Envy originally formed as a thrash-metal band in 1991, but the Japanese five-piece unveiled on 1998's Here to Eternity a newfound penchant for creating cinematic portraits. Since that album, Envy's songs have felt like a symphony of wrecking balls beautifully destroying anything in their paths. American bands have since taken credit for similarly employing the epic grandeur of bands such as Mogwai and Sigur Ros alongside the unsettling magnificence of a voice breaking under its own strength, screaming out the demons whose claws are lodged deep in the ribcage. But instead of being dismayed by the fact that they had been overlooked as originators, the members of Envy released A Dead Sinking Story in 2003, which vastly altered the way those who heard it would approach music.
The truth is, Insomniac Doze shouldn't exist. Emotional hardcore has lost its way, and those who still find their primary musical release in hardcore music have ventured closer to punk's roots, as evidenced by the success of bands such as the Hope Conspiracy and the Bronx. The playing field has changed; trends have run their cycles. And yet, three years later, Envy has returned with all the splendor and bile of A Dead Sinking Story, and it's clear that Envy was never playing the same sport -- let alone the same league -- as bands such as City of Caterpillar or Circle Takes the Square.
"Further Ahead of Warp" draws first blood, and it shows that for every beam of light there is a shadow. Dichotomously reflective and recklessly driving forward, the opener reveals that nothing has been lost in the past three years. A Dead Sinking Story, it turns out, will not be the watermark by which to measure Envy. The songwriting is as haunting, as beautiful, as epic and as inspiring as it was on that album, if not more so. Unrelenting in its track arrangement, the songs find new parts of the emotional spectrum to burrow into. Any worries I had that the emotional peak of the final minutes of "Scene" would be the most lasting impression I had of the album were diffused by its follow-up, "Crystallize." The rest of the album flows just as seamlessly, as though scripted for the torrent of subconscious images evoked by Envy's music.
Envy isn't the only band to layer screams over grandiose guitar lines, but the band members have cultivated the ability to saturate the music with subtle chord shifts and single notes. It's a rare art that can only be compared to masterpieces by Mogwai or Explosions in the Sky. The band members' skills as artists are apparent in every corner of Insomniac Doze. Dairoku Seki's drums allow us to feel the pulse of the music, sometimes racing forward as though frightened of what would happen if the music stopped driving onward, other times framing and focusing the chaotically magnificent guitars and bass provided by Nobukata Kawai, Masahiro Tobita and Manabu Nakagawa. Tetsuya Fukagawa's voice floats like debris over the raging waters created by his bandmates -- at times straining and breaking in desperate screams, in other moments composed through the quieter segments.
Temporary Residence has already secured Japan's post-rock superheroes Mono, and now with Insomniac Doze, the label might be building one of the best catalogues in independent music. Some of this scene's most beautiful music has been written about broken promises, but Insomniac Doze fulfilled the promise that A Dead Sinking Story allowed us to believe in.
"Further Ahead of Warp" MP3
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