It shouldn’t be the case, but for the number of acts whose “emotional” material turns out to be a pileup of overwrought clichés, further scrutiny is often required when it comes to those determined to go down in that emotional direction. Hardcore is probably the widest ranging case, a genre whose entire appeal hinges on how viscerally and honestly its acts can present themselves. And to be perfectly honest, it’s often done very well indeed; the best hardcore albums of the past few years haven’t been because they’re pushing the genre towards any revelatory new ground, but because they can connect on a raw, human level, both through performance and their thematic content.
A band like Counterparts has never had an issue in that department, tapping into that frenetic, dimensioned heaviness with the ease of their genre contemporaries, but also with melodic chops of fellow Canadians and name inspiration Alexisonfire. And with fifth album You’re Not You Anymore, very little has changed in that front; Counterparts continue to lay themselves bare through the medium of a hardcore battering and Brendan Murphy’s scathing purging. It’s definitely a meat-and-potatoes melodic hardcore album, never really branching beyond its set template purely because it doesn’t need to. And while that’s unlikely to concern the majority of hardcore fans (a group who’ve become widely known for simply accepting repetition within their genre of choice), it also means that Counterparts hit the glass ceiling rather than break through it. Whereas that normally wouldn’t be an issue, it leaves a couple of cuts on You’re Not You Anymore, particularly towards the middle, lacking beyond a few memorable soundbites.
That’s nitpicking for the most part though, as Counterparts still continue to do the majority of what they need to do right. Tracks like Haunt Me and A Memory Misread are blessed with a near-perfect balance between tight, bristling aggression and a While She Sleeps-style knack for a fantastic gang chorus, while Thieves goes straight for the jugular with the sort of metallic assault that doesn’t need to last any more than just over a minute. The guitar work from Adrian Lee and Blake Hardman really deserves a lot of credit on this album, keeping that thunderous tone that kicks off with Bouquet virtually across the whole album, but with enough shifts and subtleties to prevent it getting stale, and coupled with the red-raw hurt in Murphy’s vocals, it certainly keeps You’re Not You Anymore as a consistently intense listen.
What’s even more surprising about that is that this album is actually fairly standard as far as content goes as well, focusing on the dissolution of a relationship and coping in the aftermath. That’s well-worn ground that frequently leads to bad, over-egged wallowing in the wrong hands, but Counterparts approach it in such a tactful manner that there’s no room for wasted effort. It certainly helps that Murphy can convey the burning intensity of these emotions, whether that’s despair on Arms Like Teeth or white-hot rage on Thieves, but it feels totally natural. This is material that clearly comes from a place of real resonance, too hardened to be faked and running with the intent that any exaggerations would be missing, and even if it can’t save the album alone from sort of falling into place among the current scene, it’s easily Counterparts’ best feature.
And even as an album that falls into place with the current scene, You’re Not You Anymore definitely has its own merits with a lot to like all the same. This is the sort of incisive, fat-free hardcore album that already wins plenty of points, and Counterparts manage to make up for a lack of real ingenuity by pushing it to its uppermost limit. There’s not a single reason that a dedicated fan of hardcore shouldn’t find something to like about You’re Not You Anymore; it’s inessential, but even by those standards, there’s still plenty to dig into here.
For fans of: Stick To Your Guns, Knocked Loose, More Than Life
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘You’re Not You Anymore’ by Counterparts is released on 22nd September on Pure Noise Records.