It would be very easy to write off Canadian hardcore outfit Counterparts. Signed to Victory Records and balancing on the ledge above metalcore’s terrible pit of doom, they’re fighting an uphill battle from the off. However, rather than let what they should sound like completely define them, on their third album, Counterparts almost – but not quite – manage to find their niche within an incredibly saturated genre.
The Difference Between Hell And Home is certainly one of the better albums the genre has seen in recent years. Where their second release, The Current Will Carry Us, seemed over-reliant on breakdown after breakdown, this time around the band have a more natural sound that flows well. Brendan Murphy’s vocals have improved drastically and rather than just be an arbitrary feature, at times they overshadow the band’s instrumentation. On tracks such as opener ‘Lost’ and album highlight ‘Decay’, his voice is both passionate and emotive. Whilst the former’s screams and growls are designed to kick things off in the most blistering way possible, the latter’s spoken word is one of the major aspects of what makes these guys that bit better than their peers – unafriad of experimentation or veering away from what other bands are doing. The Difference Between Hell And Home is focused on conveying anger in whatever way is the most effective.
That’s not to say it isn’t flawed. Whilst Counterparts have progressed, the gap between this and its predecessor may not be instantly obvious. Needless breakdowns are still there and at times one song is indistinguishable from the next. The last three tracks on the record just bleed into one another and penultimate ‘Slave’ is quite terrible – it has no clear aim and seems to be purely an exercise in how brutal the band can be. Whilst the first half of the record shows the band moving in a promising direction towards the experimentation and intelligence of bands like Defeater, the second falls into the trap of sounding like one of those bands that old school punks avoid on the Warped Tour.
Overall though, Counterparts are certainly on the way to something. It could be a cause for concern that the band haven’t quite established what type of sound they’re aiming for (other than being angry), despite being three albums in, however if their trend of shedding a bit of skin with each record continues, they may still surprise us yet.