Some four years after the groundbreaking 'Stage Four', where Jeremy Bolm worked through the death of his mother and the ensuing grief, Touché Amoré return with a much more forward-thinking and outward-looking record.
The after-effects of 'Stage Four' are still prevalent, particularly in the first half of 'Lament' – even if the relationship is never fully described – but this is a record more concerned about observations of the human condition which have been gathered over the last four years.
Having excelled in the concept album format on both 'Stage Four' and 2013's 'Is Survived By' – an exploration of legacy – the shift to a more traditional form is freeing for the Californians. This is reflected in their most ambitiously sounding record to date, with songs stretching into the five-minute territory ('Limelight), dabbling in post-punk ('Lament') or big swathes of melody ('Reminders'). In relation to 'Is Survived By' – where the message was delivered at the speed of sound – such subtlety feels a world away. Yet, it also feels entirely natural, as if the shackles have been released, allowing Touché Amoré to flex their creative muscles in new and exciting ways. Take opener 'Come Heroine', which leans on the slow/loud maelstrom of post-rock titans Explosions In The Sky far more than the bludgeoning intensity of more traditional hardcore staples.
'Lament' is also crystal clear. Too often with hardcore, the intensity of the emotions buries any sense of clarity, but here, everything is clearly defined. Helmed by Ross Robinson – the nu-metal overlord who worked similar wonders with At The Drive-In's seminal 'Relationship of Command' – 'Lament' represents an equally-impressive breakthrough, elevating a much-beloved cult act from one of rock's more insular sub-genres into something with a much broader appeal.
'Lament' consequently feels like an assured breakout; removed from a concept, it's a svelte and streamlined take on the tried and trusted. A through narrative may be missing, but it only means the songs – rather than the ideas – take centre stage. On the likes of 'Feign' and 'Deflector', the results are truly dazzling.