Album Review: envy - The Fallen Crimson
Reviewed by Paul Hutchings
List some seminal Japanese bands? Loudness? Definitely. Dir En Grey? Possibly. X-Japan? Hmm. Bow Wow? Yeah, okay. Gallhammer? Could be. Babymetal? Hahaha! Like fuck! But nowhere is there mention of envy, whose tenure in the hardcore scene sits close to 25 years. Five years since their last album, 'Atheist’s Cornea', they return. Having hit a period of stagnation, envy came close to imploding. Original members Masahiro Tobita (guitar), drummer Dairoku Seki and vocalist Tetsuya Fukagawa left the band, with the latter re-joining the band in 2018. Now revitalised and refreshed by new guitarists Yoshi and Yoshimitsu Taki and drummer Hiroki Tatanabe who join Fukagawa and original members Nobukata Kawai (guitar) and Manabu Nakagawa, envy 2.0 are back, with a sound that is idiosyncratic, brutal and beautiful in equal measure. The pillars of hardcore that the band built their sound on remain, comfortably co-existing with a post-rock style to create a sound dubbed as post-hardcore. "A new wind is blowing within us” says Tetsuya, "the band is in good condition. We really wanted to get the initial impulse out of the six of us. We didn't care about what genre of music we were writing or if it was going to sell well, we just did what we felt was right”. By all accounts the band simply owned their set at Hellfest 2019, with 'The Fallen Crimson' the product of that enchanted evening.
Now screamo and hardcore is not usually my thing, but I am partial to a little bit of the Alcest style post-rock and there is plenty of that wrapped up in this emotional ride. As well as acknowledging the challenges facing a band from Japan to integrate with the mainstream metal scene, envy don’t play easy listening. 'The Fallen Crimson' contains a miasma of styles, from post rock through to melodic thrash. There are gentle passages and sections where face melting riffing simply levels. Such is the case in opening track 'Statement of Freedom' and the explosive elements of 'Fingerprint Mark' which is an absolute banger of a tune. Conversely, tracks including 'Hikari', 'Rhythm' with its lovely female vocals and 'Eternal Memories and Reincarnation' are calming and delicate. Every track delivers something different and enchanting. To say I was surprised at the sheer quality would be an understatement. With expectation high, envy have not only met but surpassed them in every imaginable way. Intense, overwhelming, beautiful and destructive, all at the same time. Packaged into an incredibly vivid and compelling sound, this is possibly the most dynamic way in which the band could celebrate their 25th anniversary. I’m just gutted that I missed them in Bristol a few weeks before this album arrived.
The Fallen Crimson is released on 7th February on Pelagic Records.