7 albums in, and lack of energy is most certainly not a problem for Counterparts. The Canadian quintet have knuckled down and dropped a huge LP in the form of “A Eulogy For Those Still Here”. Taking their whole lifespan as a band and distilling it into 11 tracks, Counterparts have hit the nail on the head yet again, letting out gorgeous melodies, intense breakdowns and seriously deep and dark lyrics that are the tried and true method for their brand of metalcore.
Similar to their near-perfect 2017 album “You’re Not You Anymore”, their latest release begins with a short and sweet ambient offering to set the scene, “07/26/2020”. Fun fact, both ambient intro tracks are 38 seconds long. Another fun fact, that date is the date vocalist Brendan Murphy got Kuma, his beloved cat who has more of a cult following than most people on Instagram. He even stars in the video clip for the next track.
Immediately the band declares what kind of album we’re in for, with “Whispers Of Your Death” smashing speakers in two resolute strikes. The easily recognizable mixture of beautiful and heavy jumps out at the listener, mainly due to the guitar work from Alex Re and Jesse Doreen, two original members who, after some time away, have returned full-time to the band. Re actually returned to the band in 2020, but having both original guitarists back is a wholesome thought, and there is a sense of completeness that comes from the stringed side of this album as a result. Their melodies and progressions across this album are just as much of a treat as Murphy’s vocals and lyrics, and they are a step up in themselves. If you’re familiar with the band’s early work, you can immediately recognize the musical personality they put into their performance.
Kyle Brownlee is quickly making a name for himself as one of the best drummers in the genre. His innovative fills do enough to make drummers and attentive listeners gawk, but he still manages to share the spotlight with the rest of the band across the track. It’s a hard balance, to provide some seriously incredible performances, but not make it all about you. Will Putney is also to applaud for this, as he’s placed the drums perfectly in the mix and really allowed the guitars to shine at the same time. Murphy’s vocals carry themselves, and so to create a powerful yet darkly gorgeous atmosphere is no small feat.
It’s fair to say that they’re not out to push the envelope of the genre, but there’s really no need for them to. They’ve perfected their sound and are injecting an intense energy into it, more than “Nothing Left To Love” which is saying a whole lot. That album was drenched in emotive force. By the end of “Whispers Of Your Death”, it’s easy to understand that this is a band that’s 100% in agreement with what their contribution to the metal world is.
“Bound To The Burn” and “Unwavering Vow” quickly follow on, not letting any momentum go to waste. If we take the former track as a template, Murphy’s clean vocals are going to be littered through this album in simple yet catchy ways, adding some spice to the tracks but not overstaying their welcome. Even without cleans, the choruses that come from these tracks are easily memorable. The chorus for “Unwavering Vow” is especially so, due to Doreen and Re’s melodies that float over everything so effortlessly.
Title track “A Eulogy For Those Still Here” follows on, and is unsurprisingly a highlight of the album, musically and lyrically. The group is more than happy focusing the fury and energy they possess into some overwhelming melodic moments. The final sequence is about as beautiful as Counterparts gets, and as the energy dissipates into a snare roll, we’re seamlessly transitioned into “Skin Beneath A Scar”. It’s a big change of pace from the first half of the album, but it’s a welcome moment of respite.
It’s a big focus on Murphy’s clean vocals in a similar way to the title track from “Nothing Left To Love”. The big difference is that “Skin Beneath A Scar” follows through into an epic chorus, potentially one of Murphy’s best clean performances yet. The constant referring to a ‘sanctuary’ across Counterparts’ discography continues through this track also, and any fans who have been around for long enough will hear little references like this throughout the album and almost feel like they’re reminiscing old times with a friend. It’s an intimate moment, and ultimately it engages fans even deeper into the record. Murphy has been doing this for quite some time, and the constant connections back to previous material is always a great instigator for the listener to dive back into their older stuff.
Frankly, it’d be hard for any track to follow on from “Skin Beneath A Scar”. Sitting at track 7, “Sworn To Silence” is a track I see more as something to kick start the energy again, bringing us back up to speed. It’s hard to stand out memorably when it sits behind a huge track, but it does still possess some awesome moments. Brownlee’s fills across this track work so seamlessly with Re and Doreen’s intricate melodies. Despite the intricacies, the track is no less aggressive, and vitality is injected back into the listener to power through the rest of the album. Lyrically, fans might feel a tinge of guilt when absorbing the message Murphy is putting out. The track begs the question, how long can we keep asking him to tap into the heaviest emotions for him, and come up with poetic gold so we can continue to be fulfilled in some way? The appreciation from any fan is undoubtable, but when you read his lyrics all the way back from the debut album “Prophets”, to where we are now, it’s a heavy story to read. “Bound To The Burn” perfectly conveys how we’re still lucky enough to have music from this band, 15 years in.
Anyways, call “Sworn To Silence” a palette cleanser, because “What Mirrors Might Reflect” instantly hits with a refreshing feeling. Maybe it’s the more uplifting and ‘pretty’ melody that sits as the centerpiece of the track, or even the chorus that’s one of the catchier hooks from this record. The final breakdown is a contender for one of their biggest, instantly giving me the feeling that Murphy’s spare time spent as the vocalist of END has had some real impact on Counterparts. His high screams in the final section are filthy, giving us some real variance that we haven’t seen a lot of in previous albums, bar some lower growls in something like “Your Own Knife” off of “Nothing Left To Love”.
If lyrical and music reference to previous discography is your thing, then “Soil II” is right up your alley. Whether you call it a sequel or an extension to “Soil” from “The Difference Between Hell And Home”, there’s no doubt that it’s a worthy one. The heaviness and beauty we experienced in the original track is emphasized considerably on “Soil II”. The massive chorus in the middle is an almost overwhelming moment, especially with the guitar solo that glides in to give that extra layer in an already colour atmosphere. The solo immediately took me back to the melodies and solos one would hear in their earlier work “Prophets” and “The Current Will Carry Us”, and that felt damn nice.
“Flesh To Fill Your Wounds” is easily one of the busiest and most technical tracks on the record, shedding a well-deserved spotlight on Re and Doreen’s mastery of their craft. Their ability to separate and play different melodies, then reunite to create a platform with bassist Tyler Williams on which Murphy can stand, is seriously impressive. The main hook is straight-up 2010’s metalcore nostalgia, as is the pit-opening build up to a ravenous breakdown. When Brownlee slowly hits the china and hi hat over Doreen‘s and Re‘s chugs, the listener needs to hold on. Just when you think the destruction is subsided, the band comes back even more violently, pummeling the listener with an even gnarlier breakdown that could easily sit on an END or Knocked Loose record.
We’ve made it to the end, and Counterparts gives us one last epic in the form of “A Mass Grave Of Saints”. It’s a huge metal waltz that could well be their biggest melodic performance so far. It’s haunting, reverent, angelic, and possesses this almost operatic drama when a story is coming to a close. The chorus is overpowering, with Murphy’s vocals taking on the form of a heavy metal choir. The sequence after the second chorus feels like a different movement, initially catching me off-guard, but it adds some real venom to a majorly pure and untainted track. The tension is high in this section, enhanced by Murphy’s edge-of-sanity highs, screaming “a requiem, a sermon spoken in tongues”. If there was ever a closing track for a Counterparts album, it would have to be this. Lyrically and musically, it’s a larger-than-life send off, finishing a fantastic album in way that leaves pretty much nothing to be desired.
“A Eulogy For Those Still Here” is Counterparts doing exactly what they do best. If you’re looking for a band that’s trying to evolve into something far from what they used to be, then you may be better off checking out groups like Parkway Drive, Hundredth or Turnover (not a swipe, just being honest). Counterparts are sitting comfortably in their groove but are still finding ways to widen our eyes and put a smile on our faces. My all-time favourite album from this band has been “You’re Not You Anymore”, and this release comes insanely close to topping that, if not overtaking it.
Released On: October 7th, 2022
Released By: Pure Noise Records
- Brendan Murphy / Vocals
- Jesse Doreen / Guitar
- Alex Re / Guitar
- Tyler Williams / Bass Guitar
- Kyle Brownlee / Drums
“A Eulogy For Those Still Here” Track-list:
- Whispers Of Your Death
- Bound To The Burn
- Unwavering Vow
- A Eulogy For Those Still Here
- Skin Beneath A Scar
- Sworn To Silence
- What Mirrors Might Reflect
- Soil II
- Flesh To Fill Your Wounds
- A Mass Grave Of Saints
The Canadian 5-piece are back it, and ‘it’, is delivering some of metalcore’s best music at this moment. “A Eulogy For Those Still Here’ is a massive endeavour for each member of the band, and the group as a whole. The record is a display of what can be achieved when the band is cohesive and tapped in to a singular mindset. Crushing riffs, heart-wrenching melodies and lyrical mastery are only some things that Counterparts continue to deliver with confidence and this album provides that and more. Easily a contender for metalcore album of the year.