REVIEW: Counterculture – Peace Gives/Envy Rots [2016]


Artist: Counterculture 

Album: Peace Gives/Envy Rots


With several stellar singles, it might seem like Counterculture just erupted out of nowhere—a manifestation of arid Texan heat tinted with a cool, refreshing breeze. However, this Texan quintet are far from coincidence. If you remember Good Morning, Gorgeous, it’s time to say good night to that chapter of the band’s past and give a warm welcome to Counterculture—a dazzling, driving and energetic metalcore outfit with a dynamic not unlike that on Northlane’s Singularity. Peace Gives/Envy Rots marks Counterculture’s eruption into the heavy music scene—eleven tracks that range from serene, beautiful melodies to brutalizing, brash breakdowns with a little bit of everything in between. On one hand, Counterculture are peaceful, a pleasant source of subtle progressive metal—but on the other, they corrode the listener, forcing rot upon them with intense, aggressive and dissonant passages that shred flesh and break bone.

Counterculture’s instrumentation refuses to be pigeonholed in one genre. “Create to Fluorish” and “Sweep Me Away” are unbelievable post-rock influenced progressive ballads, using subtle drumming and muted, cleanly played atmospheric guitars to set a soothing mood. On the other hand, “Step One,” “Red Handed” and “Can You Hear Me?” Are intense lessons in relentless metallic brutality. Here, percussionist Hayden Allen ditches any notion of quiet or soft, opting for fast, fill-heavy drumming with impeccable footwork. Even the more moderate track “I Believe” sees Allen dominating with catchy, creative kick patterns that work excellently with Jordan Brown’s bold, snappy bass. Rarely stealing the show, Brown’s expertise on the bass serves to add heft and thickness to Counterculture’s grooves and stuttering, groovy breakdowns. “I Believe” is a brilliant example; just as “Step One” is, highlighting the interplay between both Brown and Allen, as well as between Brown and Counterculture’s two guitarists. Matthew Guajardo and John Michael Perez are sources of endless variety throughout Peace Gives/Envy Rots. “Renew the Spirit” sees them playing an almost jazzy interlude that refreshes the listener’s head after the dizzying and dissonant “Red Handed” and “I Believe.” However, Guajardo and Perez’s real excellence comes in tracks like “Rooftops” and “Can You Hear Me?,” where the duo flow from technically marvelous fretwork to furious, low-down-and-dirty breakdowns. “Rooftops” does this best out of any track on Counterculture’s debut, where the two riffsmiths range from pure serenity to purely pissed off in seconds flat.

In keeping with their outstanding musical dynamism, Counterculture’s vocal dynamic is one that covers unbelievable lows and incredible highs. Frontman Drew Buckner is a diverse and talented vocalist who contributes to Peace Gives/Envy Rots in ways very few other frontmen could. His grimy, gritty lows on “Can You Hear Me?,” along with his shrill shouts on “Step One” and meaty, full-bodied mid range yells on “O.E.C.” Are all examples of his vocal excellence—just as “Step One” sees his lyrics at a record-defining high. However talented Buckner is, however, he is rarely alone on vocal duties—as Perez often chips in with crooned clean singing that adds even more depth and dynamism to Counterculture’s sound. Perez’s assistance on choruses and bridges—as well as the majority of “Create to Flourish” and “Sweep Me Away” give the listener a break from Buckner’s beautifully done, but grating, shouts.

Counterculture, despite their innovation, still find themselves playing with fire on Peace Gives/Envy Rots. After all, how many times have we heard the “heavy/soft” metalcore dynamic? Isn’t it old by now? 90% of the time, the answer is a resounding yes—but in Counterculture’s instance, the odds are turned and they manage to keep the listener engaged even though the heavy-to-light foundation they’re build upon seems done to death. Simply put, Counterculture infuse noisy, hectic metalcore with uplifting, untouchable harmonies in a way that previous bands have become legends off of. Reminiscent of Volumes and Northlane both, the band combine progression and punishment—omitting the “djent” element—to batter the listener abusively only to treat their wounds and help them to their feet. Peace Gives/Envy Rots is more than an example of a band doing a generic style properly—it is an example of a band taking a generic style and renovating it, reminding listener’s how it ought to be done while reinforcing why they love this kind of music in the process. Counterculture’s debut sees them taking a tried and true concept and adding to it—giving the listener a release that keeps on giving, condemning the efforts of their peers to rot in the process.



For Fans Of: Northlane, Volumes, Like Moths to Flames, Architects

By: Connor Welsh