What does it mean to be emotional? Well, on their third studio album, Is Survived By, Californian hardcore outfit Touche Amore has figured that out. They may not be the most complacent individuals, especially leadman Jeremy Bolm, who takes up his penchant for gloomy catharsis throughout the record with a lyrical and vocal intertwining that both supports and supplements one another. But when it comes to full release, these guys have grown into a relentless, multi-perspective entity, and each of the album’s immense 12 songs come together to create 2013’s biggest – and most beautifully agonizing – masterpiece.
Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me was one of my favorite albums of 2011, and for good reason. The group’s songwriting was powerful and crisp; same with the purity of the instrumentation and emotional discharge. But it was a brief album, and it may have been overlooked for both that and its minor structural weakness: a (tiny) bit of lacking depth.
Luckily, for fans who thought that Touche Amore could refine their sound a bit by adding a deeper bottom to the seas that they so awe-inspiringly parted with their second record, all of their wishes come true with Is Survived By. The album is nearly perfect from beginning to end, flourishing with an endless expanse of emotions and overall depth, and a wider range of musical vibes than the band has ever captured before. Yet, within the most vast of borders that the group provides on the record, there is a pulsating heart that is as potently charged as ever. Touche Amore’s roots exist to a greater degree throughout, hinting at a variety of old-school post-hardcore and emo-rock bands ranging from Converge to Devil & God-era Brand New, but still retaining the quintet’s melodic swiftness.
Opener “Just Exist” doesn’t follow its title’s regulations; instead, it’s a lively mix of Bolm’s unrestrained lyrical rapture and the band’s carefully-regulated punk riffage — chaos meets calmness on both levels. The track is a living, breathing organism. But it works the opposite way that human life does, gaining youthfulness with every word. “Praise / Love” separates two blazing hardcore bangers in “To Write Content” and “Anyone / Anything”. The minute-long track is a change-up in comparison to the album’s typical two-to-three-minute musical congregations. That being said, its echoing guitars and patient culmination of sentimentality are fresh and satisfying. “Harbor” begins the same way, with the instrumentation’s true colors being extended to a single point; then the full spectrum explodes and rains down on the listener as the punchy guitars and Bolm’s valor enrich one another.
The last few songs are the most entrenching cuts on the record. These songs tend to be faster in tempo, coming off more as a crescendo of Is Survived By’s overall composition than anything. The mellow “Non-Fiction” magnificently offsets the final (and title) track. In the finale, which caps off the sweeping half hour of fervor-laced, radiantly melancholic hardcore, guitarists Clayton Stevens and Nick Steinhardt rapidly strum until it seems like carpal tunnel will literally overtake them. But it’s the music that overtakes them — the thick passion of it all, and the way it all fades into nothingness.
Just like its title demonstrates – handing over the memory of a person to their loved ones — Is Survived By will be remembered just for that. It falls into the same boat as a lot of emotional music, but that’s what makes the record so personal and distinct. But, unlike a eulogy, this album is a call to existence. It’s a completely vivid exploration of the bright and dark of Parting the Sea, a sorrowful examination of life’s blissful experiences – or, quite perhaps, a blissful examination of life’s sorrowful experiences. Regardless of what it is, it’s the strongest culmination of songs Touche Amore has created to date. It finds the songwriting incredibly expansive, and the display of feelings immaculate and unrestrained.
Do you hear that ringing in your ears? That’s Is Survived By reverberating from your inner nerve endings to your outer ear canal, resonating within your mind’s perception of sound with every beat and every melody. This time around, it won’t just stick around for years, it will stick around for an eternity.
Hardcore | Deathwish Records