Few bands have found more consistency in hardcore than Counterparts. Certainly not to the same extent as them, as they’ll throw out a new album every other year or so, and still sound like a band clawing upwards with ferocity and tenacity. In fact, there’s very little else worth saying as far as a preamble goes; the self-evident excellence doesn’t need much elaboration when it’s frequently as great as it is. It doesn’t tend to result in leaps forward, but the methodical paces that each album has taken towards Counterparts’ unassailable lead within emotional hardcore have added up tremendously.
And on top of all that, in a year where hardcore has sought to radically push the boat out in terms of reinventions and explorations—things which typically aren’t Counterparts’ forte—the bloody-throated, arms-aloft determination of A Eulogy For Those Still Here still feels as though it can stand out. Maybe not in the same runnings, but for the lane that Counterparts have already led across several album cycles, they’ve fully dug themselves in at the top now, perhaps for good.
Again, that’s through drilling into the essence of this sound rather than doing much to diversify it. It’s still sharp and volatile, led by Brendan Murphy’s screams that could peel paint off a wall and a core of damaged honesty that it takes through to the end. But that’s ultimately enough, given that Counterparts still aren’t wanting for intensity or a feeling of bone-deep anguish. It sounds huge, for a start, from the clean guitar breaks on Whispers Of Your Death or the title track, or how What Mirrors Might Reflect and Soil II stand as what might be pinnacles of what this sort of metalcore can achieve in terms of dynamism that’s still effective. This is also the album that finds guitarist Alex Re and drummer Kyle Brownlee return to the fold, and while there’s not a ton of individuality that each bring, there’s an experience as far as the whole package goes that rings as more confident is hitting these heights.
That definitely shines through across the board on A Eulogy…, mostly seeing as Counterparts don’t seem to share the apprehension of many hardcore bands when it comes to embracing grander scope. Rather, there’s an understanding that that doesn’t have to muscle away significant heft; there’s a lot of clean production but not in the way that steamrolls all around it, and so a track like Flesh To Fill Your Wounds finds strength in both when it embraces all it has. It makes for a great sound all the way through, full of vibrancy and richness that works consistently in its favour.
At the same time, Counterparts bring a tension that makes it all the more compelling, as their expulsions bring out thoughts on preeminent loss and grief, swirling and congealing into genuine power. It says a lot when Whispers Of Your Death is about Murphy’s cat, and he’s still able to embed it with a sense of gut-churning weight that even a lot of standard ‘loss of a loved one’ songs don’t have. Stripped down to its most core level, a lot A Eulogy… does comprise that sort of material, but it’s elevated to such a degree by how ridiculously hard the performances go. It’s one of the instances where the well-oiled machine of Counterparts’ current incarnation comes to bear the most readily, in how hard and fast they proceed to strike on a consistent basis.
Thus, it once again circles back to the consistency at the heart of this album, and indeed, where Counterparts are as a whole these days. In the advent of becoming one of hardcore’s most visible names, the level of quality they’ve developed just seems to crystallise further and further, now with a diamond-hard casing that this album wears proudly. It truly does feel like the pinnacle of this sort of hardcore, where innovation can afford to take a backseat to quaking, electrifying power when it’s carried out this phenomenally well. It’s simply the standard of the best in its field, a dubbing which Counterparts shouldn’t be unfamiliar with, nor should they be expecting to lose anytime soon.
For fans of: The Ghost Inside, Defeater, Stick To Your Guns
‘A Eulogy For Those Still Here’ by Counterparts is released on 7th October on Pure Noise Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall