Sound — 9
Counterparts is a melodic hardcore/metalcore (leaning much more on the the hardcore influences in their latest releases) that formed in 2007 and are from Hamilton, Ontario. They have had my attention since their fantastic debut album "Prophets" (the most "metalcore inspired" album of their discography) and have continued to evolve and grow as a band, culminating in their latest release "Tragedy Will Find Us." What has always grabbed my ear when listening to a Counterparts song/album is the subtle technicalities in the guitar riffing and the seamless transitions between melodic and heavy. In my personal opinion, when a band tries to bounce back and forth between melodic and heavy in a song, it often sounds forced or as if it was "cut and pasted" (such as with The Ghost Inside's newest album, still a good album but has awkward moments in the transitions), but Counterparts display their ability to write music at a professional and talented level by combining a torrent of fast riffing and drumming that twists and turns and jumps from melodic to heavy to melodic and back, but without ever really feeling forced or unnecessary.
With that being said, Counterparts have some beautifully written song passages that sometimes don't hang around long enough for me to fully enjoy (I tend to like melodic over heavy, just personal preference). What they have done so well in their latest release is given their great melodic riffs and powerful passages more time and allowed them to flow and be more prominent in their songs, and the entire album as a whole. There are actually songs in this album that stay melodic the entire time (which I personally love, but those who favor heavy may be turned off) such as "Tragedy," "Withdrawal," "Collapse," "Drown," and "Solace." All of these tracks are standouts and display what this band is truly capable of. Counterparts have found a way to breathe new life into the hardcore/metalcore genre but doing little things that go a long way, for instance this album is almost completely devoid of breakdowns, in the typically or standard format. They have instead opted to have tempo changes and heavy sections that incorporate multiple elements, still giving a very heavy and powerful feel but without feeling "typical" or boring. A perfect example of this is in "Choke" towards the end. There is a very heavy section with a "breakdown" but it features an odd timing, distressed chords to accompany the "chugging" and the chugging is then dropped completely and the breakdown is finished with purely un-palm-muted chords. This way, the band has a great heavy section that is sure to get the crowd moving at shows, but is not tired and redundant as so many bands are nowadays.
Additionally, Counterparts have seemed to finally find that "happy medium" between over and under producing their albums with "Tragedy Will Find Us." Everything sounds tight and crisp, but it still holds a very natural and raw feel that makes it sound believe and that they will be able to pull off live. Their first album "Prophets" was their most produced album and it sounded great but did have a slight digital feel to it, their second album "The Current Will Carry Us" went too far in the other direction and sounded as if it was almost recorded in somebody's basement. This album is a great balance of both of those records as far as production. All in all, the overall sound of this album is very impressive.
Lyrics — 8
Counterparts benefits from having a very capable frontman that does enough to keep the constant screaming from getting tiring. He has a great delivery that allows his lyrics to shine through, allowing the listener to (most of the time) simply listen to the song and comprehend the lyrics without needing to look up lyrics in order to follow along. Interestingly, he does not have much vocal range and somehow it never gets boring or repetitive. He knows exactly when to deliver a line and how to deliver a line to fit the "vibe" of the music and carries almost a melody while screaming at times. There is one very brief section of clean vocals in this album and it is in the background and could even be missed during the first listen, therefore all the lyrics you hear are going to be screamed. As I said, this is far from problematic because of the ability of Counterparts frontman to execute screamed vocals in such a proficient way. His lyrical content is also very passionate and moving, talking about love and loss, feeling alone, and at times, pure hatred ("Choke" - "I hope you fucking choke to death"). But then at other times ("Withdrawl" - "Stay safe in my breath, you will never be lost") he pours his heart out and it really feels like he may break down while recording. The lyrics are what help separate Counterparts from the usual metalcore/hardcore crowd.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall, this is the best album by Counterparts and they have truly come into form and shown on this album that hardcore and metalcore can be done still and not feel stale or old. This album also holds to testament what kind of driving force Counterparts is in the metal community, by releasing their forth album, which in many cases can result in style changes that don't work, or a lack of creativity that results in recycled riffs and redone work. Counterparts has found a way to do neither of these things, but changing just enough to create fresh songs with a great feel, but do not stray far from what they came from, keeping older fans happy. If you are a fan of melodic hardcore/metalcore and have not heard of this band or listened to them, start with "Tragedy Will Find Us" as it is the best offering the band has to date. Hope that Counterparts is around for a long time putting out music this good.