LIVE: Counterparts / Expire / Landscapes @ The Underworld, London

By Ashwin Bhandari

Coming up to their 9th year as a band, Counterparts have fine tuned their melodic hardcore sound and recently, have started to flirt with 90’s metalcore. On the whole, they still stand tall as pioneers of their scene. Their worldwide influence has particularly struck a chord with European fans, and so it’s no surprise that tonight has completely sold out.

Put on as the main UK support, Landscapes set the cathartic tone for the night perfectly. Due to the three year gap between studio albums, however, this has meant that the band have had to play catch up and there’s less fans here compared to their support slots several years ago. Regardless, the ‘Modern Earth’ material is very well polished live, with the post rock influences in their instrumentation adding an extra layer of melancholy to the upheaval of heavy hitting riffs and shrieked vocals. Once again, ‘No Love’ ended up being the biggest highlight of the set, with fans practically stealing the microphone from vocalist Shaun Milton, but he doesn’t seem to mind it one bit.

With the sweat coated room almost entirely packed,  Milwaukee punks Expire come on to the stage for the very last time.  There’s audience jumping off the back railing, jumping off the front stage amps, and when it comes to the band’s take on testosterone filled energy who can blame them? ” I can’t stop smiling, this shit is so fucking cool,” states vocalist Josh Kelting as he catches his breath in-between songs. It’s a comforting moment to see a band proud that they managed to create so many fans outside of their home country during their career.  Finishing their flawless set on “Abyss”, their biggest track lets Expire go out with a bittersweet bang.

Coming on to the stage with ‘The Sound’ by The 1975 might be a bit of a quirky choice for a melodic hardcore band, but thankfully, Counterparts have never only be interested in one genre. Their set tonight covers most of their discography in a well balanced manner, each anthem more emotionally draining (in a good way) than the last. Midway through the set, frontman Brendan Murphy takes a brief moment to reminisce on the recent passing of Tom Searle of Architects. “I’ve never lost anyone close to me and I just didn’t know what to do, so this next song goes out to him”.

The band then carry on into ‘Choke’, evoking one of the hardest metalcore breakdowns the band has ever written. Sounding even bigger and spin kick inducing live.  The cut throat riffs are relentlessly savage for songs such as this and ‘Slave’, but are also well placed and don’t overstay their welcome.

Murphy’s willingness to let fans come on stage and take the microphone out of his hands or just and dance with him removes the barrier of intimidation that some people feel is present in the hardcore scene. Here it feels very inclusive, with the fans and band feeding off each other’s positive energy,  especially with more uplifting tracks like ‘Outlier’ and ‘Collapse’.

Completing their set with a mini encore of ‘Reflection’, Counterparts didn’t need to do anything special here tonight but the is defiantly satisfying. Intimate hardcore shows such as this are a reminder why non barrier shows need to be more common in the UK.  The Canadian metalcore masters stand triumphant tonight, although we’ll have to wait and see how they’re gonna top such a perfect performance next year.