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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Touché Amoré continue to blur lines of hardcore

Published: September 27, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc.

In late 1999, Jacob Bannon, artist and frontman of the legendary metal-core band “Converge,” formed Deathwish Inc., an independent record label dedicated to promoting small bands through the classic punk rock DIY method. Most of the label’s releases can be classified as part of the hardcore, punk and heavy metal genres. “Converge” guitarist Kurt Ballou frequently acted as producer. Deathwish has cultivated a sound that constantly pushes the boundaries of extreme music with bands that incorporate new ideas and techniques into their styles.

The label has been on a bit of a roll lately, with this summer’s highly acclaimed “Sunbather” by San Francisco shoegaze/metal act Deafheaven, and the recent reunion album “Fever Hunting” by Iowan hardcore stalwarts Modern Life is War. Touché Amoré, a Los Angeles-based post-hardcore band whose blend of Pixies-style indie rock and classic punk, stands out among their more extreme peers. Their latest album “Is Survived By” is the first of theirs that I’ve bought, and it has definitely made me a fan.

“Is Survived By” opens with “Just Exist,” a one-two punch of blasting drums and grungy power chords. The album slowly becomes louder and fiercer with “To Write Content,” and the softer “Praise/Love” which segues into the slam-bash “Anyone/Anything.” Vocalist Jeremy Bolm’s lyrics are bitingly personal and soul baring which gives the songs a gritty realism and intensity. “I don’t know anyone/I don’t know anything/So stop expecting everything from me,” he screams on “Anyone/Anything.”

“DNA,” “Harbor” and “Kerosene” showcase the instrumental skills of guitarists Clayton Stevens and Nick Steinhardt, adding blistering feedback and dueling solos. “Blue Angels” and “Social Caterpillar” discuss emotional alienation and personal struggle, and the instrumentation shows a clear influence of classic post-hardcore such as Fugazi and Envy. “Non Fiction” and “Steps” bring the intensity and emotional reality higher and higher, before finally letting it soar with the title track. The eponymous song is the apex of the album musically and lyrically, and is perfectly placed at the end.

While Touché Amoré may not be as wild or loud as their contemporaries in the “core” scene, it would be a huge mistake to write them off for that reason. They are as honest and real as it gets, and that should outweigh the amount that a singer shreds their vocal chords. “Is Survived By” is a collection of great songs by a band that continues to push itself with each release. As a new fan, I am happy to just sit on the side and listen.