Touché Amoré have never shied away from the difficult aspects of life. On previous efforts, including 2013’s seminal Is Survived By, they have worn their heart on their sleeves, with confessional lyrics part and parcel of their unrelenting sound.
Stage Four, released on Epitaph Records, continues this trend, finding frontman Jeremy Bohm in mourning over the death of his mother in 2014. Needless to say, it’s a harrowing experience, but it's equally profound and cathartic as it is confronting. Whether he’s screaming or singing, Bohm always finds the right words for maximum impact, exploring minute details of his memories and grievances to devastating effect.
Openers “Flowers and You” and “New Halloween” are early highlights and set the tone immediately, with duelling guitars and propulsive percussion remaining one of the band’s greatest strengths. Stage Four is a natural progression of their previous sounds, with greater emphasis on melody over heaviness. “Skyscraper”, featuring Julien Baker, is one of the softest songs the band have put to tape, and serves as a strong conclusion to the evocative and progressive tracks that come before it. Still, Bohm hasn’t quite perfected the art of singing softly, and some vocal efforts are inconsistent- “Palm Dreams” has a gorgeous chorus, but the singing on “Benediction” isn’t quite as refined, bordering on “whiny”. This isn’t a major issue, however, as the instrumentals and lyrics more than make up for these slight missteps.
Stage Four is the most mature Touché Amoré album to date, and perhaps the most likely to achieve crossover appeal. They have made the most of a traumatic experience, turning all the resulting pain and introspection into a fervent and resounding piece of art that will move even the most hardened souls.
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