The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Stage Four: Hardcore Reflection


“Stage Four,” the fourth full length release from the LA Post-Hardcore quintet Touché Amoré, is an album like no other experienced since the emergence of the Washington D.C.-based Hardcore movement. On this new album, Amoré transgress the boundaries of both genre and lyricism, creating an end product with the melodic satisfaction of artists like The Smiths intertwined with the unhinged passion of Jeremy Bolm’s vocal delivery.

      Bolm’s lyricism has been a major part of the group’s dynamic ever since their debut release, “To the Beat of a Dead Horse.” He is able to write with sentiment and raw emotion, similar to that of Sufjan Stevens on his beautiful 2015 release “Carrie and Lowell,” while also applying it to harsh post-hardcore instrumentation provided by guitarists Clayton Stevens and Nick Steinhardt, bassist Tyler Kirby and drummer Elliot Babin. The group formed in 2007 and have consistently toured ever since, quickly becoming known for their hyper-energetic live sets as well as their introspective lyrics.

   On “Stage Four,” the dense lyrics compound to form a fitting eulogy to Bolm’s mother, Sandra, who passed away from cancer in 2014. The title of the album takes on a double meaning, reflecting both where the band is sonically (this is the band’s fourth full-length album) and also the stage of cancer Bolm’s mother suffered from. Often artists find it difficult to tackle such heavy subjects, preferring to use metaphors and impersonal, third person narratives to present ideas and emotions. However, this is not the case at all for Bolm, who gives us full access into the pain and anguish he had been suffering since his mother’s passing.

    The album begins with the song “Flowers and you”, a sentimental apology from Bolm to his late mother for not taking better care of her through her illness. The song finishes with the line:

“I’ve kept it bottled up and to myself in the cellar/ Kept for my ever changing mental health”

       Through these lyrics, Bolm demonstrates how suppressing emotions, especially grief and depression, is not the way to cope with loss. Instead, he has chosen to share his experience with the whole world as a better means of dealing with the pain he felt.

      The chords billowing within the intro of the next song, “New Halloween,” release an energy that’s reminiscent of an early The Story So Far with its mix of raw intensity and pure melody. As Bolm cries “Somehow it has already been a year,” the bright guitars and driving drum and bass crescendo, adding to the pace and intensity of the track. The contrast between the introspective lyrics and upbeat tempo demonstrates the chaos of a tumultuous year in which Bolm is trying to come to terms with his loss.

       On “Eight Seconds,” he sings passionately: “She passed away an hour ago while you were on stage living the dream.” This line perfectly encapsulates the forces at work throughout the whole album — Bolm’s constant search for redemption as a result of not being there for her throughout her illness. He explores his own selfishness and admits his own mistakes, an accomplishment very few artists can be recognized for.

     The album reaches its climax with the closing track “Skyscraper,” on which Julien Baker guests with her eloquent and heart-wrenching vocals, adding a layer of optimism against a backdrop of snarling pain. This song adds a sense of closure to the record, with Bolm finally coming to peace with himself while reminiscing about the time he spent with his mother wandering the streets of New York City. Bolm forces the listener to recognize that we mustn’t only focus on the negatives of a given situation, but rather remember the whole picture and ultimately allow ourselves to make mistakes and learn from them.

       Touché Amoré are currently on a US Tour and are set to play Des Moines, IA on Oct. 14. The album “Stage Four” is out now on Epitaph Records.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *