Tragedy weighs heavy and coping is the most important aspect of coming to terms with an emotional event. And what Touché Amoré has proven time and time again is that it may not be the pretty but facing such tragedies head on is the most effective route to closure.
The Cali post hardcore giants are one of (if not) the most raw, emotional and honest bands recording music right now, perfectly fusing their heavy sound together with Jeremy Bolm’s intense lyrical content. Their latest album, Stage Four, is a sonic autobiography that serves to make sense of a lifetime with Bolm’s mother and the cancer that took her life back in 2014.
On first listen you can hear the Touché Amoré signatures are there; heavy and raw sounding instrumentation and Bolm’s distinctive and familiar scream. However, there appears to be something pushing this record towards emotional and creative horizons that go beyond any previous effort. Having a single theme on the album allows Bolm to explore the themes in-depth, dissecting aspects of his mother’s life with attention; Bolm’s writing always focuses on self-examination and exploration and Stage Four shows that with beauty.
The album starts with one of the standout tracks, ‘Flowers and You’; “I’m heartsick and well-rehearsed. I’ve been decorated with a badge that says ‘it could be worse”, and with an opening line like that it’s obvious Stage Four will only get more heart breaking and heavy as the minutes pass, highlighting that feeling of loss and how much of a ripple effect it has. Everyone who has someone close to them will know what Bolm means when he sings; “I didn’t know just what to say when I watching you weather away”, while a stand out lyric in ‘Eight Seconds’ paints a devastatingly familiar picture; “Not surprising I put off the call… Anything to prolong the chances, Before confronting she was really gone… Made the call and stared at my feet, She passed away about an hour ago, When you were onstage living the dream”.
‘Displacement’ is a fast and self-reflecting Touché Amore track that feels familiar at this point, yet still adds new life to the band. With lines like; “Last week I crashed my car and I walked away unscathed, Maybe that was you asking me to keep my faith” and “You died at 69 with a body full of cancer, I asked your god how could you but never heard an answer” showing an exceptionally beautiful execution in emotional songwriting. ‘Benediction’ and ‘Skyscraper’ (which features vocals from Julien Baker) are two songs that show a different side to the band. Using Bolm’s singing as focal points instead of his screaming adds depth and nuance, along with a more technical and ambient sound.
2013’s Is Survived By saw the band venture into the realm of three-minute plus tracks, a step repeated here. It has provided the band with a new dynamic and ability to experiment with structure. Having a mixture of one, two and three minute songs always keeps you engaged with a whirlwind of catchy songs, undeniably relatable lyrics and pulse rising sounds. It’s all accompanied by Bolm’s exceptional vocal performance; his singing voice sounds something close to Matt Berninger’s (of The National), at times closer to a haunting spoken word performance than a traditional singing voice.
Stage Four will no doubt please fans of the bands unrivalled emotional approach to post hardcore, while those who are only just experiencing Touché Amoré’s tour-de-force of emotion and sound for the first time should be well aware that it doesn’t get more intense than this.
Stage Four is out now on Epitaph Records.