Before & Apace – The Denisovan
Release Date: 11/05/2021
Running Time: 52:04
Review by Beth Jones
Funny story before I tell you about the music I’ve been listening to for this review. When I put the album files for “The Denisovan” into Windows Media Play, the opening track disappeared. I thought I was losing the plot and had imagined that there was another track at first. But as this album was only 4 tracks, I was pretty sure I hadn’t gone completely mad, so checked the files on my computer. Sure enough, 4 tracks there, but still only 3 on Windows Media Player. I was beginning to think the missing track had gone to another dimension then, upon searching a little deeper in WMP, I found it. For no apparent reason, the inbuilt frustrations of anything Microsoft related had filed it as a track by Cliff Richard…I mean…Just…No. There is simply no explanation! There are some things that could be mistaken for the geriatric hip gyrator himself, I suppose, if you’d drunk enough booze, or taken enough mind-altering drugs. But I can safely say that no matter the circumstances, Before & Apace are very definitely not Cliff!!
They are in fact a heavy progressive rock project from Canada; the brainchild of guitarist and vocalist Devin Martyniuk. Now, as you know, I do love a bit of prog. But this is prog and a half!! Just labelling it as Prog doesn’t really cover it. It’s more Experimental Metal Jazz Rock! And before you even listen you know you’re going to be getting some pretty ‘out there’ vibes from it because, even though the album only contains 4 tracks, it’s a little over 52 minutes long, with the final track ‘Simultanagnosia’ coming in at just shy of 20 minutes!
Sound wise, it’s ambitious. I can hear elements of many influences within it. On fleeting occasions, the vocal tones remind me of Muse (particularly in the quiet sections of ‘Ontogeny’). Some of the guitar work has hints of early Queen (back to the Smile days) but heavier and, on occasion, quite Punk. It’s got the technicality of Meshuggah and uses the Drumkit from Hell samples that Meshuggah created. And there’s some ambience chucked in here and there for good measure. But it’s all scrambled up into some sort of weird mathematical scientific omelette. The press release says that this album has been 15 years in the making, and was an immersive experience that Martyniuk saw as, ‘an opportunity to blend the technical and programmatic aspects of music with the emotional.’ Martyniuk himself says that he thinks it will require a certain amount of investment from the listener before they’re able to fully engage and appreciate it. He’s not wrong.
Musically, the players on the album are all very good, very technical, and very knowledgeable of the necessary fluidity that’s required in progressive or experimental music. However, it’s all a bit much for me. There are elements in every song that offer relative calm, and you think you’re getting the hang of the rhythm and pace, but they don’t stick around for too long. It’s what I imagine being in a washing machine on a spin cycle would be like.
We’ve been sent a huge amount of literature to explain the concept of each song, too. Admirable maybe, and it’s always nice to have a bit of background. But to be honest, if a concept needs that much explaining, it might not be wise to use it. Just my opinion obviously. Now I will note that I was very tired the first time and, in fairness, even the “Postman Pat” theme music would have been too complex for my brain. On second listen, it makes slightly more sense, and has grown on me a little, but it’s still a bit chaotic to be comfortable. From a reviewing point of view, I don’t have the time to give it the attention it’s going to need to actually get into it properly.
In summary – very talented musicians, very complicated and technical music, done to a high standard, and very well produced, hence my reasonable score. If you like the experimental or extreme end of prog, then you’ll love it. But it’s a little too much for me to be able to properly process and appreciate.
Devin Martyniuk – Guitar/ Vocals
Additional Members for The Denisovan:
Kaylon Disiewich – Bass/Taurus Pedals
Bryce Holcomb – Vocals/Guitar
Arlan Kopp – Drums/Percussion
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