What can you do in forty minutes? Cook dinner? Put your make-up on? Drive to the shops? Write an album review? Whatever your answer you’re probably about to feel very inadequate. In forty minutes Envy have produced easily the best post-hardcore album of the year. Atheist’s Cornea is forty minutes of beautifully crafted music, which firmly cements Envy as one of the titans of the genre.
The record begins innocuously enough, with airy, almost ballad-like, chords lulling the unsuspecting listen into a false sense of security. Within seconds Blue Moonlight erupts into loud thrashy guitars and pounding drums. This sequence neatly encapsulates what Envy do so well throughout the album, effortlessly change from delicate, crafted instrumentals to driving ear-bleeding guitars. It’s these changes in tone which give the album its power, with each one providing an almost cathartic break in the song – It is as if we are witnesses the building and release of emotional pain.
Normally, in most reviews, the subject of lyrics are discussed – how they feed into the music, or how they add to the wider message of the record. However, Envy are Japanese and they sing in their own tongue. Therefore, it’s more relevant to discuss the delivery style of frontman Tetsuya Fukagawa. Fukagawa’s voice is strikingly unique compared to the usual tones of most frontmen in this genre, or at least when compared to ‘paint by numbers’ western bands. Take for example, the vocals of Jeremy Bolm of Touché Amoré fame. Bolm’s tone has a raspy, rough edge to, as if every note or vocalisation is pained and clawing at his throat to escape. In contrast, Fukagawa’s voice has a roundness, perhaps even a warmness to it and it lacks the abrasive edges so common to vocalists in this genre. He also shifts easily from spoken word sections to a range of levels within his screamed vocals.
The standout track from this album, Ticking Time and String, showcases everything that makes this record so good: Fukagawa’s vocal range and the perfectly orchestrated musical and tonal changes. The song opens in a similar way to the first track, but differs in that it has Fukagawa singing surprisingly nicely over the delicate guitar chords. This lasts for several seconds before the song metamorphoses into a deluge of crunching guitars and Fukagawa’s impassioned screams. The tension builds and crackles until at around the four minute mark the song shifts back to a more delicate style. As Fukagawa finishes his last line, soaring strings rise through the mix and create a strange, eerily beautiful end to the track. This melancholic ending and the cathartic nature of the track reflects the power of music in its purest form. Despite the language barrier, Envy still have the ability to produce profoundly moving and emotional music, which can resonate strongly.
‘Atheists Cornea’ is out now on Rock Action Records. The full track-listing for the album is as follows…