For every band you read about in these pages, there are countless more who strive valiantly for greatness, but fall short of reaching their potential. Even many who do get this far can’t get beyond the glass ceiling, hitting the British touring circuit and releasing new music relentlessly, yet never finding that elusive quality to help them shake the undesirable tag of ‘nearly-men’.
London’s Counting Days know all about this. They’re made up of ex-members of rap metal rabble-rousers TRC (guitarist Charlie Wilson and drummer Lasselle Lewis), post-hardcore mobs Heights (vocalist Thomas Debaere) and Last Witness (guitarist Bobby Daniels), and hardcore crew Rough Hands (bassist Alex Dench). While all these bands had their plaudits and fans, it was never enough to reflect their sacrifices and effort, or to truly elevate them. With the help of snarling debut album Liberated Sounds, however, Counting Days are aiming to go at least one better than their previous incarnations.
“I can see where the perception of us being in ‘nearly’ bands has come from,” admits frontman Thomas, before determinedly adding, “we want to take this band to the next level – to play arenas and play the world.”
Despite still being in their infancy, some of metal’s most legendary names have already thrown their weight and expertise behind the quintet, which began life as a few friends throwing ideas around and creating a side-project.
“Charlie, Lasselle and I met each other on tour and always tossed ideas around about side-projects. Then it finally came together when we wrote a couple of songs,” explains Thomas of Counting Days’ humble origins. “Those guys were still in TRC, so it was still a side-project. Then we played a few shows, and we brought in Bobby and Alex. Charlie and Lasselle decided this was the main direction they wanted to go in, and it’s been their main band for a year now. We signed a record deal, recorded an album and here we are!”
They’re fairly unremarkable origins, we’ll admit, but the full story isn’t quite as ramshackle as the singer makes out. Liberated Sounds was produced by the legendary Fredrik Nordström, who has helmed classics from Swedish metallic royalty like At the Gates, Arch Enemy, Opeth and In Flames. Though Fredrik had already worked with more established British luminaries Bring Me The Horizon and Architects, Thomas admits it was a coup enlisting the producer to take a punt on the debut effort of a motley collective with their roots in hardcore – and fewer than a dozen shows to their name.
“Fredrik does turn bands down, so we were lucky that he was into it,” admits Thomas. “We chucked it out there as a cheeky idea and the label supported us. Fredrik is a metalhead, but I think he was into the hardcore and punk elements that caught his attention.”
Through Fredrik, Counting Days caught the attention of another famous Swede – Tomas Lindberg of At The Gates, who lends his vocals to the crushing Sands Of Time. Thomas admits the band were awestruck and humbled by the musician’s presence and professionalism.
“I’ve been in hardcore bands in the past, but I’ve always listened to metal. Slaughter Of The Soul [At The Gates’ landmark 1995 album] is one of those timeless albums, so I was completely starstruck when Tomas came in,” he marvels. “I was actually doing the hoovering when he came into the studio! He was so humble and down to earth, and interested that we were happy with what he was contributing to the record.”
The band’s hardcore CV predictably forms much of the basis of Liberated Sounds, with Lasselle’s full-throttle drumming laying the foundation for a boisterous attitude that runs through much of the album, permeated by aggressive, buzzsaw guitars. However, the group’s love of metal is clear for all to hear, with the fierce riffs of Prison Of Misery and explosive Burned By Faith a giant step forward from last year’s The War Of The Wolf EP, and a definitive statement of intent as to where they see themselves fitting in moving forward.
Not only is Liberated Sounds more righteously metallic than any of the members’ previous outings, it has given Thomas a vehicle to explore much deeper lyrical content than he was afforded in the angst-ridden songs of Heights, covering some of metal’s darker concerns. These include the atrocities of religious fanatics and the horrors of warfare, which Thomas was able to put his own thoughts and research into.
“I did History at the University of Derby and Fire From The Sky was inspired by my research on victims of shellshock in the First World War,” he explains. “Charlie wanted to write a song about war, so I put my own spin on it, as it struck a chord with me and was something I could get passionate about. There’s a lot of stuff about life, death and mortality, but it was nice to spread our wings and cover a more diverse range of subjects than I’ve covered in the past. In my old band, I mainly sang about girls!”
For Thomas, it’s a chance to combine the academic and musical pursuits he’s had to balance over the last couple of years, as he looks to the future beyond Counting Days.
“I’m a political person and was always interested in history at school, and I’d love to do a new PhD one day,” he muses. “My lecturers always told me that Brian May did a PhD when he was with Queen, so they’re going to help me take my studies further when I get the chance!”
For the time being, though, the frontman and his bandmates are fully committed to seizing the golden opportunity they’ve been afforded. Although they’ve clearly put their pasts behind them, the desire to go one better this time around is clearly a motivating factor. “We’re very committed to taking Counting Days as far as it can go,” states Thomas.
In the short-term, the band are simply looking to establish themselves as household names in the British metal scene, making sure Liberated Sounds reaches as many ears as possible and carving out a few more notches on the touring circuit. As Thomas says: “We’ll have to have a celebration when Counting Days shows reach double figures.”
*LIBERATED SOUNDS* IS OUT ON OCTOBER 16 VIA MASCOT
The Talking Fred
Why Swedish superstar producer Fredrik Nordström is championing British hopefuls Counting Days.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO WORK WITH A BAND WHOSE ROOTS ARE IN UK HARDCORE?
“I thought it was just pretty good stuff, to be honest! When bands contact you because they want to work with you, I always ask for something to listen to, and it’s important to know what the vibe in the bands is, because you’re going to be working together for five weeks. You have to go with your gut instinct.”
DOES YOUR APPROACH IN THE STUDIO DEPEND ON THE BAND?
“It depends on how well prepared the band are. Some bands are open-minded and want my input, and I’ll help with that. Whereas other bands, like The Haunted, for example, are very committed to what they want and will openly say, ‘We don’t want your opinion on the music – we just want you to make a good sound.’ First albums are very interesting to record as the bands are usually very well prepared. Then they get lazier for every album, until about the fourth album when they start doing proper pre-production. So the first album is very special.”
WHAT ALBUM ARE YOU WORKING ON NEXT?
“We’re going to do the next album for a big British band [I can’t yet name] – we’re looking forward to it. We’re doing pre-production right now and it sounds great. We’re also working with Follow My Lead from Ireland, and I Shall Devour from Australia. We’re going to be doing Hammerfall early next year, too!”
*LIBERATED SOUNDS* IS OUT ON OCTOBER 16 VIA MASCOT
With thanks to Warr’s Harley-Davidson South East.