There’s something special about Envy; something so profound and insightful that it surpasses all orthodoxy, transcending all stereotypes, and forges its place as a rare gem. Nothing about Envy is conventional, and with that being said, it’s hard to place them in any specific genre (screamo seems to be the preferred stereotype). Envy's 2003 epic release, A Dead Sinking Story, widens the gap of convention with its intriguing stylistic diversity, raw, emotive vocals, and its ability to create entrap its listener into a subduing atmosphere lulling him into the brilliance that is Envy.
The album begins with an ominously ambling guitar piece. At about thirty-two seconds into the track, the emotionally heavy wall of sound hits hard, and the singer, Tetsuya Fukagawa, assaults the listener with his unique vocal styling. Contrary to many screamers in the hardcore or screamo scene, Tetsuya’s voice is a powerful, emotional instrument. Even as the lyrics of A Dead Sinking Story are entirely in Japanese, Tetsuya’s harsh vocals transcend language, and all his raw emotion is conveyed to the listener.
The introductory track, “Chain Wandering Deeply”, is a prime example of Envy’s ability to manipulate song dynamics in order to heighten the emotional output. During the eight minutes of the song, the pace moves from slow and quiet, to a faster, heavier, more emotionally driven segment, back down to a simple yet efficient guitar piece, back to the heavy, emotional segment, and ultimately ending in a smooth, entrancing flow of guitar, bass, and drums. Even here, the song does not actually end, but merely segues into the next track.
A Dead Sinking Story is not an album that can easily be sifted through to find desired tracks. In order to fully enjoy and appreciate this album, it needs to be listened to in its entirety – including the two ambient tracks. In this sense, I’ve always thought of this album in much the same way I think of Japanese cinema – slow-paced and atmospheric, building up a general mood, and once all anticipation has been heightened to the maximum extent, it strikes in all its climatic brilliancy. The most clearly illustrated example of this in a single song is in “A Will Remains in the Ashes”, a twelve minute epic, with most of the song being slow, jazzy, and repetitive, building up all its pure emotion, and finally striking with its heavy guitar and harshly beautiful vocals.
Despite any musical accomplishments made in A Dead Sinking Story, Envy will not be easily accepted by all listeners – even those who are fans of the general genre. First and foremost, most people will automatically be turned off by the constant screaming. Even as fitting and appropriate as it may seem, Tetsuya’s pure harshness can be overwhelming. And even for those who are fans of this vocal styling, the fact that everything on the album is sung in Japanese may prove to be a nuisance, since it makes it all but impossible for an English speaker to understand, and scream along to. And even then, if the Japanese lyrics aren’t too much of a burden, many people could see A Dead Sinking Story as too emotional – and it is. In fact, the overall emotive tone of the albums is primarily what makes it so epic.
Finally, Envy’s musical simplicity may make it difficult for some genre elitists to overcome. It’s true; Envy utilizes the same basic formula for each of its songs on A Dead Sinking Story. The vocals seem ever unchanging, with an emotive, monotone scream here, a brief pause, and repetition for what can be up to several minutes. In addition, the guitar parts often follow the same technique, as shown in such songs as “Chain Wandering Deeply”, “Unrepairable Gentleness”, and “A Will Remains in the Ashes”. A simple riff is continuously played to the point of exhaustion, and finally followed up with another simple riff, which is also repeated.
Despite any potential criticisms, any person who thinks he or she may be interested in Envy should give A Dead Sinking Story a listen. In my case, it opened me up to a whole new musical genre and way of thinking entirely. No longer did I think of “loud bands” as noise, but something meaningful, something beautiful, and yet something so painfully emotional and raw. A Dead Sinking Story is a perfect example of what Envy is capable of doing musically, and is arguably their greatest achievement to date.
If I were to rate this album based on my own preference and personal bias, it would receive a perfect rating, but for the sake of objectivity, all aforementioned criticisms are taken into consideration, and this album is a 4.5 / 5