Envy: Transfovista
Temporary Residence

Transfovista finds Japanese band Envy up close and personal and ferociously shredding its hardcore material in concert. The two-hour video is a bare-bones tour document featuring seventeen live performances spanning a dozen years and culled from hundreds of shows in Berlin, Japan, and elsewhere (there's occasional offstage footage, including a visit to The Great Wall, but the focus is almost totally on playing). The concert footage finds the five-piece band clearly preaching to the converted whether the setting's a sweaty club space where there's little separation between band and fans or an outdoor rock festival where the band has more room to tear up the stage. And tear it up Envy does with the band decimating small clubs and festival stages with its volcanic wall of sound. Certainly no one could possibly question the group's onstage intensity after seeing the footage, and the shaky camera work's sometimes as out-of-control as the band's hellacious performing style. During one epic performance, the screen splits into a triptych (and diptych, subsequently) during a lovely slow section that finds the band bathed in blue light but that's as fancy as things get.

Envy's obvious focal point is vocalist Tetsuya Fukagawa though it's pushing it to characterize what he does as “singing” when it's more an anguished howl or bark (and good luck to anyone wanting to decipher the words), though he does rise to the occasion when a quieter passage or two demands it. Calling his singing an acquired taste is an understatement though it clearly poses no problem for the fans shown in the DVD footage. More often than not his voice is swallowed by the raw thrash-punk maelstrom that churns mightily around him.

Take away Fukagawa's roar and we're left with multiple episodes of blistering instrumental rock. An extended passage in the middle offers a welcome oasis of lyrical calm amidst the frenzy, and the video's second half includes a larger emphasis on long-form pieces that are more post-rock in style (albeit with vocals) than punk-rock (though the band's occasional instrument-destroying is in keeping with classic punk spirit and, in one sequence, the guitarist's movements are so violent he literally ends up briefly mounting a fan's head). Envy fans will lap it up but if you're not a fan the two hours may become a bit of a tedious slog, and it would have been nice too had subtitles been included to clarify locations and dates.

May 2008