When Canadian hardcore crew Counterparts announced their sixth studio album - Nothing Left To Love back in August, vocalist and front man Brendan Murphy bluntly admitted “I wouldn’t hold your breath for anything groundbreaking”, which immediately dampened the high expectations fans held for the record. But in hindsight, this was probably for the best. Whereas previous album You’re Not You Anymore saw the band expand on melodic elements, many of this has been forgotten as the band state they returned to their heavier roots and offer a majority of tracks more closely linked to their 2010 debut Prophets.
If Nothing Left To Love is anything, it’s consistent. Each song is drenched in stomping beats, chugging riffs and their signature squealing lead solos, however this does get repetitive. Tracks such as ‘The Hands That Used To Hold Me’ and even lead single ‘Wings of Nightmares’ fail to offer anything to differentiate them from the pack and the melodies are lost in down-tuned fog.
This safety net is exposed by the outstanding quality and uniqueness of other tracks. Airy synth is introduced in seventh track ‘Cherished’ and is faintly woven into the remaining three. This is credit to their use of one of the most notable producers in the scene, Will Putney, who has previously worked with the likes of Knocked Loose, Every Time I Die and Stray From The Path. Allowing a break in the constant chug, these atmospheric sections allow for the poignant lyrics to hit with more emotive fury and be truly engaged with. This is particularly prevalent in ‘Ocean of Another’ as spoken word is used to drive home the despair. The closing title track which follows thrives on this as the gentle drum beats and delicate guitar melodies layered over the smooth synth enhance Murphy’s more melancholy delivery.
The title, as well as third track ‘Paradise and Plague’ further offer something seldom heard from Counterparts anymore as the unexpected clean vocals are pillared around Murphy’s rough screams in both tracks. The dual vocals complement each other, and ‘Paradise and Plague’ results in the strongest choruses heard on the record, outshining the rest. On one hand, this is a new element of Counterparts that could have been heavily utilised throughout the record. Although keeping the smooth offering a subtly rarity made it feel almost sacred, only meant for special occasions.
While Murphy was right, Nothing Left To Love isn’t groundbreaking, it does continue to show us that Counterparts have ever-growing potential that they just failed to expand on.