Album: The Difference Between Hell and Home
Sometimes, it takes reaching your absolute lowest point to realize how much you can truly achieve. In other words, there are times when hitting the craggiest, roughest of rock bottoms is the best possible thing that can happen. It’s only at the bottom can you really get the best vantage point of everything you’re capable of; the world reaches a point of hyper-translucence, a crisp, vivid clarity, if you will. This kind of clarity is the shining characteristic behind hardcore powerhouse Counterparts, and their third full-length release, The Difference Between Hell and Home. Powered by aggression, bitterness, heart, and honesty, the Difference Between Hell and Home is a multifaceted and malicious juggernaut of a release which rips and tears at the listener’s soul, cutting away every ounce of negativity inside of them and leaving them with nothing but a can-do attitude, and a crystal clear view of everything they are truly capable of.
The clarity found on The Difference Between Hell and Home is unique in that it is one which can be reached only by experience and expertise. Counterparts brilliantly combine the headstrong aggression prevalent on their debut album, Prophets with the melodic mastery and immersive experience of The Current Will Carry Us. It is only by combining these two elements that Counterparts reached a true equilibrium—one which must be broken down into its respective components to be best described.
From the very beginning of “Lost,” the listener is bombarded with the aggressive, faster-paced Counterparts material which drove Prophets. Filled with blisteringly fast drum lines and riffs which incorporate subtle, but stellar segments of technicality, The Difference Between Hell and Home is a hotbed of familiar heaviness which is more than welcome to the listener’s ears. “Debris” makes excellent use of pounding, hammering percussion alongside ebb-and-flow guitar lines to pulse in perfect time with the listener’s heartbeat—breaking time only to soar into supersonic sections of shreddy fretwork, or dive into crunchy, bone-snapping breakdowns. “Slave” is another track which makes marvelous use of the band’s rediscovered penchant for heaviness—concluding with a breakdown which deteriorates into a slow, steady sludge, completely battering and blistering the listener’s ears. Every down-tuned chug and bone-splintering breakdown is simply stunningly executed—when Counterparts include heaviness, it isn’t simply a comma or semicolon in the flow of the song, but a period which demands the listener’s complete attention.
When Counterparts aren’t attacking the listener with furiously fretted riffs or bombarding them with gut busting breakdowns, they are doing just the opposite—soothing their wounds and pushing them back onto their feet. Whether it’s the soft, serene instrumentation in “Decay” or the moments of ethereal disconnect in “Cursed,” there are plenty of soft and soothing sections to The Difference Between Hell and Home. On top of these moments of complete calm, there are sections of fluid, masterful melodic instrumentation. “Wither,” especially is home to a pace which is neither neck snapping nor slow-and-steady. Rather, it is a pace which allows the steady but fierce candor of the drums to gallop in perfect time with the soaring, stunning harmonization of the guitars and bass. Through it all, the lyrics and vocals push at the listener, providing a constant driving force for the album, and, in turn, a constant motivation for the person hearing it.
Counterparts make a stunning combination of these two familiar elements to craft something groundbreaking. The Difference Between Hell and Home is an album which is fast paced, heavy and devastating to a point where it completely demoralizes the listener, knocking them down to the lowest rung on the ladder of their morale. However, no sooner than the bitter truth in “Ghost” or the jarring technicality in “Compass” achieve this, do the stunning, uplifting feeling of “Wither” and “Cursed” cast light into the darkness and absolve the listener of all negativity. The album’s soft, ethereal moments serve as a climax instead of the album’s heavy, meaty moments. This unique take on the heavy-soft dynamic which has undergone so much overuse in releases by Counterparts’ peers truly sets them on a whole different level of hardcore mastery—the highest level.
The Difference Between Hell and Home is a complete detoxification of negativity from the listener’s heart. By drowning it in sorrow with heavy, depressive and dense elements like those employed on Prophets, only to purge it with uplifting melody and stunning harmonization a la The Current Will Carry Us, Counterparts have crafted an album which not only inspires perfection in the listener, but defines perfection in the genre.
For Fan Of: Saints Never Surrender, The Ghost Inside, Hundredth, It Prevails
By: Connor Welsh