There is nothing quite like the sound of calming keys and vocals to start off an album. From the very first notes of Riverside’s sixth and latest release, ‘Love, Fear and the Time Machine’, you can tell that the Polish prog legends are setting you up for an emotional journey, beginning with a track called “Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened By A Hat?)”.
As with some of their previous albums, this is in many respects a great example of progressive music. Many will argue, but prog isn’t merely about going as fast as you can in weird meters; it comes with emotion, experience, and an open mind. That is the beauty of Riverside. Take the track “Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire”: a beautiful song on many levels. As the title suggests, it describes a transformation, and not just lyrically. The building groove accompanied by the gentle yet catchy vocal lines creates a very peaceful atmosphere that makes you take a deep breath, stop what you’re doing, and simply listen. And, of course, my weakness for anything in 7/4 helps.
“Saturate Me” is another track of note, which features a fantastic riff of three bars of 7/8 in its main section. It draws a really nice contrast to the more mellow verses, as well as to the simpler songs that follow. Even aside from the alternating time signatures of 7/8 and 3/4 throughout, Piotr Grundzinski’s guitar sound in itself is reminiscent of the more traditional 70s progressive rock style, as well as the rather magical keyboards provided by Michal Lapaj.
Reflexively, a song like “Under The Pillow”, which is entirely in common time, happens to be a personal favorite of mine, and has been playing in my head on repeat. Mariusz Duda’s vocals and bass lines particularly stand out in this one, complimented by drummer Piotr Kozieradzki’s dynamic quarters on both the ride and hi-hat. The entire band knows how to use negative space to their advantage, leaving room for an emotional response rather than creating a wall of noise due to competing instruments.
While the first half of ‘Love, Fear and the Time Machine’ is superb (as described above), the second half is slightly hit-and-miss. The single “Discard Your Fear” definitely has its moments, but loses momentum in the chorus. It is followed by the longest track on the album, “Towards the Blue Horizon”, which, despite taking a few minutes to develop, builds into a captivatingly dark and progressive atmosphere. The final two tracks are primarily acoustic pieces, and while they are beautifully sung, they tend to bring the previously well-developed energy down too much.
Although it is often unfair to compare albums, since it’s good to try new things as you progress as a band, the heavy and technical intensity of Riverside’s fourth album, ‘Anno Domini High Definition’ would have provided a much better and more satisfying finish to this otherwise endearing record. That being said, if you are looking to start your journey with this band, and maybe aren’t too familiar with progressive metal as a genre, this is a good place to start, working your way backwards through their discography.
All in all, ‘Love, Fear and the Time Machine’ is a very fitting title for the album, going from “Lost” to “Found”, with emotional and dynamic ups and downs along the way. The sound is very balanced, with all of the instruments complimenting each other nicely. Your journey begins on September 4th.