Civerous have grown in every aspect on their sophomore album to the point where Maze Envy may just be remembered as one of the finest death doom records of the year, if not longer.

Release date: March 22, 2024 | 20 Buck Spin | Facebook | Instagram | Buy/Stream

What the hell even is maze envy? Well, newly minted 20 Buck Spin alums, Civerous have some say on the matter. After just about five years as a unit with a handful of releases and single LP to their name, this band truly deserved to be placed on the roster of one of the most stalwart labels in all of music, much less metal. You might take a look at the cover and think, ‘Hey, I know this place, it’s near where the slime live’, but you’d only be partially correct. Civerous have a heavy dose of old school death metal in their veins but this is an act that loves subversion, and doom. And riffs.

Let me just say from the start that Maze Envy is an album that surprised me and it did so for a host of reasons. And frankly that is reason enough to celebrate a metal record because if we’re being honest, there is a lot of retreading within the genre right now. That being said, Civerous have always had an angle with their music, their last LP Decrepit Flesh Relic was in some ways a straightforward death doom album but it had a few little wrinkles which made it unique and helped it gain the attention of their new label, no doubt. Those same elements are back but have become a lot more refined.

Maze Envy is laced with amazing ideas that start before you even press play. The bright purple cover that is as bold as it is intricate mirrors the music contained therein perfectly. While there’s thematic symmetry all over this package, it’s the music and its production that makes this record shine in a way that has punched a hole through what my hopes would be for this record and replaced those hopes with something more concrete. And something that feels like getting hit in the head with concrete. Across seven tracks and around 42 minutes, Maze Envy takes Civerous from cool upstart to a genuinely threatening usurper. And just like a maze, this album unfolds in unexpected ways with something new just around every corner.

“Azure Eye” is the narrow entry point to the album which feels grating and foreboding in the best ways possible and even as an intro track hater, this one feels apt and appropriate thematically. Cacophonic strings screech and saw and this chaos kicks things off in an immediately disorienting fashion before shrouding the listener in crystals and pushing them even deeper into the labyrinth. The journey to the center of this maze is one that is rewarding at every turn and while there are clearly some transitional moments (“Endless Symmetry”), they all feel like necessary pivots to the next phase of the journey. “Labyrinth Charm” which features Derek Rydquist of The Zenith Passage as an additional vocal presence and is a real highlight on the record and adds a nice texture to the sound of this track as things begin to spiral even deeper into this death doom catacomb.

It’s worth mentioning just how damn powerful Maze Envy sounds and feels. The production on this record is extremely potent and loud as it should be and even as a metal-listening veteran, I still shook my head in amazement at times with just how damn hard this thing hits. The drums sound aptly placed in the mix, if a bit loud (which suits me just fine) and the bass and guitars are just nastily placed in the mix that when the dynamic shift from the softer moments to the heavier ones, it’s noticeably fierce and shocking in the best ways possible.

Without going into every single detail, the way that Maze Envy concludes is one of the most surprising and beautiful things that I’ve heard all year. As the journey to the center begins its final conclusion things go from death doom to doom doom in a transition that feels both apt and brilliant. The title track stretches over eight minutes and incorporates cleaner guitar tones, quieter moments, bowed strings, melody, and more before swinging back around to bash in heads once more before the closing track “Geryon (The Plummet)” spends almost ten minutes being one of the best songs of the year. This revelation of beauty at the center of his harrowing maze is one of my favorite reveals on an album in quite some time and I can’t wait for all of you to hear it. Civerous is a band that I expected to be good on their 20 Buck Spin debut but I was not expecting one of the most dynamic, heavy, and brilliantly paced albums I’ve heard all year to ooze out of my speakers when I pressed play. Maze Envy is a complete album that expresses itself fully and at any given moment there is something incredible happening. Pencil this one in on the AOTY list.

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