envy

The Fallen Crimson

Written by: AP on 30/12/2020 19:33:18

Until 2011, I only knew the Japanese post-hardcore outfit envy by name, despite their iconic status. But that changed in a heartbeat one autumn evening when the band kicked off their first concert on Danish soil with “Thousand Scars” off their 2007 EP “Abyssal”. It was love at first sight — and ever since then the six piece has been one of my most treasured discoveries, with their 2010 offering “Recitation” especially making an indelible impression on me. It served as a gateway to my immersing myself in all things post during the last decade just as the more popular, emo-leaning post-hardcore was beginning to wear me out, its fusing intense screamo and powerviolence with melodies in widescreen creating a sound that felt, and continues to feel truly transcendental — like nothing I had ever heard before. And five years later, “Atheist’s Cornea” only amplified my predilection for envy and their unique style, naturally rendering their seventh and latest outing “The Fallen Crimson” one of my most anticipated records of 2020.

While the album does not revolutionise envy’s signature sound in any way, it maximises the potential of their existing ideas to produce some of their best music yet. You could be forgiven for not believing this on the basis of the metallic opening track “Statement of Freedom”, on which the six musicians opt for riffs instead of melodies and end up producing a somewhat bland and simplistic song compared to their usual standard. But once this initial blow has worn off, order is restored by “Swaying Leaves and Scattering Breath” and from there on out, the band delivers a litany of songs racing each other to give the listener goosebumps. The galloping rhythm laid down by new drummer Hiroki Watanabe for this song provides the perfect foundation for guitarists Nobukata Kawai, Tsuyoshi Yoshitake and Yoshimitsu Taki to build their orchestral arrangements upon, and when his percussion takes on a freer form in the end of the track, the resulting crescendo sounds absolutely spectacular. Sometimes one wonders what any bands needs three guitarists for, but when one has experienced one of these explosions of life-affirming melody, there is no longer a question. Yet it seems like only envy’s countrymen in Mono have a comparable understanding of melodic layering, building walls of sound that are simultaneously immense and intricate. And incidentally, it feels almost as though envy wanted to pay homage to their compatriots with “Rhythm”, a stunning piece of shoegaze that conjures imagery of a meadow in spring. Watanabe’s tom-tom hits resemble heartbeats, softly pulsing beneath serene tremolo guitar melodies that swirl like dandelion seeds around the dreamlike singing voice brought to the band’s palette by new guitarist Taki — until, around the 03:30 mark, cymbals and power chords crash down to announce the beginning of another spellbinding finale.

That song creates a nice contrast after “A Faint New World”, which has a dark, and at times desperate atmosphere that culminates in a dissonant breakdown near the end. It also underlines the amount of variety envy have packed into their latest album; the first four songs alone all bring something different to the table and this is a pattern that continues through the rest of the seven tracks as well. “HIKARI” is borderline symphonic, lending credence to the idea that a significant part of envy’s inspiration is in fact derived from neoclassicism — though it is the mantlepiece “Dawn and Gaze” that fully brings this influence to life in a symphony of catharsis, its cascading melodies eventually winding up to a climax so emotive it would bring a tear to a glass eye. Indeed, had I written this review on a piece of paper the ink would likely be smudged into a purple blur here for that reason. “Fingerprint Mark” meanwhile dives headfirst into melodic hardcore punk, and you could be forgiven for thinking it had been written by The Carrier were it not for the segments of spoken word by vocalist Tetsuya Fukagawa spliced into it. And elsewhere, the anarchic drumming and generally unhinged atmosphere in “Marginalized Thread” are there to remind us of envy’s roots in screamo and powerviolence. It should be mentioned though, that even in the most intense moments, all of these tracks are tied to a clear red thread running through the album: that is, an atmosphere that cleanses the mind as well as the soul and leaves the listener feeling like they have experienced something bordering on spiritual.

“The Fallen Crimson” thus meets my colossal expectations with full force. Envy has never been a band who have fussed about catchiness or immediate rewards, and their latest offering is not an exception. Certain moments do of course stand out, but I am not exaggerating when I say that every one of these tracks has the capacity to send shivers running down your spine — especially when heard eyes closed and with noise cancelling headphones covering your ears. Truly, it is an album to immerse yourself in, to be enveloped by as the world around you dissolves; an uplifting album that is not afraid to introduce a sense of triumph and defiance in the face of these disheartening times. It was not intended to be as such of course, but “The Fallen Crimson” has nonetheless proved to be one of the few records I have been able to turn to for some much needed escapism this year, which is one of the many reasons it deserves to be accoladed as one of the very best albums of 2020.

9

Download: Swaying Leaves and Scattering Breath, A Faint New World, Rhythm, Dawn and Gaze, A Step in the Morning Glow
For the fans of: Heaven in Her Arms, Mono, Pianos Become the Teeth, Suis La Lune
Listen: Facebook

Release date 05.02.2020
Temporary Residence Ltd.

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