Longevity is rarely a trait hardcore bands possess. It’s well documented that the genre’s progenitors were dissolving as quickly as they formed, and this instability has seemingly become part of the formula for emerging bands as well. Those that make it to a third release (whether it be an EP or LP) have often faced the reality that the youthful energy that influenced their early work was fleeting, and, despite attempts to stave it off, adulthood is rearing its ugly head.
Los Angeles’ Touché Amoré knows this anxiety well, and isn’t afraid to address it. Its 2007 demo saw it building a small yet persistent buzz in the hardcore community, and the release of its first album, 2009’s …To The Beat Of A Dead Horse, only amplified that hum. But, it was 2011’s Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me that saw Touché Amoré transcend this hype in a most spectacular fashion. It was a triumph for both the band and modern hardcore, as Jeremy Bolm placed reflective lyricism atop unobfuscated musicianship. As opposed to drowning in distortion, the guitars of Nick Steinhardt and Clayton Stevens pinged back and forth with clarity, creating a unified sound that allowed aggression to take a backseat to songwriting and gave even the crispest guitar tone the ability to feel crushingly heavy. Parting The Sea… put the core of Touché Amoré on full display, challenging genre definitions while creating new guidelines for where they should be heading.
The release of the group’s third full-length carries even more weight than its predecessors, as Touché Amoré no longer has something to prove, but everything to lose. On Is Survived By’s second track, “To Write Content,” Bolm addresses all the concerns he has as the de facto face of the band. It’s a recurring topic, but one that is approached with both lyrical and musical grace, as everything that made the band stand out previously is dialed into a microscopic level of precision here. Yet it’s the album’s expansiveness that shows the quintet is not content fitting in to hardcore’s restrictive boundaries.
Over the course of Is Survived By’s 12 tracks, the band pushes itself to embrace the subtleties in its sound that were only hinted at previously. Song lengths expand—as do instrumental sections as the band draws from a deeper well of musical influences—allowing the group’s verbose and concise tendencies to play off one another. Though Bolm’s vocals could be considered one-note, it’s a trait that reaches across the genre, and the subtle ways that he’s learned to manipulate his voice make it incredibly striking. It’s the frailty he imbues to these songs, notably on the emo-inspired “Non Fiction,” that makes his contribution so necessary.
Is Survived By is a transitory record for Touché Amoré, but it doesn’t suffer from this designation. As the band inches toward hardcore’s ceiling, it’s not abandoning the style. Rather, it’s merely embracing the malleable aspects. Is Survived By is Touché Amoré feeling comfortable in its own skin, while remaining unafraid to shake off some of the dead flakes acquired over the years; and the group is all the better for it.