There're plenty of bands in the world, but the ones that really stick out are the ones that leave you scratching your head, unsure of what you've heard, but a little bruised, beaten, and fulfilled because of it. Japan's Envy is one of those bands, a flurry of sound that differentiates only in extremes, from pummeling assaults to lush, gorgeous soundscapes, with nary a middle ground to be found on the entire album. No matter how I say this, it'll sound like hyperbole, but I'll say it anyway: stacked with two songs, a segue, three songs, a segue, and two more songs, equal parts abusing and comforting, this is less a record than an hour long aural experience.
Things start out innocently enough. "Chain Wandering Deeply," hmm, sounds like a pleasant enough name for the first track. A delicately strummed acoustic guitar flutters somewhere off in the distance. Some ambient noises bounce around the landscape. And then, about half a minute in, things start to lose control. Somebody starts screaming at you incomprehensibly (unless you're Japanese), guitars strum clean high-end chords, bass and drums propel things forward, and then the band crashes down, dries out, and then builds again to an epic squeal, scorching out all your senses, until with a stop-start crash, things slow down, and all of a sudden, you're left feeling supremely uneasy, forced into a peace that you neither wanted nor expected, yet one that's also strangely fulfilling. You're helpless to stop it, simply being dragged along at this point, because you're no longer simply listening to the band, you're living your life through their eyes. By the time the drum intro to "Distress of Ignorance," the second song, starts your entire body spasming, you're already under the band's total control. The finest moment comes on "Color of Fetters," which begins with two simple notes, followed by few minutes of guitar-work worthy of bloodied hands that manages to carry a melody stronger than anything on the radio, and ends up on a melancholy stream of arpeggio before screaming back into life.
The power of this music should not be underestimated. The guitars chime and bounce around each other, or work as one manic force, either leading you slowly down to dreamland or edging you towards an assault from which you won't soon be recovering. Electronic sounds lurch through the mix, providing the skin for which the muscular guitars are the foundation. Bass and drums rebound off each other and the guitars, bass providing the ligaments to the bones of the drums. The intensity of each track leaks out with every syllable of speech that erupts from your stereo's speakers, a nervous system with a pulsing heart, a stomach that lurches with bile from which words drenched in anger launch.
Some bands aim for the head, some aim for the heart, some aim for the crotch. Envy leaps directly at your throat and doesn't let up for a second. Even at its least extreme, it's still an almost overwhelming musical force, but its one that's so brilliantly composed and crafted that its almost impossible to perceive how it's been achieved. The band mixes such divergent elements that, theoretically, it should be completely impossible for the music to be made. Post-rock and hardcore aren't supposed together on the same plain, but in this instance they do. Consider that the band is on Level Plane, owned by members of Saetia and Hot Cross, in the United States, and on Rock Action, operated by Mogwai, in Europe. Take these methods of music and combine them, and you have Envy on the surface. Scratching deeper finds what lies beneath, a band that's torn apart the influences around them, reminding you of those bands rather than sounding like them. The fact that a record so unabashedly artsy manages to also be so incessantly enjoyable is also a testament to the band's skill, signaling that this is an album that shouldn't be overlooked anytime soon.
9.1 / 10
I doubt that many musicians would claim to not be slightly jealous of Envy's career trajectory. From humbler beginnings as a hardcore band singing in a non-native tongue, to issuing ...
Knowing full well this album was dropping this year (it was on my albums to look forward to in 2010 list last year), I was surprised by its release and ...
Posted May 15, 2013, 5:05 p.m.
In celebration of 20 years as a band, Envy is prepping to release a 14 LP, 2 dvd, 100 page booklet boxset titled Invariable Will, Recurring Ebbs and Flows. The ...
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