Valentine's Day 2004. I was alone in my dorm, valentineless as usual, although I could have cared less really. I had heard some hype about this split and being a fan of Japan's own prodigal sons, Envy, I decided to check it out.
I listened to it on my way to get some food, in my discman. First the Yaphet Kotto songs. Some very very well done songs. The Yaphet Kotto tracks on this CD mark a new level of maturity for this band. The guitars sound beefier and more developed, the singer and screamer both clearly progressed a great deal since Syncopated Synthetic Laments for Love. Overall the songs are some of Yaphet Kotto's best work, if not their best.
Then I came to the This Machine Kills songs. This Machine Kills plays a very upbeat, energetic for me dischordant hardcore. The songs maintain a very fast rock type feel with the spirit and intensity of hardcore and some excellent guitar work. They aren't really of the caliber of Yaphet Kotto's material but they certainly bring something exciting to the table and provide a great middle ground between the opening bang of Yaphet Kotto and what was to come next.
I arrived at Envy's tracks. Finally.
I knew what I was in for with Envy. Epic post-hardcore. Nothing could have prepared me for what I heard, however. The first song began with a kind of soft guitar line and then a short cymbal roll ushered in a pounding bass drum line under some starkly powerful guitar riffing and a beautiful guitar melody above it. That line continues through the whole song pretty much, but the riffing changes, at one point hammering out an amazing progression upward and upward that brought tears to my eyes. At one point, the music stops for a spoken word part...IN FUCKING JAPANESE! Yes all their lyrics are in Japanese, kids. In that spoken word part, the talking is quickly interrupted with some powerful riffing which eventually ushers the song back into its original form. About five minutes into the song, the music gets quiet, to the tune of only ambient melodic noise with the vocalist screaming in the background...that continues for about 20 seconds until it's ushered back in by a the searing guitar melody. It's perfect. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The song ends so wonderfully abruptly, it's hard to even process it.
The next song is just a soft 2 minute interlude that feeds into the next bout of intensely beautiful and epic post-hardcore. More spoken word in Japanese. This band's display of raw composition talent mixed with pure, unadulterated emotion is unlike anything I've ever heard. The singer's screams are so emphatic and the songs are so meticulously written with each part complimenting another and another.
The last track on Envy's side has an outro of a slow industrial drum beat with more spoken word in Japanese (shit never gets old, I swear...Japanese is such a beautiful language) and kind of serves as a breather before the real climax of the whole record: Track 10...A Collaboration Song.
This track fades in with one of the most beautiful "pretty" parts I've ever heard. After a while it becomes apparent that Envy has been hugely influenced by Jimmy Eat World's Clarity. The Collaboration Song comes off as kind of a hardcore version of Goodbye Sky Harbor...but that's not a bad thing at all. It's one of the most epic and amazing songs I can think of. After a few minutes of the pretty part, you start hearing two or three guys doing spoken word, in English this time. The words they speak are not trite at all and pit the music perfectly. Lines like "I got a fresh idea...flowing lines...tailored scripts...new concepts that are bonafide" and "What is real anyway?" and "Secrets are told by thieves" perfectly compliment the ethereal sounds behind them. About five minutes in, the pretty part turns into an incendiary distorted guitar progression and then a few measures later, the singer of Yaphet Kotto hits an incredibly soulful high note which is underlied by powerful screaming by the vocalist of Envy. They continue with this catharsis until about 8 1/2 minutes when the song makes the uncanny transition from Envy's epic grandeur to Yaphet Kotto's swaying post hardcore and ends in a beautiful crash that leaves Envy's singer screaming the line "AGAINST THE WALL!" over and over.
This split is one of the most well done things I've ever laid my eyes or ears on. The tracks are organized like a well-written essay...pulling you in with Yaphet Kotto's energetic melody, then while your guard is down, subjecting you to This Machine Kills's punk rock energy and exhuberance and just when you think you'll "enjoy" this record, you're struck with Envy's beautiful catharsis straight through to the astounding climax of the Collaboration Song. This record is not for the weak of heart, soul, or attention span. It is very epic and not easy to be enjoyed, but if you can appreciate this music, I guarantee it will be some of the best you'll ever hear.