Formed a mere year ago, London Metalcore mob Counting Days have come a long way awfully fast, Now signed to the well-respected Mascot label (Black Label Society, Gojira, Joe Bonamassa) the band are set to release their debut LP, the ferocious ‘Liberated sounds’ and one listen is all you need to demonstrate exactly how this crushing quintet were able to make the leap to a major label so quickly. With production handled by Fredrik Nordstrom (At the gates, In Flames, Arch Enemy, Opeth), the band sound tight and focused and from the get go the album grabs you by the (insert appropriate dangly bit here) and refuses to let go until the screaming’s done.
As openers go, ‘burned by faith’ is an absolute blinder. Launching into a seething maelstrom of agonized screams and double-kick powered riffs, Counting Days are not interested in easing the listener in. Like a bar fight, it erupts unexpectedly into brutal and bloody violence, leaving the listener somewhat shell-shocked. By the time you recover your senses the band are already unleashing the massed roar of “Burned… By… Faith”, a chorus that is destined to unite the crowd whenever Counting Days see fit to unleash the song. Having kicked off with such a powerful number, Counting Days have the unenviable task of maintaining the momentum. This they do, however, in vicious style with ‘die alone’, a dark-hearted track about facing your own mortality and accepting the inevitable end that awaits you. If the subject is dark, the music remains furiously reluctant to accept any suggestion of a looming end and the riffs tear and spit with antagonistic rage. There is melody, however, and by underpinning the music with memorable solos and even some rather unexpected strings, Counting Days ensure that the track will stay in the mind long after a more typical example of unfocused rage would have dissipated. ‘Beaten and scarred’ kicks off with a taut riff that recalls Lamb of God only to filter that influence through the influence of punk in order to unleash a monster that takes the music to new peaks of aggression. Emerging form a wall of feedback and cataclysmically heavy drumming, ‘Life and death’ is guaranteed to be a live favourite with its punishing groove designed to bang even the sturdiest of necks into dust and even in the confines of the home it’s hard to sit still whilst the track is slamming its way out of the speakers. Similarly the title track sees the band lock into a groove that is impossible to ignore. With the guitars emulating molten lava and the vocals delivered with a hardcore fury that only adds to the menacing atmosphere, ‘liberated sounds’ is the band’s anthem and is delivered with a conviction that is irresistible. An intelligently written piece about the terrible effects of Shellshock, ‘fire from the sky’ is delivered with the intensity of an artillery barrage, only for a melodic solo to scratch its way across the surface and once again highlight the fact that Counting Days are far more influenced by the likes of At The Gates and Arch enemy than your average metalcore band.
Despite having a title that seems drawn from the Frank Sinatra book of song writing, ‘Days go by’ is a lurching melodic metal number that almost runs over itself in its rush to reach its conclusion. It’s the weakest track here in that it doesn’t share the clear-eyed focus of the other material on offer and whilst the intertwining leads work well, the spoken word passages are somewhat lost in the mix. Things take a darker turn with the subtle, atmospheric ‘the vines’ which allows a moment of respite before the band tear into album highlight ‘sands of time’ (featuring Tomas Lindberg of At the gates fame on vocals). A stunning blast of icy death metal fury ‘Prison of misery’ opens with spacey guitar work only to suddenly elevate the testosterone levels to absurd proportions. If the majority of the album has the mechanical precision of the original, T800 terminator, then ‘prison of misery’ may well be the T1000 with its mercurial guitar work and glacial vocals delivered with inhuman rage. No less brutal ‘cold truth’ sees Counting Days relentlessly marching towards the conclusion of the album with steely-eyed determination and a stock pile of riffs that do their best to emulate WMDs. The album comes to a juddering halt with the mighty ‘reunion’, one last blast of punk-infused death metal that does everything it can to dislodge the listener’s teeth just as the band are out the door. Even here, however, the band are far from one dimensional and the track segues into some gorgeous post rock meandering that provides an emotional climax to the song and to the album.
Make no mistake, Counting Days are out for blood. Metalcore has become a much derided term thanks to the identikit nature of many of its practitioners, but Counting Days truly do utilise the most powerful elements of melodic death metal and hardcore to deliver a visceral listening experience that rarely puts a foot wrong. Only ‘days go by’ appears as a slight misstep with the remainder of the album proving to be a remarkably powerful and memorable experience thanks to the white hot riffs, searing leads and, of course, relentless vocals. If you like your music to pack a vital groove, incisive lyrics and just a touch of melody, then Counting Days are the band for you.