Senses Fail – Hell Is In Your Head (Album Review)

Senses Fail – Hell Is In Your Head
Released: July 15, 2022

Lineup:

Buddy Nielsen | vocals
Gavin Caswell | guitars and bass
Jason Millbank | guitars
Steve Carey | drums

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“If every day is an awakening, you will never grow old. You will just keep growing.”Gail Sheehy.

If Buddy Nielsen – vocalist, song-writer and essentially the architect of long-serving post hardcore act Senses Fail had a proverb that outlined his journey, the aforementioned quote by famed author and journalist Ms Sheehy could, in all probability, be his mantra. Mr Nielsen’s history is by no means a fairytale: struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, sex addiction and identity issues and anxiety amongst other trauma – Buddy (real name: James) essentially lives a survivor’s story. However, with album number eight: Hell Is In Your Head, it is necessary to make something crystal clear: this isn’t a demand for sympathy. Within the 11 songs present on the full-length, there are moments of desired empathy from both the listener and incredibly from James “Buddy” Nielsen himself – he has been on an expedition with his devotees, from a teenager to a now father and husband as his fan-base have also grown in their own lives.

With this maturation though, one might fear a radical change in the Senses Fail formula; never fear, if anything this new release is an “awakening” of the outfit’s original recipe. Without doubt it is more refined in structure and certainly more methodical in content than the “emo boom” days; some would even say it is a continuation of growing.

‘The Burial Of The Dead’ recalls Senses Fail’s earlier works, namely the aura of single: ‘The Priest And The Matador’ but with an immense injection of the cinematic spirit My Chemical Romance had during Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys; matter-of-factly, the spirit that MCR had with their last three albums before their hiatus. It is still recognisably SF – especially when Buddy bellows in his growling yell. Here we find Mr Nielsen at a new height however, his melodic vocal delivery is at its peak and instead of being influenced by Chris Conley from iconic pop alternative punk rockers Saves The Day, he is alongside it, remarkably.

‘End Of The World/A Game Of Chess’ is a popcore / easycore jewel that acts as an open letter to the world to see the troubles James has had in his chronicles; it steers towards uneasy, but also a sense of relief is found. This track isn’t acting as a cure, but a “call-out” and SeeYouSpaceCowboy’s Connie Sgarbossa is unsparing in her brutal guest vocal delivery.

‘The Fire Sermon’ follows a pop fused punk blueprint that the ‘Fail have never shied away from (see: ‘Calling All Cars’), though lyrically there is no shying away from the message of the song: “I Just Want My Mental Health, To Be My Greatest Wealth” – one can almost SEE the voices of the admirers singing these words, not just hearing them. Then ‘I Am Error’ flirts with The All American Rejects territory of emotive alternative pop punk – except Mr Nielsen howls his message instead of simply serenading for definition.

‘Death By Water’ is arguably, as per this writer, the most striking tune on the record which may come as a surprise. Senses Fail have throughout their discography utilised: pop punk, emo, screamo, alternative rock and metal and there is no denying Buddy’s affinity for the hardcore scene and the prestigious outfits involved (simply google his name and Bane for example), so here is the song featuring the majority of this with an incredible inclusion from Spencer Charnas from Ice Nine Kills. This is the number that A Day To Remember probably forgot to write and it could have fit easily For Those Who Have Heart.

‘What The Thunder Said’ is possibly a misdirect of sorts, or an experiment: “Hello AFI? You also forgot a song it would seem?” – in proper consideration, it is maybe more a B-Side for Davey Havok and his goth punk rockers. It isn’t a misstep for SF, it might just be another much-revised version of ‘The Leaving Song’ as a demonstration.

‘Miles To Go’ is the anthem to growing up into proper realisation and awareness. Climate change, division, political insight and for Buddy personally, being a father – this track behaves as his diary entry that the world is welcome to read. We REQUIRE change for future generations and no one wants to see polar bears dying.

‘Lush Rimbaugh’ could be the ‘Fail’s new opener at their performances – high energy, politically driven hardcore punk with a heroic harmony. It isn’t complicated, it doesn’t need to be, it is just the marvellous mutiny it entails.

The title track is a shattering sequel to ‘The Fire Sermon’ – it is a discomfort with pop sensibilities and truthfully what would be most fascinating about this message would be the timeline of when Mr Nielsen actually penned it. If one has heard of The Legion Of Doom, there is a very enchanting remix version of My Chem’s ‘I’m Not Okay’ that should be made from these two messages of candour.

‘I’m Sorry I’m Leaving’ intriguingly has a musical attitude akin to ‘Bloody Romance’ from nearly two decades prior, although the message is worlds away from the earlier essence; fatherhood alters a man undeniably. Then to close, ‘Grow Away From Me’ which continues this significant fatherhood role James has embraced, but in an unembellished honesty incorporating fear, failure, worry and most importantly “love” – “You Are The Light That Leads Me Home” he devotedly serenades repeatedly and lovingly.

“If every day is an awakening, you will never grow old. You will just keep growing.” – Gail Sheehy.
If there is light, it will find youBuddy Nielsen.

Let light awaken you.

Senses Fail – Hell Is In Your Head tracklisting:

1. The Burial Of The Dead
2. End Of The World / A Game Of Chess
3. The Fire Sermon
4. I Am Error
5. Death By Water
6. What The Thunder Said
7. Miles To Go
8. Lush Rimbaugh
9. Hell Is In Your Head
10. I’m Sorry I’m Leaving
11. Grow Away From Me

Rating: 7.5/10
Hell Is In My Head is out NOW via Pure Noise Records. Grab it here
Review by Will Oakeshott @TeenWolfWill

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About Will Oakeshott (35 Articles)
Funny bloke, writer, Journalist, Vocalist, bit of acting, music, comedy and dad joke lover. Love: music, beer, bodyboarding, movies, books.