[sic] Magazine

envy – Atheist’s Cornea

Certain huge unit-shifters aside (GY!BE, Sigur Rós and Mogwai), the greater post-rock sound has been somewhat stagnant since its late-90s-to-mid-00s heyday. Trademark orchestral flourishes have become predictable and stripped of the raw emotion they once carried, often limited these days too by a lack of traditional vocals when before the same thing stood them so successfully apart.

Coming at the genre with a background in post-hardcore thrash, envy have always been different. Atheist’s Cornea is the Tokyo band’s first LP in over five years and their sixth overall in a patient career that started way back in 1992. It’s been five years very well spent, however, as it’s an album that breathes genuine excitement back into the shadowiest, loudest and – curiously – most beautiful corners of this most dynamic and evocative of movements.

Just moments into the Deafheaven-esque opener, for example, the album explodes at whiplash speed into chaotic metal riffs accompanied by Tetsuya Fukagawa’s deathly growl, a suffocating melody helping crush the gentle flow – and even memory of – envy’s last couple of LPs. And it’s a momentum that rarely lets up throughout despite impressive counterpoint arguments built on chilled percussive meander, BIG shoegaze fuzz (“Shining Finger”) and Aereograme-like spoken-word that somehow (blame the drizzle of the background guitar) sounds Scottish despite being muttered in Fukagawa’s native Japanese.

Fukagawa’s range as a vocalist is truly something to behold now, ranging from the urgent screech on which he made his name to the resolutely stripped-back and – dare we say it? – pretty. It may be drowned out later on but Fukagawa definitely opens the standout “Ticking Time And String” with a lullaby, a track that’s monumental doom is otherwise made for monolithic festival headlining at the summit of Mt. Fuji, shouting into the faces of the Gods. And then come the track’s crying post-rock strings and with them the deep swell of intensity so much similar material has been lacking of late.

Drawing the LP to a close, raw tension needles through the shimmering and mesmeric “Your Heart And My Hand”, its guitars finally erupting into a primal blur that give comforting closure to a triumphant running-order that manages to ride the bludgeoning power of metal with the tenderness of a Buddhist leviathan. As a result, Atheist’s Cornea is easily one of the most thrilling post-rock records in the last half-decade. Pretenders take note: sometimes it’s wise to respect your elders.

Best track: “Ticking Time And String”

~Atheist’s Cornea is released July 10th 2015 via Mogwai’s Rock Action Records.~