I’m a fan of innovation. Any type of innovation works in my book. Pushing the proverbial envelope, thinking outside the four walls of monotony, and breaking boundaries are all aspects that I look for in music. The unfortunate truth, in most cases, is that that’s just simply not the case in today’s market. Someone will do a style of music that becomes so beaten to the ground that the general attitude and sound of the original is technically there, yet the very soul of it is missing. Because of this, I constantly find myself going back to the basics: the bands who I credit for pioneering a certain style of music before it became “oversaturated”. Take for example Misery Signals; perfectly blending 90’s off-time signature hardcore with modern day metalcore, I remember the buildup to their sophomore album Mirrors was borderline out of control. Of Malice and the Magnum Heart was (and may still be) the quintessential early 2000′s metalcore album, so when Mirrors was announced the hype train got rolling onto epic proportions. There’s a point to all this, I swear…
Shoot to nearly a decade later and, bless my soul, I swear its déjà vu all over again. This time taking place across the border in the province of Ontario, where a band lays in the shadows of giants, waiting for its chance to absorb the limelight. While time has yet to give it the ultimate test, metalcore band Counterparts currently stands head and shoulders above the rest. Their debut album Prophets was an underground sleeper that didn’t so much rock the metal world as it did startle it. Here this band was, entirely comprised of young and untested men that not only played at a level of confidence that is frankly unparalleled in today’s scene, but at a level of technicality and speed that even the grizzled veterans pause out of shock. The level of natural talent Counterparts possesses have put them onto a path of success that most acts would hope to achieve somewhere far late into their career as a musical group. Still reeling and absorbing the impact of Prophets, Counterparts have let no time go by with the release of their sophomore album The Current Will Carry Us (barely a year after their previous album). And like Misery Signals before them, the hype train has started with heavy expectations and many thoughts of dread: will this young group expound upon their natural potential or wind up being yet another act to be swept up by the trends of common metalcore?
The Current Will Carry Us is a resounding success but, quite frankly, this should not be surprising. A band with as much talent as Counterparts has, it would’ve taken quite a bit of effort in order for them to screw this up. With marked improvements in nearly every aspect, The Current Will Carry Us continues upon the impressive path that Counterparts have set upon. This time, Counterparts have focused more on the melody side of their music; trading in the systematic deconstruction of scales and riffs found on Prophets for fuller chord work, allowing the song to breath more and create a much more tangible atmosphere in the process. Their ‘single’ of sorts, “Jumping Ship”, is a clear example of Counterparts’ reliance on rhythm over dissonance and, not unlike Misery Signals’ sophomore album, gives The Current Will Carry Us a much more streamlined sound.
But don’t make the mistake in assuming a slightly homogenized sound for any less of a nasty bite. Tracks “The Constant” and “Pedestal” have a heavy focus on interestingly designed riffs that seem at odds with the straightforward sound of Counterparts’ rhythm section, yet remarkably comes together in near perfect harmony when added together. While never going to the level of Kiss It Goodbye or 7 Angels 7 Plagues, The Current Will Carry Us keeps the tempo technical enough to forgive any redundancies that show up at times. A slight discrepancy that showed up at times on Prophets were overly done clean vocals that had the best of intentions but wound up sounding like your basic post-hardcore/metalcore merger that continued to regurgitate the same four scales and breakdowns. On Counterparts’ sophomore album, however, the cleans are cut back severely, almost to the point of negating them, which is a welcome added bonus.
Some things have remained the same on The Current Will Carry Us. Vocalist Brendan Murphy continues upon his youthful throats that still, at times, resembles a slightly well exacerbated Jesse Zaraska. Yet where different vocalists such as Karl Schubach or Ed Butcher attempt to destroy everything in their reptar roars, Murphy’s is a welcome throwback to mid-90’s, early-00’s hardcore/metal; content with emphasizing the instrumentation of the band rather than allowing his vocals to become distracting. In a sense, this is where Counterparts, and The Current Will Carry Us, are set apart from the rest: their focus on letting the music speak for itself, straight up, no gimmicks. Drummer Ryan Juntilla still keeps the tempo at a breakneck pace, almost frustratingly so, with little variation from their previous works. While still complimenting the rest of the band, Juntilla’s d-beat and frenetic drum work is impressive and technical, yet possesses little differences when compared to Prophets. An extremely talented player who’s skill, we can only hope, will be further divulged upon in future releases, as his level of confidence as a drummer is one of the star attributes of the band.
Listen, in a day and age when most would consider the pinnacle of modern metalcore to be August Burns Red or The Ghost Inside, Counterparts is a deep breath of fresh air (that means a lot coming from me). The Current Will Carry Us is everything that this Ontario band has promised us. Promises made: promises kept. Ending the album with arguably two (“Sinking”, “Reflection”) of the most well thought out metalcore songs in nearly half a decade, Counterparts carry all the brutality of breakdown laden bands and marries it with a healthy amount of dissonance and technicality. Still a young band that is clearly continuing upon the path that have put them in such loving eyes on, The Current Will Carry Us will stand as a testament that youth and talent can come together to craft one of the better albums that this generation has seen… and believe me, this generation needs hope.