Japanese punks Envy debuted with the brief bursts of psychotic hardcore of the mini-album Breathing and Dying In This Place (1996)
The 49 seconds of Ability and the longer End of the Line harken back to the generation of
the Germs and
the Circle Jerks,
Under the Sky and Still Remain stomps like cowpunk of the 1980s,
but the brutal agony of Passage of Wind is closer in spirit to
the noise-rock of a few years earlier
Killdozer and the likes).
From Here To Eternity (1998) was an altogether different beast, and not only because the songs were longer, four of them even longer than four minutes.
Starting from the unstable and visceral foundations of noise-rock,
Limitation, Carved Numbers and For You who Died
construct an even harsher brainy/emotional vehicle with
vocals that are screamed (by Tetsuya Fukagawa) rather than sung and a guitar (Nobukata Kawai) that indulges in hailstorms of distorted riffs.
Tremble begins like a timid folk ballad and ends in apocalyptic fury.
The punk bullets of A Vicious Circle Again and especially Crusaders are devastated by astronomical angst.
Not everything works, but, where it works, the impact is life-threatening.
Angel's Curse Whispered In The Edge Of Despair (1999) introduced a
different band, still a punk band but bent on exploiting and expanding every
nuance of their music instead of simply bombarding the listener with nasty
sounds. The songs are multifaceted instead of being monolithic. Hence the
visceral but melodic power-ballad Pendulum, the melodramatic ups and downs of Breeze And Destiny, and
the ten-minute Unrepairable Gentleness, that opens with an
explosive charge but is interrupted by a slow section with clean singing before
resuming its ugly primal eruption of emotions.
The six-song EP Burning Out the Memories (2000) contains Echo Regenerates and the three-song EP The Eyes of Final Proof (2000) contains the seven-minute Awaken Eyes.
The five-song EP Eyes of Single Eared Prophet (2000)
compiles the best of the other two EPs and adds
An Encyclopedia of The Unification.
All The Footprints You've Ever Left And The Fear Expecting Ahead (2001)
had one or two hardcore numbers (like Left Hand) but, starting with
the surreal instrumental overture of Zero,
was clearly leaving behind the stereotypes of the genre with
the narrative complexity of Lies And Release From Silence and of the
eight-minute Your Shoes And The World To Come,
or even with the section of regular singing inside A Cradle Of Arguments And Anxiousness.
The seven-minute Mystery And Peace is largely melodic, both during the distorted "hardcore" sections and during the "pop" section.
The most visceral and noisy moments happen inside A Cage It Falls Into but frequently interrupted by hesitations that increase the effect.
A Dead Sinking Story (2003) definitely embraced the
post-rock aesthetic of ebbing and flowing atmosphere and much more convoluted
development, notably in the three longer pieces.
In Chain Wandering Deeply a whispered lullaby alternates with traditional screamo rants and a coda of quiet jamming segues into the next song,
the anguished chant of Distress Of Ignorance, that repeats one of their most emotional melodies.
Even more extreme contrasts coexist in seven-minute Color Of Fetters, which comes after the instrumental electronic vignette Evidence, and in
Go Mad And Mark, that comes before the spoken-word
A Conviction That Speeds in a suicidal atmosphere.
A new, improved version of Unrepairable Gentleness (the opening track of Angel's Curse) opens in heartbroken screamo mode, then plunges into an extremely subdued depression, almost in a trance, and then the scream reemerges with an anthemic melody.
The 13-minute A Will Remains in the Ashes is pure expressionist theater,
a crescendo of dejected recitation and mellow guitar tones that after seven minutes explodes in an apotheosis of guitar tremolos and poignant howls.
Their music has become an exercise in building
exhausting psychological tension.
Insomniac Doze (2006) is a worthy continuation and even refinement
of the idea, almost pointing at a pop-screamo fusion.
Envy has become masters at integrating
incediary playing and poetic atmosphere and then detonating the mixture
with anthemic crescendoes. Opener Further Ahead Of Warp is the
quintessential example of this method, and,
in terms of elegant crescendo, nothing beats A Warm Room, a waltz-like threnody, propelled by one of their most memorable and sentimental guitar melodies.
Scene even begins with atmospheric electronic lines that evoke U2's balladry and with spoken-word recitation before the soaring refrain.
For four of its six minutes, Night In Winter sounds like a gentle children's lullaby.
The delicate filigree of Crystallize possibly even drowns the scarce screamo element.
The 15-minute The Unknown Glow has it all: somnolent litany, understated jamming, poetic recitation, rousing screamo singing, and even, at one point, military drumming.
This is their most romantic album, and, at the same time, the most cohesive.
The mini-album Abyssal (2007) is a worthy
appendix to Insomniac Doze, especially
the ten-minute A Road of Winds the Water Builds,
another stately and wavering elegy that ends with another memorable melody.
Recitation (2010) marked a low point of inspiration, except for the
seven-minute 0 and 1.
The songs of
Atheist's Cornea (2015)
try a bit too hard to be atmospheric, with neither the
passion nor the melodrama of the band's best moments.
You have to wait until the closer, Your Heart and My Hand, to hear a
truly engaging guitar riff.
If Shining Finger continues in the post-rock vein of
Insomniac Doze with another melodic crescendo (over guitar sounds that
increasingly sound like keyboards),
almost death-metal, Blue Moonlight marks the rare return to the noisy bacchanals of All The Footprints
The play is more inventive than ever, but the result is mostly cold and flat.
A new line-up recorded
The Fallen Crimson (2020), another step towards a poppy sound.
noisy-melodic gems Swaying Leaves and Scattering Breath and Dawn and Gaze
and stately melodic crescendo of Hikari (with almost no singing other than a recitation and a shout) are just teasers for
the elegiac dream-pop ballad Rhythm.
Even the fury of Marginalized Thread is rapidly reined in by an angelic chorus.
The manic hardcore Fingerprint Mark sounds like a tribute to their early self.
The album also contains the two (mediocre) sides of the EP
Definition of Impossibility (2019)
the seven-minute A Step In The Morning Glow and
A Faint New World.
Once the center of mass shifts towards the melodies, the melodies have to be really good otherwise the song feels like filler. Half of this album is filler.
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