Review Summary: While not as groundbreaking as their previous releases, Envy's "Recitation" is still a great addition to a wonderful discography.
Envy have been a true musical force since the last decade. With humble beginnings, Envy have rose to become a fairly revered group, and it’s easy to see why. The band has been very consistent, releasing high quality material since their groundbreaking fourth LP, “All the Footprints You’ve Ever Left…” With said release, the band solidified their footing in the emotional hardcore scene, and gained international praise. However, since that release, Envy have been experimenting heavily with post-rock aesthetics. This was a bold yet clever move, as it has allowed the band to really break out and garner a large following. The band were once tour mates with legendary screamo act City of Caterpillar, making it clear where they derive their influence.
Yet the band’s progression has seemed more organic than a mere emulation of another band. Envy have consistently been a truly inspired band. The past few LP’s have been incredibly genuine, and thus have been very successful. Unfortunately, with their sixth album, “Recitation,” the steam Envy has been picking up seems to slightly dissipate. While the album is in no way a misfire, it feels like the band has simply evolved, rather than progressed.
However, parts in “Recitation” are some of the most beautiful the band has ever done. There is a lot more emphasis on atmosphere, and as a whole, everything is much less dark. It’s fairly refreshing for an Envy release. It’s strange feeling to describe the band as “uplifting,” but seldom moments on the album truly are just that. Some of the lengthy buildups have an airy atmosphere about them, which compliments the lighter tone. It’s cohesive throughout, and wholly immersible.
While as a whole the album is consistent, certain aspects threaten the overall flow. The album’s Achilles Heel lies within what is assumed to be the concept. Conceptually, “Recitation” appears to be just that, a recitation. However, at times the flow of the album can be completely disrupted. Case in point, the strange speaking segments. Sprinkled throughout “Recitation” are these portions of conversational speech. Not singing, but actual talking. And whilst this sounds interesting enough, these portions are far too overused. It seems like halfway through each composition someone interjects to converse about, well, something. Being a Japanese band, Envy’s lyrics are completely spoken and sang in Japanese. Ninety-nine percent of the time the language barrier in music is never an issue, yet not being able to understand the speaking portions makes them even less bearable. There could be a truly outstanding concept behind these lyrics, but without an actual understanding, it is all just speculation.
The missteps and strange decisions found on “Recitation” are truly unfortunate, because the band does a lot of great things on the album. The post-rock aesthetics are polished to a sheen, and the hardcore moments are as fine as ever. And while it was mentioned earlier that Envy feel less inspired, it all seems much more personal and genuine than before. Although not as energetic and exuberant, “Recitation” feels like a maturation of sorts. The band works perfectly together, and at times it seems as if they play as one entity, rather than separate members. Both guitarists seem perfectly in tune with one another, trading off beautifully crafted melodies and doing some great Mono-esque tremelo picking. And despite his short comings, Tetsuya Fukagawa impresses. At times it sounds as if he is straining, but it still feels fairly emotional. While he lacks the range and variety found with some of his contemporaries, Fukagawa evokes quite a bit of passion, which truly does go a long way.
The ebb and flow of some of these compositions makes it a wholly immersible listen, even with some of the faults. Yet it must be said that some songs seem to overstay their welcome. “A Hint and the Incapacity,” features some evocative, yet subtle string work, but simply builds up to very little. It’s a very meandering track that slowly and quietly builds up to a climax. However, the climax doesn’t really occur, rather, it just sort of ends abruptly. “Recitation” is helped out quite a bit by the sheer songwriting talent of the band. There is not a downright awful song on the entire album. While some are far less interesting than others, there is not a cringe-worthy composition to be found. That being said, nothing on here would ever be considered Envy’s best song. “A Breath Clad in Happiness” is a heavy hitter on the album, as it is multifaceted and quite beautiful. Fukagawa screams over some very lofty guitar work, and the drums pound away, keeping everything at a very steady pace. The transitions work wonderfully in the song, and it is truly a highlight on the album. “Dreams Coming to an End” is the album’s most straight forward emotional hardcore song , as it is shorter in length and features far less post-rock elements. “Incomplete,” a short acoustic interlude, coupled with “Dreams Coming to an End” helps to make the album more streamlined towards the middle.
Envy never cease to impress. Aside from a few stumbles, the album is a very polished and thoughtful affair. While it lacks the freshness and veracity of some of their other releases, “Recitation” is still a wonderful addition to their already fantastic discography.