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Envy underwent a state of limbo starting in 2016 when vocalist and founding member Tetsuya Fukagawa left on April 1st. For the two years that followed, the band made few live appearances and remained quiet on updates regarding a new vocalist. The future of the band was even more uncertain when founding members Masahiro Tobita and Dairoku Seki left the group. Then, exactly two years after Fukagawa left, in what appeared like the most elaborate April Fools joke ever, he made a surprise return. With this return came three new members to fill the space Tobita and Seki had left. And then, a year after, Envy released the two-track "Definition of Impossibility" EP, and are now back with a full 54 minutes of new music on The Fallen Crimson.

Envy have cleaned up and polished their recordings recently, which allows their post-rock-oriented tracks increased vibrancy and lusciousness, and on The Fallen Crimson, the music has for sure grown more post-rock than ever. Of course, you still have Fukagawa’s abrasive vocals cutting through, but the instrumentation creates a cinematic soundscape filled with post-rock crescendos and Envy's signature bittersweetness. Tracks like “A Faint New World” and “HIKARI” are where the additional guitar brings added dynamics to the band’s already massive sound; at times, Envy adds extra atmosphere with more minimalist performances, while at others, they add additional emotional heft through the harder, heavier playing.

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In an unexpected move, Envy has also sprinkled new vocals on a few of the numbers on The Fallen Crimson, provided by Achico of the group Ropes. Her voice makes for some of the best moments on the album: “Rhythm,” for instance, is only her singing, and through her somber yet hopeful voice, she carries the track into territory it could not reach with Fukagawa’s raspiness. Perhaps the brightest highlight is “Dawn and Gaze,” where Fukagawa and her voice collide in a massive, gorgeous climax.

While the band has been creating more of these beautiful post-rock tracks, they haven't forgotten about their roots in hardcore. “Statement of Freedom” and “Fingerprint Mark '' make for some of the fastest, angriest songs in Envy’s recent catalogue. They aren’t as cinematic, yet still energizes their emotional powerhouse with raw, furious dedication. The drums shine the most here, going hard as nails while maintaining a fast pace. Hiroki Watanabe had big shoes to fill as Envy’s new drummer, and filled them he did. These are also the songs where Fukagawa shines the most: his gritty yells are always a treat to hear regardless of the track’s tone, but they fit like the final puzzle piece when Envy gets rough.

The spoken word passages have always felt like some of Envy’s weaker moments in their recent catalogue, with this being more of the case on The Fallen Crimson. Without the lyrics in hand, what Fukagawa is saying is held together by how he presents his words -- his prominent harsh voice and occasional cleans always add more to the band’s sound, furthering the intensity of the emotion Envy sets up. These spoken word passages, however, feel one-note and monotone, a crippling of the final track on the record that prevents the entire album from concluding as climatically as it felt destined to. Where the instrumentals could have gleamed, maybe Envy should have taken the simpler route. The programming that was once very up-front on prior Envy releases has now been buried in the mix, with a lack of presence leaving much to be desired in terms of the album's overall sound.

The Fallen Crimson may not live up to Envy’s more classic works, but the album is nevertheless an appreciated return to the music world. At its highest peaks, it's a triumphant set of songs built on the hopes and fears of what lies ahead, something which the band has always set out to accomplish. Through the most burdening process a band could endure, Envy crafted a stellar project anyone who's been making music for nearly three decades could only dream of. Moreover, throwing in fresh and modern elements broadcast that, yes, Envy are here to stay.

-- Alex Brown

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The Fallen Crimson released February 7th via Temporary Residence Limited.

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