Written by: PP on 23/12/2014 21:22:21

For their third album "Bruises", Chicago based pop punkers Counterpunch alter their sound somewhat from previous material and now balance somewhere between the fun-factor of pop-hardcore and the more serious-minded punk that draws from melodic hardcore as its primary influence. As a result, "Bruises" is an album of two worlds, divided roughly evenly into two halves, each representing one distinct style of punk rock. The first half, for example, is very pop punk oriented with a slight pop-hardcore twist given the heavier guitars, here recalling Four Year Strong's early material with infectious cuts like "Bruises" and "Young & Entitled". They are fun, upbeat tracks that also feature nuances of skate punk, although the genre comes much more visibly into play later on, but most of all, they are maddeningly catchy in their chorus melodies. See "Heartstrings" and "No Man's Land" for some Pulley / NUFAN style skate punk influence.

That said, most it feels like standard pop punk you've heard on a solid Four Year Strong release before, so there isn't much more to write home about. The second half is where things start getting interesting, though, as Counterpunch begin forays into pure skate punk and melodic hardcore and away from standard fare pop punk melodies. The aforementioned "No Man's Land", for instance, could've easily been on a late 90s No Use For A Name release, whereas "Blueprint" is practically identical to the lead melody used on "Under The Garden" by the skate punk legends, so much so I literally needed to check it wasn't a well executed cover song. Thing is, the chorus melody is irresistibly catchy, so I actually have no problem with Counterpunch emulating the beloved NUFAN sound so closely, especially now that the band is presumably defunct due to the untimely passing of songwriting legend Tony Sly two years ago. Then we reach songs like "Destroyed By Lions", which is basically straight up Rise Against from "The Sufferer & The Witness"-era, except with slightly more melancholic vocals instead. Instrumentally, it could be a b-side to the album given how the melodic hardcore rooted guitar dynamics build up towards the backing gang shouts during the chorus section. So yeah, liberties are being taken left and right throughout the album, and a clear identity is going to be an issue going forward for Counterpunch.

But overall though, "Bruises" is a genuine surprise considering how I've never thought much of their previous records. The melodies are catchy and well executed, the instruments are tightly played and the variation means there's something for everyone here from pop punk fans to those who prefer heavier edge to the guitars instead. The record itself isn't approaching the best records in punk rock this year, but I'm sure a whole lot of us will be rocking out at their Groezrock performance next year nonetheless.


Download: Bruises, Blueprint, Bonfire, Young & Entitled
For the fans of: No Use For A Name, Rise Against, Four Year Strong, Pulley, Atlas Losing Grip
Listen: Facebook

Release date 05.08.2014
Cyber Tracks

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