Both as individuals and a collective, COUNTERPARTS are no longer a band in turmoil.
This time two years ago, when the Canadian melodic hardcore quintet — vocalist Brendan Murphy, guitarists Adrian Lee and Blake Hardman, drummer Kyle Brownlee and bassist Tyler Williams — released their fifth studio album, the acclaimed You’re Not You Anymore, they were reeling from the departure of key members, including a principal songwriter.
Such personnel changes are enough to break even well-established acts like Counterparts, who’d crossed not only the northern border but the world’s oceans with their blend of urgent tempos, bludgeoning breakdowns and razor-sharp lyricism since forming in Hamilton, Ontario, in 2007. With resolve as battle-tested as their music, You’re Not You Anymore (hailed by Alternative Press as “capturing beauty in even the roughest of sounds”) ultimately marked a triumph for the band, and they celebrated the album’s success with a prime spot on that summer’s Vans Warped Tour.
But even though they’d successfully navigated a potential identity crisis, their vocalist was beginning one of his own. By the time Counterparts embarked on a headlining tour in support of 2018’s Private Room EP, things came to a head, and Murphy found himself self-sabotaging what should have been a triumphant moment — choosing instead to soak in sorrow as the seasons of life took a toll on his personal relationships back home.
“I was miserable on that tour,” he says. “I don’t remember one of the coolest parts in our band’s history because I just didn’t even care. I thought I had my shit together: I was this person. I had these friends and this relationship. But people kept coming and going. It seemed like all at once, everything I never thought would change ended up changing.”
Life’s revolving door is front and center on NOTHING LEFT TO LOVE, Counterparts’ sixth album, due out November 1 on Pure Noise Records. Bookended by the powerful lyric “Will you love me when there’s nothing left to love?” — a desperate plea on commitment in the face of both mortality and morality — the album muses on many of the topics Murphy has in the past: life’s darkness, self-destructive tendencies and the self-flagellation they beget.
You’ll hear it immediately on songs like first single “Wings Of Nightmares,” which finds Murphy scolding the targets of his on-again-off-again relationships with cutting lines like, “Keep your distance from the flowers that will decorate my corpse/Undeserving of a chance to watch them thrive.”
But this time around, the singer is writing not just about the end result but also the because, willing to shoulder some of the blame more than he ever has in the past. It’s easy to point the finger at others for the harm they’ve caused us; it’s far harder to accept that the root might lie at the opposite end of that hand.
“My perspective [on what happened in my life] has changed so much, even in just a few years,” Murphy says. “It’s a terrible spot to be in, but some of my best material creatively came from me just being willing to admit things out loud ”
Not only does Murphy himself come full circle on Nothing Left To Love — produced by Will Putney (Every Time I Die, The Acacia Strain) — but the album found Counterparts welcoming former guitarists Jesse Doreen and Alex Re back into the fray to aid with the writing process. The pair, especially Doreen, a founding member, were instrumental in helping the band move their uniquely captivating sound forward without losing the musical DNA that broke them back in the early 2010s. For all parties, the homecoming was cathartic and meaningful.
“They never stopped caring about Counterparts,” Murphy says of his former bandmates. “They came back and were giving us their stamp of approval, wanting to make this the best record yet. That’s pretty special. That doesn’t happen to a lot of bands.”
The result is a record that, all at once, respects where Counterparts have been but reflects where they currently are. It’s a musical tour through the band’s history, as more melodic elements sharply swerve into caustic breakdowns reminiscent of their debut album, 2010’s Prophets. Above all, Nothing Left To Love encapsulates the lessons the band have learned since You’re Not You Anymore: nothing is forever, for better or worse. Just because someone is here now doesn’t mean they won’t leave — and, perhaps more importantly, just because they’re gone doesn’t mean they won’t return.
One thing listeners don’t have to worry about leaving is the band’s passion. After a few years spent through the ringer, Counterparts are more personally and professionally reinvigorated than ever before — not that they’d ever let anything ultimately dissolve the bond that exists them and their art anyway.
“No one has to worry about us fucking this up,” Murphy says with a laugh. “Counterparts has been my baby since I was 16. We’re only going to do things that will make the band better. We’re not going to destroy our life’s work.”
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