Fingerprints Record Store
Touché Amore’s new album Stage Four is the heaviest record I've ever heard. And I’m not talking about the hardcore groups’ signature crashing drums, buzzsaw guitars or singer Jeremy Bolm’s impassioned vocals. Those are all there, too, but the meaning behind the record is what gives it its serious weight. Simply put, Stage Four is Bolm’s open confessional detailing his mother’s death from cancer and his emotional aftermath.
It’s a concept album in a way I have never heard before in that it hides no scar in metaphor. This is catharsis in the truest sense of the word. It’s heartbreaking. It’s powerful. It’s the kind of record that makes you think about your life. About the ones you may have lost or the ones you are lucky still to have. It’ll make you pick up the phone one way or the other. Stage Four is an album that for its creators clearly had to exist as part of the healing process. And though this isn’t Touché Amoré’s first record to touch on personal issues like anxiety and depression, Stage Four’s commitment to unabashedly exploring one of the most difficult times in one’s life makes it their best record yet.
If step one in the healing process for Bolm was writing and recording Stage Four, then step two began last night when Touché Amoré played an intimate (but assuredly not acoustic) set at Fingerprints in Long Beach.
Before the show started, Fingerprints assistant manager Dennis Gawronski took to the stage and made the audience swear, with hand over heart, that they wouldn’t start a mosh pit amongst the CDs and LPs. Fans can save that for Saturday when Touché Amoré will be headlining the Fox Theatre in Pomona with a stacked undercard featuring Balance and Composure and HUM.
Unlike a lot of in-store performances, this was full band going full speed, as if Touché Amoré were jamming at their practice space for a hundred or so of their biggest fans and closest friends. They opened with “Displacement” from Stage Four, with Bolm belting out over the first few driving notes: “You died at 69 / with a body full of cancer / I asked your god how could you? / But never heard an answer.” It was an immediate punch to the gut, as most of the brutally honest lyrics on Stage Four are.
Next up was “Water Damage,” one of the few songs on Stage Four that Bolm switches out his his intensely shouted vocals to go with a clean singing style. But that subdued opening soon crashed down about a minute into the song, with the band ramping up the energy to another crescendo.
“New Halloween” and “Rapture” followed, two more new songs from Stage Four. The former had the room head bobbing with heavy approval as Bolm continued his on-stage confessional, ending the song with another dagger “I haven’t found the courage to listen to your last message to me.” That final voicemail from his mother actually makes it onto Stage Four, as the last thing you hear on the record.
On “Rapture,” Bolm ripped the mic away from his mouth to hang over the crowd and use every part of his slight frame to scream “Something you love is gone!” in to the fans, turning his face beet red in the process. This is the kind of usual back-and-forth Touché Amoré and their crowd produce at a typical show, and one of the reasons this band has such a tight-knit and passionate following.
After playing one more new song, “Palm Dreams,” Touché Amoré transitioned to a couple of older cuts. “Harbor” hit like a ton of bricks, with raucous participation from the squeezed in crowd. I saw one dude who really wanted to crowd surf, but he clearly took that opening oath to heart. Next up was fan favorite “~” a minute-and-a-half of pure hardcore that Bolm didn’t really even need to sing as the crowd in the front was rushing him to get their chance to scream into the mic.
It seemed like the show was over after that, but it might be one of the greatest victories in “One more songs!” history – it actually worked when the band wasn’t planning on playing one more song! This led Bolm to say, “Wow, now the anxiety is going through the roof,” as he and his band mates nervously chatted on stage trying to pick a song. Crowd shouts of not “Freebird,” but Touché Amoré classic “Method Act,” won out and the band ripped through the song to more intense back and forth with their intensely adoring fans.
Bolm may be telling his own personal story on Stage Four, but it’s one that many, many people can relate to. After the show I heard countless fans walk up to the band and genuinely thank them for their music. For getting them through a dark time. For saving their life.