Review Summary: Envy's early work showcases the promise they no doubt have but lacks the genius of later efforts.
Japan’s Envy has forever been a band that walks the thin line between excellence and true greatness. Frequently they are name dropped alongside emotional hardcore’s elite, the likes of Hot Cross, Circle Takes the Square, Off Minor and so on, but their music lies far beyond such rigid confinements. They are not a band that showcases great complexity of instrumentation nor do they burst through songs at break-neck speed. They are however masters of sophisticated song writing and they endearingly forever place an onus on continuous melody and flow, as opposed to the quick thrill of a catchy hook or a “brutal” breakdown. While some bands may choose to may vast departures musically between albums Envy have made a gradual transition from a spacey and expansive yet extremely abrasive take on post hardcore to the Isis infused sound they currently employ. 1999’s “Angel’s Curse Whispered in the Edge of Despair” sees the band in fine form for sure, but at this stage they are still a band unsure of themselves and where they really want to be sonically. All the components are present but this is a raw and uncompromising album which lacks the consistent direction of “A Dead Sinking Story” and the intelligence and epic feel of “Insomniac Doze.” Envy do however possess talent in abundance and even on their weakest day is vastly superior to the majority of the emo scene.
Production has only been a kind friend to the band and here is no different. Obviously this is a low budget release so it is far from as polished as its follow up’s. When you consider however that most emo bands sound like they recorded their records on a four-track in the drummers basement, this easily sets them a cut above their contemporaries. The music is chaotic whilst at the same time being easily distinguishable and easy to break down; in short it is accessible in an unconventional way. A lot of Credit must be given for not only striking a good balance in making the album feel like one piece of unified music but for also finding such a great contrast between the musical extremes contained in the songs. The softer cleaner elements sound eerily beautiful and at the other end of the spectrum there is no doubt Envy no how to bring the thrash.
Like so many early albums from bands that went on greater things it is easy to overlook “Angel’s Curse..” but, had Envy never made another piece of music after the turn of the century this may well have gone down as an unrivalled classic. The problem with the album isn’t so much any great fault or flaw within the album itself it is quite simply that it is not as good as “A Dead Sinking Story” and “Insomniac Doze.” In that respect it echoes Radiohead’s “The Bends” and Glassjaw’s “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence” in that they are superb as standalone albums but fail to escape to obvious comparisons to finer works in the bands discography.
Musically the albums more reserved moments are generally used sparingly and as opposed to long winding build up’s into a post rock like crescendo the longs move up and down less predictably, rather than building up and up they swiftly transform from minimalist single note picking to a furious burst of noise in little under twenty seconds. As would be expected this is an album which thrives on the full album experience and feels bare and tarnished if broken up into separate songs.
At a “3.5” Envy have been very hard done by, this is for all intents and purposes a beautifully crafted, unique and spectacular mini album, but having never quite achieved the greatness they promise it leaves them with space to grow into. So as when they finally do construct their magnum opus it will be set apart from their records standing on the brink of musical immortality. Maybe I am writing with too much a sense of inevitability but with Envy there really is that sense that everything is there for them. It’s just waiting to be written.