For a band like Fathoms, it’s harder to survive nowadays more that ever. Metalcore has cycled through virtually every permutation it has, and for a band like this who only ever reached a level of moderate support act even at the time of their peak around 2015, finding a workable niche when the odds seem stacked so highly against them is no small act. Still, there’s at least a list of achievements to their name to back it up, ranging from support slots with the likes of Attila and Oceans Ate Alaska, and their debut Lives Lived receiving some general acclaim in underground hardcore and metalcore circles.
So perhaps there was a better way to come back after a couple of years than this, an album with a frankly bizarre lack of precision, and whose moments of real battering success feel scattershot at best. Counter Culture does pull out enough stops to save itself from being entirely terrible, but when there’s so much forgettable, interchangeable metalcore that’s still doing the rounds, another album of that isn’t going to make a difference.
But for what Fathoms are doing, it can at least be said that their pulling from numerous different strands of metalcore is succinct. At only nine tracks there’s nothing that feels like excess weight that wasn’t designed to be here, and for what is an ultimately brisk listen, a few moments do ultimate stick out. There’s a darker nu-metalcore grind to Hate Preach and Faded that have so real bludgeoning potency, particularly in Max Campbell’s heftier growls, and by the standards of confrontational, Attila-esque party-core where brains are thrown right out the window, closer You Ain’t On What We On is a largely admirable effort, save for a double-time drum approach that still refuses to work.
If Counter Culture stayed like that all the way through, then Fathoms would have a much more workable proposition on their hands, instead of hopping between tonal shifts and genre rabbit holes that don’t complement them whatsoever. For a start, the abundance of super-clean choruses can’t even pretend to fit with the band’s naturally dirtier style, and in a way similar to Oceans Ate Alaska’s Hikari, there’s so little blending that these can feel like chunks of songs slotted together rather than cohesive pieces (though perhaps not as abysmally as that album did it). Get to Slip Away, the hyper-earnest Memphis May Fire-alike presumably designed as one of the centrepieces of the album, and any notion of consistency promptly evaporates. There are moments that do do something here, like the rather on-the-nose but still pertinent social commentary of the title track, but without any connecting tissue, they end up severely kneecapped in terms of what they can actually achieve.
As a result, it’s hard to think of any scenario in which Counter Culture would result in an entirely satisfying listen. There’s appeal within certain tracks, but as a body of work, Fathoms have made an album that doesn’t necessarily fail in its aims, but veers wide off the mark in terms of real success. It doesn’t help that metalcore as a whole has fully embraced this direction as well, and even if Fathoms did want to continue in this vein and find favour this way, they’d have to do better than this.
For fans of: Oceans Ate Alaska, Loathe, Our Hollow Our Home
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Counter Culture’ by Fathoms is released on 1st December.