Counterparts’ status as hardcore mainstays has been well-earned, as a band who’ve notably matured and grown with their sound and scene over the years, but have never lost sight of the fire at the centre of their vision. Even among a saturation of hardcore bands that’s never really let up, Counterparts have always felt like a presence worth holding onto, something that their growing fanbase and rapidly expanding profile has often attested to. And that all says a lot when taking into account their overall prolificness, which has barely ever impeded on the quality of their material and continues to be a pretty defining factor of Counterparts as a band. For as relatively little hype on a wider scale as their albums get, the general regularity of Counterparts’ releases while maintaining a high standard has long been impressive, and up to now, they’ve shown no signs of slowing down.
If anything, Nothing Left To Love shows quite the opposite, as an album that turbocharges the sound that’s become so foundational for this band for their most expansive and thrilling effort in years. Even six albums in, Counterparts continue to surge forward in a way that truly feels determined and necessary, and the magnitude of that progression makes for what is possibly their best album to date. This really is great stuff in almost every way, and even in a year that’s hardly slouched for quality hardcore, Nothing Left To Love is the sort of crack in the top tier that’s always welcome.
The advancements are fairly immediate as well, with an already formidable melodic hardcore sound steeped in expanse and power is blown out to even greater extents. The calamitous opener Love Me makes that apparant early on with how well it balances enormity with crushing guitar tones and Brendan Murphy’s frayed howl, but Nothing Left To Love remains consistent in that mould, as the sweeping drama forms such a compelling backdrop to the likes of Wings Of Nightmares and Cherished. Simply from a sonic standpoint, this is an album that exudes power, and Counterparts really do know how to make the most of it, both in their grander moments and when they dive into a more guttural, ferocious brand of hardcore like on Your Own Knife. Of course, it all works in a way that sounds phenomenal, produced to accentuate both sides with equal fervour, and executed without a single wasted moment to keep it all as lean and vital as possible.
And underscoring all of that is Murphy and his lyrics, the emotional centerpiece of Counterparts at the best of times, but now with the space to find even more rigour in his emotional bloodletting. And this certainly is a weighty album to grasp, wallowing in the darkest human impulses and psychological melancholy, and delivered with the sort of breathless self-immolation that comes from a place of true pain. It’s a pretty consistent streak of darkness, capped off by the title track that shrouds itself in its bleakness for a more insidiously harrowing listen. Even for a band like Counterparts who’ve always had a knack for conveying emotion in a more mentally heavy sense, Nothing Left To Love really does go the extra mile to exemplify how tormented Murphy’s mindset is, but it’s the sort of thing that’s difficult to take attention away from. Counterparts really do hit a much deeper place than most hardcore bands, and this represents the pinnacle of their efforts in frequently spectacular fashion.
It’s honestly surprising to see, not because Counterparts haven’t previously seemed capable, but because this is the sort of step up that rarely comes this deeply in a career, and even in those rare occasions that it does, it’s not usually as significant as this. Nothing Left To Love feels like a marquee release for Counterparts, showing the peak of their abilities and shaping them into one of the most impressive deep and dense melodic hardcore albums released this year. Maybe it’s a couple of shades away from being something truly special, but it’s honestly not that far away, and even as it currently stands, the level of sheer greatness on offer makes it difficult to complain about much at all.
For fans of: The Ghost Inside, Stick To Your Guns, While She Sleeps
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Nothing Left To Love’ by Counterparts is released on 1st November on Pure Noise Records.