By: Nick Villers
Release Date: October 7th, 2022
FFO: Misery Signals, 7A7P, Alexisonfire, No Home, Bloom, Mayfield, Melodic Hardcore
When asked by Upset Magazine how vocalist Brendan Murphy felt about A Eulogy for Those Still Here making it’s way into the world he stated, “I’m really excited to get it out. I know every band is like, ‘the new record is the best thing we’ve ever done’, but I actually think that it is…”
This is how Brendan Murphy feels about his band Counterparts seventh studio record released on Pure Noise Records. This statement carries weight considering the band has been releasing music since the days of Myspace. (I vividly remember the day I discovered Counterparts back in 2009 on Myspace listening to "Goodbye, Megaton" off their soon-to-be debut album Prophets). Started in 2007 out of Hamilton, Ontario, Counterparts have been a cemented mainstay in the metalcore scene and the poster child for the melodic hardcore genre directly influenced by Misery Signals and Alexisonfire (their name is derivative from the AOF track “Counterparts and Number Them”). Like Brendan mentioned, a lot of bands say their newest record is their "best" record but he may be on to something.
Most notably, A Eulogy for Those Still Here sees the return of original lead guitarist Jesse Doreen being reunited with rhythm guitarist Alex Re. Impressively Counterparts has weathered a line-up changes storm that would have destroyed most bands. 14 people, which include the five current members, have been the make up of Counterparts over the last 15 years. Somehow through all of this the band has been able to maintain their signature sound and to the average listener may not notice a difference at all. However, if you listen closely to their 2015-19 era there is a slight shift in how they intertwine their melodic hardcore sound vs 2010-13 which included both Doreen and Re together. There's a brutality and technical energy brought forth again that turns the dial just a couple degrees resulting in emotional heaviness reminiscent of their 2013 release The Difference Between Hell And Home and 2010 debut Prophets.
Anyone who listened to Counterparts pre-2015 will hear familiar technical guitar styles that jump between beautiful melodies and blistering time changing riffs and breakdowns. Tracks including "Bound to the Burn", "Unwavering Vow", and "What Mirrors Might Reflect" are great examples of this while driven by the force of drummer Kyle Brownlee who (at least in my opinion) is one the best metal drummers in the scene. Kyle not only is an anchor keeping their multitude of timing and tempos in check but provides next level dynamics to their sound through creative and complex drum fills with ease, stylistically similar to drummer Branden Morgan of Misery Signals.
Counterparts are at a point in their career where they are writing for themselves and no one else. This is apparent through an increased presence of both screaming and singing vocals on half of the record by Murphy, backing vocals by Alex Re & bass player Tyler Williams further adding to the dissonance between the beauty and distortion of their sound. Counterparts create more space on this record for darker, downtempo moments with ballad-like build ups on tracks such as "Skin Beneath a Scar", sequel track off of TDBHAH "Soil II", and "Mass Grave of Saints", making the surrounding tracks the most chaotic and hard-hitting moments Counterparts have created to date. This will turn heads of those who go into this thinking it'll be another stock Counterparts record and really makes A Eulogy for Those Still Here an unpredictable emotional journey from start to finish.
The heartbeat that ties the whole record together is Murphy himself with his authentic lyricism written on his sleeve through all 33 minutes of this album. For those who follow the band, Brendan is known for his unapologetic Twitter humor towards himself, others, and his charismatic crowd banter in shows. However to counter this humor comes with Brendan's openness with mental heath struggles and pours every ounce of his energy into writing lyrics that are deeply personal to him and what he goes through, even writing "Whispers of Your Death" as a tribute to his now late cat, Kuma, who ultimately saved his life. This makes the heavy moments even heavier through his dark imagery and honesty. Some of the most powerful moments include:
"Unwavering Vow" - "In dreams I watched you die, now I can't wait to close my eyes."
"Whispers of Your Death" - "Make your cancer mine."
"Soil II" - "The soil is the last thing we ingest, we watch our ashes scatter."
"A Mass Grave of Saints" - "I carve goodbye with a fallen angel's spine and watch the coffins close wishing one were mine."
A Eulogy for Those Still Here is written about dealing with the anticipation of change and preparing for inevitable goodbyes. The band even wrote this as if it could be the last Counterparts record. By no means is the band calling it quits but started to question what if, would they be satisfied if this was the last material Counterparts ever wrote? Brendan Murphy certainly thinks so and has taken on this approach to his outlook on life. When interviewed by Upset Magazine Murphy stated, "I wrote this record from the viewpoint of, if this were the last Counterparts record, would I be able to close the biggest chapter of my life and feel okay with how it ended? And I would be." It's a great lesson in making the most of your time on this earth because life is uncertain. This mindset can lead to the most fulfilling life and truly allow you to maximize what you're capable of.
Counterparts have left everything they have out there for the world to hear resulting in their greatest release yet and an album of the year contender in the metal/hardcore scene. If this were to be the end (which hopefully it is not), Counterparts can proudly "carve goodbye" into their melodic hardcore gravestone for all those to see.
As "Soil" states on TDBHAH, "You are your memorial. Find your mark and make it."