Review Summary: More than anyone could ask for.
The revival and resurgence of seminal Japanese post-rock/screamo outfit Envy is one of the genre’s greatest miracles. Despite numerous news articles claiming the departure of the band’s long time vocalist Tetsuya Fukagawa, as well as numerous mix-ups to the bands, line up including the replacements of both the lead guitarist and the drummer, it was clear to many long time fans that the band was perhaps coming to a finale. However, with the 2018 release of the band’s EP “Alnair in August”; there were new signs up hope for the band's continuation and return to form. The EP saw the return of Fukagawa as well as a complete redesign of the band's previous sound from the past two LP’s. It was louder, more chaotic, instrumentally dense, but contained the raw intensity and emotion that made Envy so transcending. The two songs were condensed to a shorter length, doing wonders for the previously overlong and boring post-rock noodling that presided in some of the previous albums. I reiterate that the return of Envy is a miracle not because of the lineup swaps or the return to form, but because these titans of screamo were able to create a collection of unique and varied tracks of swirling beauty despite seemingly being at the brink of collapse. “The Fallen Crimson” is Envy’s grand culmination of their years of experience and quite simply some of the best music they have ever released.
“The Fallen Crimson” is a fusion of constructed chaos and distorted splendor. There is an undeniable paradox to the album that is best described by the aforementioned fusion of genres that Envy is known for. They have combined the crushing and epic density of post-rock with harsh and guttural screams for decades now, but “The Fallen Crimson” is something so much more unique than a combination of contrasting genres. Each song is brimming with personality and uniqueness, from the fantastic post-hardcore breakdowns of album opener Statement of freedom to the blistering blast beats on Marginalized Thread, the music does not strictly submit itself to slow builds and crescendos. Instead, it lays down a soundscape with each new song that effectively portrays each mood and emotion that the band is attempting to build upon. Album standout Rhythm contains none of Fukagawa’s vocals and is instead replaced with gorgeous female vocals and the accompany of shimmering guitars and earthly drums that are reminiscent of Mono’s stellar track Moonlight. The glistening sound of Rhythm’s opening few minutes is made even better through an abrupt guitar crash, and then the full bloom of its scope is realized through the gorgeous crescendo.
Instrumentally, “The Fallen Crimson” is the band’s most effective demonstration of talent yet. Tracks like Fingerprint mark focalize the monstrous power behind Hiroki Watanabe’s drumming. He’s fast and frantic but knows how to hold the attention of the listener in the slower passages of the album. He contributes to some of the overall best moments of the album, with the upbeat downpour of cymbal crashes cascading throughout the track’s length adding such significant brevity to the colossal sound. “The Fallen Crimson” sounds unbelievably loud for the most part, in parts due to the triple layering of guitars, incredibly lurid bass, opaque drumming, and powerful vocal work. I have listened to the album multiple times now through both stereo speakers and headphones and both condense the myriad of sounds into a comprehensible collage of brilliance. Especially with an album that contains three different guitar lines throughout most of the tracks, it is astounding to be able to differentiate the tracks of music this easily.
Strangely enough, there is a newfound attraction that needs to be addressed by the two songs from the “Alnair in August” that have found their way onto the tracklisting for “The Fallen Crimson”. Most artists would have been fine with placing two already established tracks that have been received extremely well by their fans on their album and call it a day, but Envy does not abide by this. These tracks have been completely reworked from the ground up and completely blow away their EP counterparts. Marginalized thread, in particular, has received some hefty improvements to sound and production, with the emphasis of guitars being particularly enhanced and layered upon. The track is increasingly sporadic, containing some of the album’s best heavy passages while remaining entirely graceful in its performance. The duet on the tracks closing bridge is particularly incredible, creating a harmony among the heavy distortion of guitars and drums that is melodically exhilarating and gorgeous at once. What was once could have been easily placed on a list of Envy’s ten best songs, Dawn and gaze, is now remastered and reimagined in ways that I could never have expected. The clutter of the drums in the production of the original track is now gone, and now sound even more heavenly and uplifting than before and the shrieking beauty of the guitars is now more pronounced than ever. Even better is Fukugawa’s vocal performance which is perhaps the new best aspect of the track. While Fukugawa is seemingly at his peak in terms of vocal excellence on this record with tracks like Swaying leaves and scattering breath even containing some of his absolute best clean vocals, it is his guttural and emotionally charged screams that carry a lot of the personal depth of the album. His screams are agonizingly breathtaking and preserve every single bit of emotion possible. The sincerity in every crack in his voice can be heard, and no other track best displays it than the final minutes of Dawn and gaze.
Envy has returned to the world of music in the best possible way. The album is a complete rehabilitation of the sound they had been known for, built upon and layered with a myriad of new and brilliant ideas that lead to completely unexpected results. Envy has always teetered on the lines of experimentation and rehash, but “The Fallen Crimson” revels in each unique sound it creates and every old sound it enhances. Envy remains a band that emphasizes emotion above all else, but now with the creative songwriting and instrumental prowess to back it up. Continuing to transcend both genre and language, “The Fallen Crimson” is not just a miracle that shows a band coming to terms with a rough patch in their discography, but completely understand the very depth of their potential that fans new and old can finally listen to.