Stage Four is a masterwork of emotionally charged modern hardcore. Full of infectious guitar lines, raw punk aggression and thought provoking introspective lyrics. On their fourth record Touche Amore have more than perfected their art and produced arguably the best record of their careers.
Touché Amoré have been one of the shining lights of modern hardcore ever since they announced themselves to the scene with 2011’s “Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me”. This record showcased a perfect balance of unrelenting punk aggression and serene melancholic melody. The follow up “Is Survived By” possibly slowed the groups momentum, the record still had some excellent standout moments but was lacking the same energy and life as the previous release. Now back with their fourth studio album, entitled “Stage Four”, Touché Amoré have arguably produced some of their best material to date.
Stage four as an album title references both the fact this is the bands fourth release along with the highest level of cancer staging, of which lead singer Jeremy Bolm’s mother experienced resulting in her unfortunate death. The band have always dealt with emotional topics in their song writing such as stress, anxiety and self-loathing but have never centred an entire record around something such as this. Throughout its duration “Stage Four” essentially discusses the issues surrounding the loss of a loved one and how those closest deal with the situation. Lyrically this album is a masterwork of emotion, every line delivered with gravitas as Bolm lets his heart spill out into every syllable. One of the clearest examples of this can be heard in the track “New Halloween” with the line, “I haven’t found that courage to listen to your last message to me.” This is even more poignant upon hearing the sample found at the end of the song “Skyscraper”. Speaking of “Skyscraper” this is one of the few songs on the record that feature a cleaner sounding vocal style, as oppose to the abrasive yell that is usually heard from Bolm. This creates a new dynamic to the band’s sound making it catchier and more instantaneous to new listeners. Also it helps add even more brevity to the records softer sections.
The sound of “Stage Four” is also something of note, Touché Amoré have had a definitive sound for a while now with their latest release being no different. All the hallmarks of what makes this band great are here with intricate melodious guitar lines and luscious chords being applied to the aggression and frenetic pace of hardcore. For instance, the albums opener “Flowers and You” begins with a few soft delicate chords ringing out before quickly launching into the breakneck speed fans are accustomed to hearing. Much like the vocal performance the music on “Stage Four” is very emotionally charged ranging from melancholic to uplifting, the band perfectly encapsulating the feelings being expressed throughout each track.
The guitar work is also extremely catchy as you’ll often find yourself humming along to riffs and melodies long after the records done. A clear example of this would be the opening riff to the song “Rapture”the lead guitar line drawing you in acting as the songs chorus. The way in which the band manage to enrapture you in various emotions is incredible taking you from crushing to lows to soaring highs within the space of only a few minutes. You constantly find yourself lost in the music, in very much the same way you would listening to a shoe gaze band, the fact that this effect can be created during a three-minute hardcore song simply exemplifies this bands brilliance. Despite all of the subtle intricate melodies the aforementioned punk energy is still alive and kicking on this album. “Stage Four” may feature luscious reverb soaked guitars but it’s also raw and in your face.
In a world brimming with overly polished pro tooled rock bands it’s refreshing to hear a band that really do sound like a band. As cliché as it may be Touché Amoré sound “real” and hopefully this outstanding record will propel them to larger and greater things as they undoubtedly deserve it. In summation “Stage Four” is an album bursting will vigour and excitement along with introspection and extreme poignancy. In a year already containing so many great records this one still manages to be one of 2016’s shining lights.
You can find more on Touche Amore here…