Counterparts- The Difference Between Hell and Home
Release Date: July 24, 2013
Record Label: Victory Records
Metalcore is a genre that’s failed completely in grabbing my attention over the years. While bands that helped popularize the genre in the 21st century such as Killswitch Engage and All That Remains have definitely maintained rock solid discographies throughout their lustrous careers; few bands have actually succeeded in capturing the raw, unadulterated intensity tucked away in this style of music – instead burying their potential under gluts of monotonous, open-chord chugging time and time again. However, in-spite of being a naysayer towards the genre, a friend of mine simply demanded that I at least give Canadian, Metalcore/Melodic Hardcore-aficionados Counterparts a try. So with a combined feeling of skepticism and anticipation, I bought their latest offering The Difference between Hell and Home off of iTunes; unsure of what to expect.
The opening track “Lost” literally threw me the guttural punch that I haven’t experienced in years from this genre – everything that I could have possibly wanted from a band like this is here in full effect: rip-roaring intensity, haunting and powerful lyricism, solid song structures and vocals that guide each song forward with a remarkable sense of command. “Raw” is the best adjective I can find; no jarring synthesizers or hocus-pocus production wizardry to be found here, instead, TDBHAH captures the visceral nature of watching a band like this perform live, something I would have never expected from a Metalcore band in this day-and-age. However, lumping Counterparts into that genre would actually undermine much of what they do here, since their melodic but ferocious antics definitely ring old-school Hardcore in the vein of bands like Comeback Kid and even Million Dead .
The band treads the tropes of Metalcore only occasionally throughout TDBHAH, and while they do throw in the occasional two-step breakdown – these moments are thankfully used sparingly and tastefully without sullying the musicianship that remains wholly impressive throughout the album. Vocalist Brendan Murphy’s raspy, throaty screams are both emotive and distinct, complementing the riffing of guitarists Jesse Doreen and Alex Re brilliantly and newcomer Kelly Bilan provides a solid backbone for every song behind the drum-kit. The real standout element on this album is the irresistible intensity that seeps throughout every song. Listening to tracks like “Cursed” or “Compass” without feeling the need to run straight through a concrete wall is nigh-on impossible; thanks in no-small part to the bombastic, anthemic choruses that incentivize replay value aplenty. The lead single “Witness” is a brilliant display of this; combining pulse-pounding drumming, harmonized guitar licks and Brendan’s imposing vocal presence to great effect over the span of roughly three minutes.
The band also displays good amounts of creativity in their song structures as well. The aforementioned opener is merely a two-minute long song that flows organically throughout its brief time span. Other songs feature a basic verse-chorus-verse formula with calm breathers juxtaposed in between; letting the listener (and supposedly, Brendan) catch their breath before the next riff-and-scream explosion is triggered. “Decay” opens with a muffled spoken-word passage and an escalating rhythm section which gives way to a cathartic climax of drowned screams and guitars, which feels like a homage to early "Screamo" acts like Saetia.
Yet the element that stunned me the most on the album was the lyrics. Murphy’s lyrical themes are very powerful and mature.
“You wrap yourself around me, but I can only sense your presence. You're nothing but a carcass.”
Murphy screams at the top of his lungs in the intense, emotionally-wrought two-minute burst that is “Debris”. It’s clear that Murphy has suffered through alienation and isolation, evidenced in the powerful, heartfelt track “Outlier” in where Brendan spills his heart out:
“Embracing only alienation. To suffer is to abandon the only home I've ever had.
Submerged in apathy, it's just becoming hard to care, and I am nothing.”
And yet this is just one of many impactful moments that will stick with you and prompt you to return to this album – the haunting, utterly beautiful outro to "Wither" and the bone-crushing riffing on "Slave" are both good examples, and goosebumps are abundantly guaranteed throughout the 11 songs on this LP. It's just too bad that some of these tracks are little too fleeting and seem to be more interested in delivering these adrenaline-rushing moments rather than full-fledged songs. In other words, if you can't stand chorus-driven tracks, then you might find this album lacking substance.
In conclusion, enough praise simply can't be handed to the emo-leaning Metalcore/Hardcore-quintet Counterparts, a band that has been able to hone in on the strengths of this divisive genre and deliver sheer, raw energy over the course of a 35-minute-or-so long album. It’s tough to come off as anything but insanely optimistic in regards to the future of this style of music, because for every generic Hardcore or Metal band that comes along, bands like Counterparts will continue to be firmly rooted in greatness – unwilling to appeal to genre clichés and instead emit intense clarion calls of emotional fragility one sublime, mosh-worthy song at a time.
Because that’s exactly what you’re granted on The Difference between Hell and Home.
Glad someone finally reviewed this. This is my favorite release from these guys thus far - much more complex than previous work. Feels like it needs to be listened to frequently to be properly digested. And "Slave" is such a gut-punch, love it.
Absolutely the best band on Victory right now. Can't believe I've waited til now to check out these guys. I'm surprised you didn't touch on "Ghost" in the review; that's one of the more powerful songs to me.