Album Review: Civerous – Maze Envy

Album Review: Civerous - Maze Envy
Reviewed by Sam Jones

There are varying bands when, upon releasing a new record, you’d jolt upright and add it to your most awaited of the year. Upon announcement, that for me was Civerous and their new album: Maze Envy. Formed in 2019 out of California, United States, Civerous are styled as black/death metal act whose earlier days consists of a multitude of Demos, a Split, a Live Album and more. Not until 2021 did the band unveil their first full length record: Decrepit Flesh Relic. There the band gave me an album that I utterly abused in starting again and again, over and over; easily one of that year’s finest records. As a result, Civerous shot to the top of my most beloved death metal acts and now, three years on, Maze Envy is prepped for a March 22nd release date. Freshly signed on to the magnificent 20 Buck Spin, I believe the future is already looking serene for Civerous and so, let’s delve into Maze Envy to see what these guys have brought for us.

Civerous, even during their last record, showcased they were more than your typical death metal act and they continue that notion into Maze Envy, as they open up their album with a gradually rising tension brought on by a coarse string section. It isn’t your typical orchestral affair as Civerous ensure it’s deliberately unnerving, whereby your eyes dart to and fro and lacks conventional structure. But then you realise the band are only working, really, with six full tracks and considering it’s runtime the audience will soon realise Civerous are rather comfortable with lengthy pieces. They made it work in the closing track of their last album which was eleven minutes long, and the first real track on record here is touching nine minutes. Perhaps you’d wonder if the band would roar out of the gates with an astonishing flurry of speed but that isn’t the case; the band are clearly continuing the themes of massive tone and weight as they bring these slabs of riff down on us as opposed to just running through us with demented pace.

With that said, the band strike a great balance between speed and bringing that sensory bomb down upon you. There are periods throughout this album where, during their pummelling sections, you can really feel the pace at which the guitarists are playing across their fretboards. In addition, the band understand the importance of quality mixing since they’re able to dart back and forth between the varying tempos of their songwriting. It could have come off as hideously unbalanced whereby the audience gets the senses the band prefer one variation of riff delivery over the other, but by giving every element of their songwriting the necessary weight, it enables Civerous to punch in all directions regardless what kind of riff style they’re opting for in the moment. But, riffs alone can’t enrapture audiences at all times; the drumming is great not merely because of the talent behind the kit, but because the drums have been given plenty of room to breathe. Blast beats are pulled off with incredible ease and the intensity one would seek from them is effortlessly conveyed across. The mixing has also rendered it capable within their songwriting for the bulk of their onslaught to drop away, giving the drums freedom to play to their own accord and their own time to shine e.g. “Shrouded In Crystals”.

Album Review: Civerous - Maze Envy

The further you move into Maze Envy, the more apparent it is that Civerous have a keen comprehension of structure and why it’s so vital to a full record. We’ve touched upon the band’s ease for writing longer tracks, but that may backfire on a band should the audience grow tired of lengthy pieces. It’s why the inclusion of smaller, pieces following or prior the main event becomes so necessary to this album’s flow. A constant barrage of energy is euphoric but it can make for a strangling experience when little else alleviates us; by lowering the intensity of their performance it ensures the audience is refreshed enough for the next wave of madness to bowl them over. It’s also not a fully crushing affair which the record does benefit from; there are several instances where the assault assumes a more cerebral aesthetic, something that definitely gives Civerous a more unique edge against the slew of extreme metal these days. It’s rarely just the onslaught itself that engages us; there’s often an additional element thrown in the works.

Yet, as Maze Envy demonstrates, this is something the band have brought to fruition across their runtime here. There were times, on their last album, where this vibe bled through and elevated their songwriting to eye-opening heights, but it’s much more prevalent herein as Civerous employ numerous techniques and soundscapes to separate their own songwriting from the masses. Throughout Maze Envy we’re greeted with crushing tones, cerebral playing, riffs that reach into the ethereal nether, guttural vocals digging to the bowels of the earth and yet it manages to fuse together seamlessly in a way only Civerous can pull off. Capping off their record with two equally long nine minute tracks, the band pull out all the stops to showcase what they’re capable of. It’s by implementing these techniques and ideas into their music that helps give these lengthy pieces such weight and presence. As previously put, it’s hardly ever the onslaught alone but a fusion of power and near-progressive influences that give Maze Envy its striking beauty, the way one could perceive fallen monoliths to Gods long forgotten.

In conclusion, Maze Envy is an album that takes Civerous’ music in a decidedly more progressive, ethereal direction. Should the band continue this way I wouldn’t be surprised to see them dubbed as an avant-garde extreme metal act, given the comfort they possess playing this experimentally-infused songwriting. There is plenty to unpack here and I believe it’s one of those records where fans will take increasingly more away upon repeated listens since the band aren’t looking to throw everything out at once. I feel it’s a considerably more mature album than their last work; the overall talent and purpose behind their performance hasn’t changed but there feels to be a greater clarity of what they went in to try and accomplish. I personally believe they’ve pulled it off as Civerous are already a band I’d easily drop everything else for when a new album comes round, just as is the case for Maze Envy. Civerous have done it yet again and given us a record that’s more than worth your time and money. One of the most underrated, burgeoning acts in extreme metal right now.

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