In a way, split albums are more interesting to analyze than regular full-length albums, because a lot of times the bands influence each others' sounds in the studio. This has never been more apparent than on Envy and Thursday's recent split. Far removed from their typical pop-influenced post hardcore sound, Thursday have taken on many of Envy's traits, creating an EP consisting of two traditional Thursday songs and two spacey, ambient pieces, both of which are instrumental. On the other side of the split, Envy wrote one song that reflects Thursday's new direction, and two straightforward hardcore songs similar to the songwriting that Thursday typically employed in the past.
"An Umbrella Fallen Into Fiction" starts Envy's side of the split off on a bit of a shaky note, with Tetsuya Fukagawa's spoken word Japanese vocals sitting above a great clean guitar lead. However, some questionable electronic elements bring the start of the song down a little bit. They drop out soon enough though, as the guitar becomes more prominent, including more of the higher strings into its progression. The last third of the song sees a buildup in the electronic drums, with distortion slowly seeping into the chords. A typical Envy explosion might be expected here, but instead they throw a curveball, flowing into what is arguably the most majestic moment of their career. The chord progression is absolutely lovely, and Fukagawa's screaming seems somehow more beautiful than abrasive. It's completely out of left field, but amazingly so, and it saves the song from its somewhat mediocre first half. "Isolation of a Light Source" would fit well with All the Footprints You've Ever Left...
era Envy, with its tremolo-picked riffs, chaotic drumming, and harsh screams interspersed with spoken word sections, which have become fairly prominent in Envy's music over the years. Many times they come in when the music is at its most tumultuous, creating a nice dichotomy of light and heavy. Dairoku Seki's drumming is to be commended; from album to album he has become more and more impressive; in this particular track his performance becomes more frantic and erratic as the song progresses. "Pure Birth and Loneliness" is an Abyssal
-style track, with tuneful singing from Fukagawa which has improved tenfold since their early days. Although Envy have never been a band to focus too much on riffs, the odd-time signature repeating riff in the last minute of the song is the best thing they've ever written guitar-wise.
As for Thursday's side, they have been on an evolutionary track ever since Full Collapse
came out. Slowly building on their now standard pop-post-hardcore sound, A City By the Light Divided
saw the heavy use of synths to create a soundscape behind the songs. This has been pushed even further on this split, as two of the four Thursday songs are instrumental, heavily electronic drenched affairs. This is unfortunately for the worse, as these two songs are boring, derivative messes for the most part. While some of it may be due to their pairing with Envy (there is a very Insomnicac Doze/Abyssal
-like crescendo in “In Silence”), it is also a pretty obvious extension from some of their work on A City…
, but this time lacking the X-factor Thursday used to contain. “Appeared and Was Gone” in particular fails to achieve any kind of heights, as the piano ebbs and flows with some oddly placed sample and synth work, and the eventual post-rockish build up is ruined by the continual use of those same “doop woop” synth sounds they were using at the beginning of the song.
When the band sticks to its original guns, more success ensues. Album opener “As He Climbed The Dark Mountain” sounds a lot like the previous Thursday single “Ladies And Gentlemen, My Brother The Failure”, as the reverb-drenched production (yeah, they’re still doing that) compliments the interweaving guitar parts perfectly, and Geoff Rickley’s strange delivery in the chorus gives it that same detached feeling older Thursday used to have. The song does lack in anything actually new or interesting, as its just same old Thursday until the end, where we get a quiet little interlude to transition into “In Silence." “An Absurd and Unrealistic Dream of Peace” is their half's only real highlight, as the relentless guitar riffing never gives any ground. The song is more of a combination of the youthful calls of a song like “Paris in Flames” and the more restrained, tone based work of newer Thursday. While it's unfair to call their half a failure, Thursday generally don’t give much new material to be excited about here, and what they do give is so rooted in their past, it might as well have been saved for a B-sides comp than a split with Envy.
Overall, the fact that both Thursday and Envy took influence from each other turned out to be bittersweet. For Envy, the result was very favorable, as they combined Thursday's typical yet cohesive songwriting techniques with their own spastic hardcore sound, and even managed to sprinkle in bits of the sound that they've been manifesting these past few years. Thursday's side of the split was a huge progression for them, but they've still got a lot to learn about the sound they were trying to craft. It will take more than a few randomly placed samples and shoddily composed synth lines for them to become a respectable atmospheric-based band. They're at their best when they write songs with major influence from their older albums with a bit of atmosphere/electronic elements mixed in. When it's the other way around, they show their inexperience in recreating a sound that Envy have been perfecting and mastering for years. This split is a nice mix of an old band showing they can still play with the best of them and a band that's still trying to figure out just who they want to be.