EP REVIEW: That Was Then, This Is Now – Envy Of None

This new EP is as much a reminder as an appetiser: last year’s self-titled debut by ENVY OF NONE is a hidden delight, all things considered. The supergroup’s biggest name is Alex Lifeson of RUSH fame, a prolific musician whose guitar work is instantly recognisable, yet he disappears selflessly into this highly collaborative project. What could have been a business-as-usual endeavour following RUSH‘s disbandment, Lifeson, along with singer Maiah Wynne, bassist Andy Curran, and guitarist/keyboardist Alfio Annibalini have already created a body of work to be proud of, and That Was Then, This Is Now is a slight reminder that they are no one-hit wonders.

Slight in that only one track here is really new, the rest made up of remixes and previously released bonus tracks from their debut’s deluxe edition. But they are worth spotlighting in their own right, especially the moody Lethe River with its 80s pulse and whispered vocals. Forget prog-rock noodling; this is the sound of a half-empty dancefloor at 2am, for fans of CHROMATICS and the Drive soundtrack. You’ll Be Sorry’s processed drums owe much to early NINE INCH NAILS, and contains one of the band’s best choruses, Wynne’s voice a human touch piercing through the industrial atmosphere.

Remixes of Dog’s Life and Dumb lean further into their electronic influences, giving space for further experimentation, but neither reinvents the band’s MO. What stands out instead is just how good this EP sounds. The instrumentation sounds full without oversaturation, hitting hard like a rock record while delivering the euphoric abandon of a neon-tinged night out.

New song That Was Then has a hint of STEVEN WILSON’s The Future Bites, and ends with a clattering of live drums and Lifeson’s leads, bridging not only the band’s influences but the gap between albums as well. What sets ENVY OF NONE apart from many of their prog peers is that, well, they’re actually pretty cool. Lifeson’s guitar work is smooth, Wynne’s voice is full of breathy melancholia, and what the band achieve together is nighttime music that suits dancing, driving, intimacy, as meditative as it is propulsive. That Was Then, This Is Now is a welcome starting point for those who missed their debut, and is a chance to be grateful that one of the best to ever pick up a guitar is still delivering the goods as he approaches his fifth decade in music.

Rating: 8/10

That Was Then, This Is Now - Envy Of None

That Was Then, This Is Now is set for release on June 9th via KScope.

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