It’s been the 2 Year Itch since my most revered album of 2015; ‘Tragedy Will Find Us‘ somehow managed to exceed all my gargantuan expectations, having regarded Canada’s Counterparts as possibly the band with the most consistently terrific output this side of the decade. And, true to form, the cohort have yet again provided more devastatingly successful material to add to their genre-propelling catalogue.
That’s never an easy feat for an artist in any field, yet even the aftermath of ‘Tragedy Will Find Us‘ – encompassing the loss of original main songwriter Jesse Doreen, and the departure of the band’s entire rhythm section – has seemed to spell anything but tragedy. Guitarist Adrian Lee has been amplified with another chordal-riff aficionado in Blake Hardman. Counterparts’ drummers have succeeded each other in maintaining their idiosyncratic creativity, and newcomer Kyle Brownlee’s swing-sticking showcase is testament to the band’s propensity to fill each track with purposeful flair. Last-Counterpart-remaining vocalist Brendan Murphy has even tested new zero-fucks-given, venue levelling metal waters with new band END, and when completed by bassist Tyler Williams, an anxious suspicion regarding a shift in sound for a band at the top of their game still remained rife.
‘You’re Not You Anymore sees Counterparts adding more structure to sweaty two-and-half-minute pit anthems, all whilst retaining their instrumental prowess and vocal strain.’
Fortunately, whilst considered a fault in the case of many musicians, the same passionately delivered explosion of shapeshifting chordal sequences and uplifting bright lead riffery remains. Yet, the difference here is a more obvious restraint from veering into sporadic excitement and changing from one idea to the next without dwelling on a song’s key focus. ‘You’re Not You Anymore‘ sees Counterparts adding more structure to sweaty two-and-half-minute pit anthems, all whilst retaining their instrumental prowess and vocal strain.
All of this album’s slowly slowly catchy monkey leaked elements add up to another work of ambiguous hardcore art. The cover: a modern white breezeblock-style house. Just that. Simply an image of modernism or change or-? And the round black circle complete with a bisecting line through indicating “NO” is highly reminiscent of the Ghostbusters logo without the cartoonish spectre; this latest album ironically without a ‘Ghost‘ but sharing many characteristics with 2013’s ‘The Difference Between Hell and Home‘. As ever, Brendan Murphy couldn’t be any more different to his meme thought leader Twitter persona, laying out lyrics like a baker in an emo patisserie. “Hope is a blade that bears my name / I knew your rope was made for me” is but one example of scrutiny in the face of hope, and much of Murphy’s self-reflective heart-on-sleeve wordsmithery is characteristically melancholic. His delivery is urgent and more distraught than anger-fuelled, the exception being in ‘Thieves‘: a typical Counterparts album banger featuring a maelstrom of stop/start beatdowns and snare attacks a minute or so long to apply the gasoline for a pit inferno.
It’s fair to say that tracks such as ‘Arms Like Teeth‘ and ‘Haunt Me‘ may somehow be a few of the most phenomenal tracks this band has produced, from a songwriting purist’s perspective, and with only a 27 minute runtime for the 11 track effort, it’s clearly a careful trimming of any fat that is as clinical as every note executed. The polished production serves to accentuate Counterparts‘ overt sense of yearning, strife and anguish, all perfectly epitomised in Murphy’s bellowing of the album title in the heavenly closer. That lyric “You’re Not You Anymore” documents the band’s changing of the guard, and whilst not accelerating their masterful musical abilities to avenues that they’re certainly capable of, Counterparts are luckily still enough of the same to remain kings of the melodic hardcore castle, and to not change my belief that they will be those residents until another band of genre-shaking revolutionaries steps up to take hardcore’s crown.
Image: Pure Noise Records