and the proliferation of far-right politics on Lush Rimbaugh, the sense of perspective of someone with a child whose generation will be saddled with the fallout is what crystallises them into something really strong. Nielsen can easily sell the profile of a man tensed and with his heels dug into the ground, of which he lets down on Grow Away From Me in his coming to terms with his daughter growing up and leaving him behind, and brings his prior concerns full circle. Beyond the occasional reversion back to the emo standard like on the title track, Hell Is In Your Head does have a wizened quality to it that succinctly buoys it up and gives it an individuality among its scene.

Saying that, it’s not as if that’s outside the norm for Senses Fail, a band who—to their absolute credit—have always been a bit more willing to morph within that side of 2000s post-hardcore. Hell Is In Your Head is probably a lesser example of that musically, mainly just running off the cues that 2018’s If There Is Light, It Will Find You laid down previously, but that album also felt like the best medium for this band to be in at this stage. It’s still true here; with tracks like The Fire Sermon and its loud, coursing low end, or meatier hardcore strains on End Of The World / A Game Of Chess and Lush Rimbaugh, Senses Fail can efficiently sound like the post-hardcore of yore has actually grown up. The hooks haven’t been expended either, as comes with the countenance of a band who could wholeheartedly deliver on the front in their heyday, and the impulse hasn’t gone away with Death By Water or Miles To Go sounding as huge as they do. That also adjoins into the fact that drastic newness isn’t a big factor, or perhaps only limited to some fleeting guest vocals from SeeYouSpaceCowboy’s Connie Sgarbossa on End Of The World / A Game Of Chess. Within the realms of Senses Fail’s repertoire—as relatively more pliable to their peers’ as that is—there isn’t an overhaul as drastic as, say, 2015’s Pull The Thorns From Your Heart, which is a litmus test that they’re more than likely not going to match up to any time soon. Not that that’s necessary on what’s still a really solid album, more so than most of the long-time crowd in this lane would produce. It’s all a case of Senses Fail working with their ageing, advancing sensibilities instead of pushing against them, making for an album that sounds natural to where they are, not where they want to be. Just good stuff all around, as is to expected from one of post-hardcore’s regularly slept-on winners.


For fans of: Silverstein, The Used, Finch

‘Hell Is In Your Head’ by Senses Fail is released on 15th July on Pure Noise Records.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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