When Envy began to veer from thrash-punk into less rigid forms of post-rock, post-hardcore, post-punk, post-whatever, it wasn’t an easy pill for fans to swallow. Some thought that Envy’s days as a forward-thinking rock band were gone, that they were satisfied to do a victory lap by guesting on a Mogwai track or releasing a split with Thursday rather than try new things. Time will prove those listeners wrong; after all, both collaborations were new things for a Japanese group that started out chugging power chords at a breakneck pace.
Atheist’s Cornea, Envy’s first album in five years, brings the experimentation and the heaviness that longtime fans have clamored for. Tetsuya Fukagawa’s vocals sound pained, shouted with an urgency that leaks blood and calls for fist-raising. The guitars are tremolo-picked like every moment is their last; the drums sneak their way to different melodic fills in each verse.
Stripped down to sheet music, “Ignorant Rain at the End of the World” and “Your Heart and My Hand” would parallel Bach chorales. But, placed in Envy’s blender, they sound more concretely hardcore, pushing the genre’s limits by flipping it on its head with complex progressions rather than tweaking a single aspect into a gimmick. Even at quieter parts, the album glows. “Shining Finger” has a breakdown worth crying to, the tension high and the delivery impeccable, and “Two Isolated Souls” borders on a pop chord progression while still painting the sky with the twinkle of post-rock. It evokes Pianos Become the Teeth and La Dispute as much as it does This Will Destroy You and Explosions in the Sky.
So much of Atheist’s Cornea mixes opposites — not just different genres, but slow and fast, pain and happiness, quiet and loud, concrete and abstract. The album proves to be worth the five-year wait, doubling as an obvious entry point to the band’s catalog. By forming a smooth mix rather than a bumpy exchange of influences, Envy prove they can paint with any color.
Essential Tracks: “Two Isolated Souls”, “Ignorant Rain at the End of the World”, and “Your Heart and My Hand”