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In a worldwide scene characterised by shameful reproductions of earlier, more accomplished artists, Counterparts are a welcoming breath of fresh air. The Ontario-based quintet presents listeners with a pastiche of genres on their sophomore album ‘The Current Will Carry Us’, intertwining their heavy-handed influence from veteran melodic hardcore bands like Love Is Red and Comeback Kid with lashings of metallic guitar phrases and dynamic, truncated rhythms and song structures that strongly echo the sensibilities of metalcore. The album is decidedly more ambitious and experimental than the band’s 2010 debut LP ‘Prophets’, displaying markedly improved songwriting and exceptional musicianship that pushes the band far ahead of their contemporaries.
In many ways, ‘The Current Will Carry Us’ marks a point of evolution and maturity for the band, relinquishing them from the guttural heaviness that anchored much of their previous work in favour of a direction that firmly embraces their melodic hardcore influences. However, some aspects of the band’s sound remain almost unchanged. Frontman Brendan Murphy still executes his vocals with the same gruff, mid-range scream that characterised the band’s debut album, exuding intensity without appearing forced or strained. His style is extremely reminiscent of hardcore-punk bands like Have Heart, lacking the deeper, gravelly sound that defines the greater majority of metalcore, and his unwavering tone serves as a unifying force for Counterparts’ chaotic instrumentation. The band’s lyrical content shows a strong influence from positive hardcore, largely exploring themes of introspection and seeing the lighter side to adversity that are reflected strongly in tracks like ‘The Constant’ and ‘Thank God’. Songs like ‘Jumping Ship’ are reinforced with explosive, one-sentence punchlines that lend accessibility to the album and beg for crowd participation.
One of the major points of progression for the band comes from the refinement and confidence of their songwriting. The tracks on this album are densely layered and constantly evolving, emphasising dynamic shifts in tone and atmosphere that lends diversity to individual songs. The rhythms are sporadic and unpredictable, cutting back and enveloping in on themselves and frequently shifting in tempo, which keeps the album musically interesting. This is a testament to the proficiency of drummer Ryan Juntilla, who segues seamlessly from thrashy, rapid-fire drumbeats into sliced and truncated remnants of a 4-to-the-floor breakdown on opening track ‘I Am No One’. Despite lacking in overall structure, the band’s prowess with their instrumentation allows the songs to maintain coherency and direction. The dual guitars are the band’s strongest asset and move far beyond the chugging, muted open-chords exercised by many proponents of modern post-hardcore. They saturate the heaving intensity of the music with strong melodic sensibilities and soaring leads, lacing tracks like ‘The Disconnect’ with abrasive, discordant riffs and phrases that lend the album a gritty, dissonant tone.
The album’s production is glazed over heavily with a worn, rawer edge that differs from the band’s previous release. Many of the band’s harmonised, high-register riffs are washed with a warm, gritty tone that differs from the razor-sharp leads showcased by other metalcore bands like August Burns Red. Despite this shift, the album’s sound is still full-sounding and intense, with powerful, driving chords anchoring the interloping melodic lines. The album’s exceptional mixing comes alive on heavier tracks like ‘MMVII’, assaulting the listener with a barrage of massive drums and gruff, dissonant guitars. Despite generally remaining musically entertaining, the album’s overall lack of accessibility makes it difficult for tracks to stand out from one another, a fault which is worsened by the album’s lack of structure. Almost as an apology for this, ‘The Current Will Carry Us’ ends itself on its highest note, ‘Reflection’, a slow, brooding and beautiful track cut deep with poignancy. It is the closest the band comes to a structured and holistically melodic hardcore sound, and is the strongest and most emotionally-affecting song on the album.
On their sophomore release ‘The Current Will Carry Us’, Counterparts have exposed a confident and more ambitious side to their songwriting. Their style takes the breakneck energy and tuneful sensibilities of melodic hardcore and interweaves it with the abrasive, metallic discordance and shifting dynamics of metalcore, creating densely-layered soundscapes built upon unpredictable and constantly evolving rhythms that always prove to be musically interesting.
1. The Disconnect
2. I Am No One
3. The Constant
6. Jumping Ship
8. Thank God