Touché Amoré’s Stage Four is an album about loss. More specifically, it’s an album about the feeling of remorse over loss. The record, the band’s fourth, is based on recent events in the life of frontman Jeremy Bolm, who lost his mother to cancer in 2014.
Across the album’s 11 tracks, Bolm repeatedly leans on the idea that he somehow failed as a son, that he was too busy selfishly chasing rock star dreams in his mother's last moments of need. Much of this feeling of regret is illustrated by reoccurring mentions of a voicemail from his mother, a final call he ignored while on tour. “I just thought that we’d have more time,” he sings on the heartbreaking “Eight Seconds.”
It’s a natural reaction of grief to wallow in self-blame, focusing on memories of the dark days preceding death, rather than celebrating the years of life shared with a loved one. On the album’s final and most subdued track, “Skyscraper" (which features the vocal work of Julien Baker), Bolm reflects on one of those brighter memories—bringing his mother on a trip to New York City in her final months, a place she’d always wanted to visit. He and his brother spent a few days pushing her all over Manhattan in a wheelchair. He remembers her eyes lighting up at the magnitude of Times Square and the excitement of riding the subway, two experiences most New Yorkers curse on a daily basis but to her seemed impossibly wondrous.
“’Skyscraper’ is a thank you letter to the city that brought her so much joy at a time when joy felt unattainable,” he says. “Her ashes were buried in her small hometown in Nebraska I'll likely never see again, but when I'm in New York City, I feel her love.”
Death is an inevitability we must all face in life, and perhaps there’s nothing new or original to be said about it. We can only put our hearts into our words to make the experience our own. Bolm bares his entire soul on these songs, flaws and all, and the result is one of the most—if not the most—deeply personal hardcore records ever written. Stage Four is a beautiful, crushing album that spans the stages of mourning, a quest that sees Bolm desperately chasing the closure he deserves. Ultimately, Bolm must learn to forgive himself. Hopefully, Stage Four will bring him that peace.
Watch the video for “Skyscraper” below, in which Bolm reflects on those days he and his mother spent together in New York City. Stage Four is out on September 16 via Epitaph.
Directed by Sean F. Stout