Review Summary: grieving though you haven't left my side
It’s easy to characterise Counterparts as rather straightforward
since there is little mystery surrounding the band. You know their new record will not exceed 35 minutes, you’re well aware members rarely last more than two consecutive albums, and you know you can always find Brendan Murphy supplementing his deeply depressing lyrics with deeply unhinged Twitter rants. Yet, it is this very forthrightness that makes Counterparts a reliably excellent band that consistently gives a voice to buried insecurities and uncertainties: moreover, this honesty that underscores their every move makes the band one of the very best in melodic hardcore.
A Eulogy For Those Still Here
, Counterparts’ seventh full length, finds Murphy diving headfirst into the familiar topics of death and depression. However, as implied by the album’s title, it’s full of goodbyes and imagined farewells. From poetically contemplating the sustainability of his band on ‘Bound to the Burn’ to the rather literal heartbreak of the urgent ‘Flesh to Fill Your Wounds’, each moment presents a maladaptive take on dealing with loss and an overall lack of control. As much as I wish it weren’t the case, Counterparts have always been painfully in touch with whatever is occupying the darkest corners of my silly little mind. For example, Tragedy Will Find Us
seemed to understand my thoughts as a depressed teenager unlike anyone or anything else whereas Nothing Left To Love
encapsulated the bleak dread that plagued 2019 and its subsequent year-that-shan’t-be-mentioned. So, of course, as I am no longer attending an educational institution for, ***
, the first time in my (relevant) life, and many friends from the past five years are moving (on), Counterparts has to release a record that deals with goodbyes in the bleakest possible way. Of course.
That’s not to say this album actually feels
like a farewell. Quite the contrary: if anything, the record explores more sounds and opens more doors than anything Counterparts has ever done. Sure, this might just be something I tell myself to see this new chapter of my life for what it actually is, full of new opportunities, but Eulogy
is undeniably Counterparts’ most diverse record. Its three singles, consecutively placed in the tracklist, function as slight red herrings: ‘Whispers Of Your Death’, ‘Bound To The Burn’ and ‘Unwavering Vow’ are each excellent songs, yet do little to differentiate themselves from the sound the band established and refined the past decade. That’s not to say the remainder of the album does not feel like Counterparts - it most certainly does - but rather that the depths of Eulogy
implement subtle yet crucial deviations from the band’s formula. Strikingly, there is no ‘Choke’ or ‘Your Own Knife’ to be found here: instead of a dedicated rager, ‘Skin Beneath A Scar’ graces the record with a three-minute post-metal microcosm. It’s the kind of song that could have been a closer on previous records, yet sits comfortably as a delicate break in the urgent onslaught while carefully carving its own silhouette of pain.
Aiding the theme of farewells, Eulogy
comprises several references to previous records: the aforementioned ‘Skin Beneath A Scar’ contains melodic nods to ‘Nothing Left To Love’, while the hauntingly gorgeous ‘Soil II’ presents an obvious link to the 2013 track ‘Soil’ (and throws in a ‘tragedy’ mention for good measure). While there is a sense of finality to these self-references, they can also be interpreted as a rekindled flame: as old-school guitarists Jesse Doreen and Alex Re have rejoined the band, Counterparts are palpably re-energised. Yet, between all the gorgeous leads and crushing riffs, Murphy and drummer Kyle Brownlee can be deemed Eulogy
’s most explicit MVPs. A song like late-album cut ‘Flesh To Fill Your Wounds’ sets itself apart through the inclusion of more intense, END-like
vocals. Similarly, ‘What Mirrors Might Reflect’ feels like a more standard Counterparts song, yet is fueled by scarily precise and ferocious patterns the band has only occasionally toyed with in the past.
Between these expansions, farewells and overall intensities of Eulogy
, there are two elephants
that should be addressed even though I, eh, kind of don’t want to. Firstly, the imagined goodbye of ‘Whispers Of Your Death’ has sadly come true: Murphy’s cat recently passed away, and it is downright heartbreaking. In a sense, it shrouds the record in even more darkness: if one such hypothetical loss could come true, what does that mean for the other potential tragedies? Okay, I’m going to stop tearing up now and move on to the second thing
: the closer ‘A Mass Grave Of Saints’. It’s simply too fantastic: in essence, it condenses all of Counterparts’ best traits and newly explored sounds of Eulogy
into one massive track. It’s as catchy as it is heartbreaking; it builds to a crushing finale while not wasting a single moment of its five minute runtime. It’s the perfect sendoff for Counterparts’ most important and most painfully honest record. RIP Kuma.