"In such an ugly time the real protest is beauty," said some smart dude once. Right now, July 17 of 2006 at 3:36 p.m. I'm living in one of the ugliest times in the history of the homo sapien. Reading any newspaper makes that abundantly clear with who-knows-what on the horizon.
At the moment out of everything that I can listen to, Envy's newest, Insomniac Doze, is my pick as it mixes beauty and intensity in the most passionate ways possible. While this might sound cheesy, listening to Envy's epic sound creates epiphanies and the kind of realizations that I hear people describe when using mind-altering substances.
The move from Level Plane to Temporary Residence makes perfect sense with their musical progression. Insomniac Doze ditches the massive intensive screamo parts for an emphasis on post-rock vastness. A Dead Sinking Story, their last album, was an in between stage of their more intense previous works with a bigness and intensity that felt tiring and too long-winded at times without enough gut quenching substance.
Now with Insomniac Doze they've crafted a memorable epic masterpiece that'll probably end up as record of the year. Listening to the fifteen minute "The Unknown Glow" is abundant proof of this direction with a seven-minute instrumental build up that explodes into digital delay and the saddest/most intense vocals.
Insomniac Doze could be summed up into three different states, which will be confined into levels of epicness:
Ep-1: The chill parts where Tetsuya Fukagawa drops some softly spoken words.
Ep-2: The slightly energetic parts where Fukagawa sings.
Ep-3: The loud epic parts where Fukagawa screams.
A combination of these levels of epic (plus instrumental sections) creates the album in question. The screaming will turn some people off, but singing just doesn't fit inside of an Ep-3 reality.
Maybe it's because I associate envy with the color green, but when I hear Insomniac Doze images of wide Lord of the Rings shots flood my head. Mountain peaks gazing over monstrous valleys oozing with life stretching towards the sun. Instead of orcs fighting the Palidans and wanky fantasy stuff like that, Envy conjures the visuals of a heard of oxen rising up towards the hungry lion and telling that motherfucker, "We won't take your shit!" As that goddamn lion starts retreating with his tail between his legs the oxen start convulsing together to create one behemoth of a creature that spits out lightning towards the sun creating a black hole that'll eat everything as we know it!!
If you enjoy Level Plane's catalogue and post-rock giants like Explosions In The Sky and Mono, Envy's Insomniac Doze is the record of 2006 for you.
Unless you haven't heard Envy before, which would be a tragic mistake, then you already know how incredible this Japan-based melodic hardcore band is. This band truly is the instrumental representation of angst and sincerity that is a rare find in the crowded pool of crappy hardcore bands today. That being said, their new album, Insomniac Doze is sure to become one of the best hardcore CDs this year.
Following their last epic, A Dead Sinking Story, Insomniac Doze is another stellar effort that captures the same heavy melodic heartfelt music that Envy do so well. The first track, "Further Ahead of Warp" opens with a wall of cascading guitars before breaking into a spoken word verse. This spoken word verse is atypical of Envy, but one soon realizes how effective this song structure works when the first melodic outburst shifts the song into a complete epic onslaught of gut wrenching wails and screams. The second track, "Shield of Selflessness," and the third track, "Scene," have similar structures, and both are also perfect examples of Envy's skill to create huge epic songs.
However, as incredible as all of these songs are, the length and emotion of these songs can be a bit overwhelming and draining to listen to all at once. For me, it was like reliving a sad life changing moment over and over again for an hour. Despite some seldom moments of quiet guitar melodies and buildup, each of these songs ends up the same way; an epic melody blanketed by soaring screams and yells. It can be a bit exhausting after the third or fourth song.
If you are a fan of traditional hardcore and looking for that next great band to do kung fu to, then you might want to look elsewhere. However if you want some original, lush and breathtaking composition or are even into the whole post-rock scene, this could be the soundtrack to catharsis that you have been looking for. Heed warning however, this isn't for the faint of heart; but if you can endure Insomniac Doze's exhausting length and emotionally draining songs then the pay off is definitely worth it.
I came to Insomniac Doze with no prior knowledge of Envy, but with a strong interest in Japanese culture. As a country, Japan isn't exactly renowned for its success in the international music scene. Its successful exports tend to be few and far between, offering only a brief glimpse into what is in fact perhaps one of the most diverse and inventive nations in the world. Drawing on influences from all across the globe, whilst still incorporating their own culture, Japan are able create something recognizable and yet at the same time unique in its own right.
What Envy creates is no different. While the press might make much of their "chaotic brutality," Envy is a different kind of beast. Their sound flirts between two polar extremes, as vocalist Tetsuya Fukagawa shifts seamlessly from soft-spoken word to the wretched wails of a man utterly destroyed. The music follows his lead, one minute subdued and poignant, the next exploding like a supernova of sound. It's these shifts that make Insomniac Doze so effective, blending the epic post-rock textures of Explosions in the Sky and Mono with the scathing hardcore-styled vocals of bands like City of Caterpillar. Opener "Further Ahead of Warp" is one of the album's strong points, showcasing this strange duality perfectly. Final track "A Warm Room" is another gem; an unstoppable outpouring of emotion whose final minutes are beyond doubt the album's most sublime, ending Insomniac Doze on an unexpectedly uplifting note.
Although there isn't a huge amount of track-to-track variety to be found on Insomniac Doze, it's difficult to complain when what is on offer is so compelling. Although the album's seven tracks may be bursting at the seams with woeful anguish, there is also something bizarrely energizing about the whole thing, like a shimmering beam of light at the end of a hopelessly dark tunnel. You may be drained and you may feel dejected, but Insomniac Doze will leave you breathlessly panting for more.
9.2 / 10
Reviewed by 3 writers.
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