Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Album Review: Touche Amore - Is Survived By

Album Rating: A
Brutal. Melodic. Cathartic. These words can be applied to any one of Touche Amore's short bursts of hardcore that span a handful of splits and two previous full-lengths. With Is Survived By, the band blows their back catalog out of the water, up over the mountains and out of the atmosphere in thirty minutes of raw emotional expression. Touche Amore have positioned themselves as one of the most vital bands in the genre with not only the best music of their career, but also the best album of the year thus far.

2011's Parting The Sea Between Brightness & Me brought a songwriting and production refinement to the Los Angeles five-piece's discography with generally positive reviews. The engaging and memorable moments kept the blistering assaults revving between bouts of heavy-then-soft song structures, rivaling the debut LP …To The Beat Of A Dead Horse. The short songs treaded more territory with quick riffs, rushed chugs and violently abrasive drum fills, but overall sounded more cohesive and daresay approachable than their previous release. Taking all of this into consideration, Is Survived By merges the evolutionary sound of Parting The Sea with the emotion and energy of …To The Beat Of A Dead Horse. This is what it means to progress.

The album opens with the accessible "Just Exist," a poster child for the nuanced evolution that the band has built on Is Survived By. The big brother to "~," it's a strong blend of hardcore roots and refined structure. "DNA" spouts off chaotic mathcore elements and technical drums reminiscent of Parting the Sea. Halfway through, the song breaks for a second of silence before it comes crashing back in with a vengeance. Drummer Elliot Babin is a monster as he showcases his complete dominance over his kit. "Just Exist" echoes similar notions of hardcore urgency while the softer "Praise / Love" ripples an emotional imminence before tearing into "Anyone / Anything." The soft female backing vocals at the end of "Blue Angels" is another bright moment while the quick punch of "Kerosene" swings through with punk fervor.

Lyrical content fluxes between between inner struggles, relationships, beliefs and situations that are relatable, but never trite or stale. Vocalist Jeremy Bolm pours his heart out through self-revelation like a self-deprecating preacher, spreading a gospel of warning and resilient maturity. "To Write Content" recalls Bolm's conversations with members of Balance & Composure regarding influential lyricism, while "Harbor" delves deep into Bolm's desires and achievements. "I always envisioned myself as a giver / but as I reflect, I've left something to be desired," he muses as guitarists Clayton Stevens and Nick Steinhardt provide an atmospheric umbrella over the tune. Bassist Tyler Kirby also stands out in the track, providing a prominent bass-over-drums that drives the song towards its close.

The albums climax is mind-blowing with the four-pronged combo of the final tracks. "Social Caterpillar" takes a rolling riff that runs in and out of the soft and heavy sides of over three minutes. The pummeling drums keep the track moving and will be sure to cause much crowd movement at live shows. "Non Fiction" is the best display of the band's songwriting evolution as confident and calculated guitars create a somber shadow that rolls into a heartbreaking crescendo. Every note is precise and every scream is poignant, which can't be said for many other post-hardcore bands dabbling around in the scene right now. "Steps" blasts through two minutes of pure energy with crashing cymbals giving way to a roaring punk anthem. In the end, "Is Survived By" is the holy grail of tracks here. It's a culmination of everything the band has done, showcasing an aggressive outpour of the fastest and most melodic parts of Touche Amore. The desperation in Bolm's voice will cause hearts to crack as he wails, "So write a song that everyone can sing along to / so when you're gone, you can live on, they won't forget you."

Touche Amore are not just another band. Years of relentless touring has no doubt taken a toll on both the physical and emotional states of each member. Is Survived By is the results of those trials and the evolution that comes forth from maturity and enlightenment, and it's a damn good one. Put together with precision, the album is a puzzle of emotion. It tackles the burdens of reflection between fans that look up to the band with praise and the band coping with their responsibility to those fans, whether it be for a record, a personal connection or otherwise. Is Survived By is not just another rock record — it's a legacy left by a band that has earned their notoriety with perseverance and honesty, and it deserves to be heard.

Track List:

1. Just Exist
2. To Write Content
3. Praise / Love
4. Anyone / Anything
5. DNA
6. Harbor
7. Kerosene
8. Blue Angels
9. Social Caterpillar
10. Non Fiction
11. Steps
12. Is Survived By

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