EP Review: Envy of None - That Was Then, This Is Now
Reviewed by Dan Barnes
Formed in 2021 by Alex Lifeson as his post-Rush project and recruiting Andy Curran of Coney Hatch, producer and engineer, Alfio Annibalini and singer/ songwriter Maiah Wynne, the band issued their self-titled debut album last year.
Consider this new EP as being a coda to Envy of None (the album) as it is very much fed by the prior release, with only the closing track, That Was Then, being the only wholly new song on offer here.
That doesn’t mean That Was Then, This Is Now can be overlooked as you’ll find a couple of exclusive tracks from the deluxe edition of the debut and a couple of remixes before reaching the freshly recorded song.
If you’re unfamiliar with Envy of None, the band and therefore Envy of None, the album, just try to imagine a progressive ambient folky soundscape with some traditional hard rock moments to fit alongside the alternative and the industrial. Sounds simple, I know, but its magic is in the savouring of its glorious forty-minute duration.
That Was Then, This Is Now is designed to act as a transitional release which is why the EP opens with the two tracks only previously available on the Deluxe Edition of the debut record. Both Lethe River and You’ll Be Sorry have the album’s electronic underpinning, pulsing and hypnotic, giving Alex’s guitar the space to flexi its wings without having to cover the whole of the song. Like a painter, he is able to add dashes of colour from his sonic palette - a dab here, a line there – always conscious that sometimes less is more.
Lethe River begins like Hesitation Marks-era Nine Inch Nails, with the most subtle of beats, You’ll Be Sorry opts for a more Nineties alternative feel, growing the urgency of the track as it develops and is infused with pinpoint accurate injections of guitar.
Maiah’s vocal must be singled out for comment as it oozes with rich mesmerising pathos; ethereal and engrossing and dripping with heart-rending emotion it is a masterclass of when to maintain control for a full effect.
Dog’s Life and Dumb get the remix treatment. The former being a big-hitting electronic track on the debut and is focused more on the ambient moments then those dynamic passages that, while they still remain on this remix, aren’t afforded the same driving effect. Dumb’s original iteration on Envy of None has something of a Garbage vibe going on, whereas this version – the Der Dummkopf Remix – finds itself more refined and with a Trance ambience coming to the fore.
The most telling song on offer here is the newest one, the near-title track of That Was Then. There’s an Eighties electronic feel to the opening moments, evoking an LA skyline as ominous guitars buzz beside Maiah’s fragile voice. As the bass hums and beats, denser, darker vocals chant the song title. It is these voices that form the EP’s most savage moments, though they still manage to hypnotise the equal of the main lyric.
It’s also here that all those waiting for Alex Lifeson to deliver some distinctive guitar parts are sated; though not a full-on prog-fest, the traditional rock feel competes with the ongoing showcase of the band’s not-inconsiderable collected talents.
To get the most out of This Is Then it should be listened to back to back with Envy of None, as this is how the journey, began on the debut, is meant to end. Both are recommended.