Anyone remember the Iron Curtain period of history where much of the world couldn’t experience any domestic talent from countries like Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Poland? This journalist certainly does – thankfully in 2015, the borders have long since demolished allowing us to experience rich musical offerings like the Polish progressive rock/metal quartet Riverside. Together since 2001 they’ve carved out their own niche in this ever-evolving sub-genre – releasing product on a steady semi-annual basis that has been impressive because of its vibrancy and color palate that doesn’t succumb to overindulgence.
Bumping up to Inside Out Music, Riverside’s sixth full-length Love, Fear and the Time Machine continues the quest of inner struggle, modern life, and mental thought while matching up musically – not as easy a task as one would assume. Bassist Mariusz Duda does double duty on vocals, serving an atmospheric, serene blend on softer material like the mood-altering “Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire” or psychedelic “Discard Your Fear” that can make you think of Steven Wilson as much as Roger Waters and Fish during his Marillion years. Cranking up the electricity in select moments during the mid-section of “Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened By a Hat?)” or the Rush-like cat and mouse keyboard/guitar/drum interplay for “Saturate Me” makes the album breathe – dynamically juxtaposed when most progressive acts prefer to use quiet moments in minor ways.
Other musicians could learn a thing (or ten) from Riverside, especially in the manner that they pick their spots for jam-like intensity. Building from a melodic hook, the harmonization can be exquisite and multi-faceted, the time signature juggling astounding while you’ll hear echoing keyboard swaths from Michal Lapaj that are one part Morse Code, another part The Who circa “Baba O’Riley” from track to track. “Afloat” mirrors that dream sequence feeling, while “Time Travellers” has acoustic guitar/ piano qualities that provide the same spark that rivals current Anathema, Duda repeating the key phrase ‘let’s believe this is our time’ that echoes in the mind.
Progressive music isn’t always about being the fastest, the most complicated, or proving to the world an advanced skill set. Love, Fear and the Time Machine provides the alternate scenario where the exploration of serenity and sparse playing equals an hour long platter of life-long fulfillment. Brilliant.