You would be forgiven in thinking that Envy were just a post-rock band. Opening track “Guidance” and the introduction of “Last Hours of Eternity” heavily resemble the post rock sounds of band akin to Explosions in the Sky and Sigur Ros, yet at the same time they hold their own distinct sound, helped in part by the unique Japanese language. For you see, Envy is a post-hardcore band from the Land of the Rising Sun (Japan), with a large emphasis on the “post” aspect. They do in fact use many of post-rock’s tropes, but they mix it in with the desperate aggression of the hardcore genre. It is this combination that makes Envy, and their latest album Recitation, such a joy to listen to.
One of Envy’s greatest strengths are the vocals of Tetsuya Fukagawa, whose voice alternates between spoken word and a hardcore shout throughout the album. What separates Envy from other hardcore bands, besides the post-rock element, is that these vocals hold this desperate sound to it, almost as if Tetsuya is struggling to make the sound come out of his throat. It’s angry, disparate, and rough around the edges, but that only serves to enhance the numerous climaxes that occur throughout Recitation. Tetsuya alternates between this hardcore scream and normal spoken word to great effect throughout the album, the most well done (and just the most awesome) situation of this in the track “Dreams Coming to an End.” Coming in like a hammer with his hardcore shouting, he continues with Nobukata Kawai and Masahiro Tobita’s excellent guitar work before switching to rapid fire spoken word when the instruments tone down just a bit, then he goes right back into an explosive shout.
Besides this song, Tetsuya uses his voice to great use in “Light and Solitude,” “Worn Heels and the Hands we Hold,” and “A Breath Clad in Happiness.” It’s definitely one of the more memorable aspects of the album, and does a fantastic job of accentuating the climaxes.
Vocals aside, the drummer is truly where the band generates most of its stride. Dairoku Seki totally thrashes away at his kit; and his ability to switch styles on the fly with the rest of the band works wonderfully well to give the rising moments so much impact. Changing between drum rolls, galloping syncopations, or just all out mayhem combining the bass drum and cymbals, Seki does a phenomenal job of increasing Recitation’s emotional impact.
It must be said, however, that the guitars also do a fantastic job at this. Nobukata and Masahiro, much like the drums, can switch styles on the fly, either creating simplistic melodies from which the band builds on or playing extensively in the high register during the climaxes. “A Breath Clad in Happiness” has the guitarists at their best, as they exchange melodies with each other while Tetsuya screams his lungs out. Combined with the pounding drums, it serves to create this clash of sound that creates multiple streams of emotions when listening to the song. The bass guitar is used effectively here as well. Being the lowest end of the band, Manaba Nakagawa does the most work in creating this sonic dichotomy between him and the higher pitches of the guitars.
However, “0 and 1” has the band’s collective talent truly at its finest. Starting with a pounding drumbeat, plucked bass notes, and aggressive guitar tones, the band crescendos into a false climax before collapsing and starting another crescendo. This time, the rising sound is much softer, but abruptly erupts into its climax. Here Tetsuya sounds as if he’s on the verge of crying, while the guitar section continually strike at their strings, and Dairoku pounds at his kit creating a desperate marching sound to it. At the final moment, it all abruptly ends. Then “Your Hand” plays, and the album ends. I am left speechless.
I’m left speechless because I had just been taken on a journey with multiple stops and turns, multiple hills and valleys, and I had enjoyed every step of it. I was taken on this journey by a guide whose language I could not understand but I was still captivated by everything they said. I was left speechless at how simple the instrumentation was, and at the same taken aback by how effectively it was used. I was left speechless because for the first time, an album exposed its greatest strengths after everything was said and done. And in that respect, Envy has rightfully established themselves as one of the foremost leaders of the post-hardcore genre.