Touche Amore’s “Stage Four”: Heart Wrenching Hardcore

This review originally appeared in The Penmen Press on October 12, 2017

We will all, at some point, go through the pain of losing a loved one, if we haven’t already.

Jeremy Bolm of California melodic hardcore band Touché Amoré lost his mother to cancer. Everyone has to find their own way to heal, and his way was to use his band’s latest album, Stage Four to tell a story honoring her memory; the title is a reference to both cancer and the band’s fourth release.

There’s no shortage of throaty roars, wails, and yelps, but musically the band is embracing the “melodic” side of their genre. I’m reminded at times of the best parts of Taking Back Sunday or Brand New. The band’s sound is more accessible than ever on this new album. Accessibility plays in the albums favor, as the lyrical themes can be appreciated universally.

Bolm has grown as a lyricist, transcending his usual topics of anxiety and self-loathing and choosing to write a mature, relatable narrative. The track “Eight Seconds” sees Bolm compare the moment of his mother’s passing to a play: “There is no dress rehearsal/ Just a script that I never read.” This then ties into him actually being on stage with his band when he got the call about her passing.

At times, he’s downright candid, like in the opening track “Flowers and You” where he talks about giving his mother grief for holding strong to her faith even through the worst of her illness. Taking on such a serious topic wouldn’t be possible without the same level of commitment from the band and, boy, do they step it up.

Take lead single “Palm Dreams” for example. The track begins with hard guitars in the verses that fade away into airy acoustic guitars, a grooving bass, and an expressive lead once the chorus hits. Bolm makes an attempt at clean vocals on some tracks here, a first for him. At best, they’re used as a complement as opposed to a focus, adding just another layer to the mix. At worst, like on “Benediction,” he ends up sounding like the most forgettable of grunge singers. Thankfully, these instances are few and far between. Touché Amoré’s latest is the next logical step for the band.

They’re pushing outward in all directions and growing musically and lyrically, giving us a densely textured work. This latest is their most heartfelt and hard hitting yet.

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