Riverside are one of the most universally acclaimed bands on this site, with all four of their album releases to date comfortably achieving in excess of 4 stars. It is perhaps surprising then that this is the band's first DVD release, and thus the first chance most of us have had to witness them live.
The concert captured here actually took place in May 2008, some time before their current album "Anno Domini High Definition" was even a glint in their collective eyes. Captured playing in Toya Studios (don't be misled, they are playing to a live audience) in Lodz, Poland, the band present a wonderful summary of their first three albums collectively known as the "Reality dream trilogy". In the main concert, which occupies the first of the two discs, we begin with the opening two tracks from the first album "Out of myself", then work our way back and forth through that album, "Second life syndrome" and "Rapid eye movement". The gig runs to around an hour and a half in all, the twelve tracks flowing in almost seamless fashion to form a superbly coherent whole.
To label what we have here as "progressive metal" (the band's assigned genre on this and other sites), is more than a little misleading. For sure there is a strong rhythm section on which the music is set, but there is a symphonic quality to the music here which is accentuated by the lush keyboard swathes, the supremely melodic lead guitar passages, and the smoothness of the vocals. Indeed, the vocal talents of Mariusz Duda are for me what sets Riverside apart from many of their peers. There is never a hint of grunts, growls, shouts, etc., the vocals are among the most tuneful I have heard from a band of this type. They perform the role of another instrumental aspect to the band's line up, complementing rather then conflicting with the overall sound. As a reference point, while I would compare their music with the likes of Porcupine Tree, while Hogarth era Marillion often comes to mind in the way the band frame the mood of their songs.
In terms of composition and musicianship, Riverside have little to prove. Their excellent catalogue of studio albums already offers strong evidnce of their talents. The only remaining question was therefore, could they transfer that supremacy to a live environment and the answer to that is undoubtedly yes. The performance here is exemplary, indeed in audio terms, this could be a studio album.
Had the package been complete at this point, I would still have been recommending it as an essential purchase. We find however that we are but halfway through the entertainment, with a well filled second disc still to view. This opens with a couple of "Encores", the magnificent "Before" from "Second life syndrome" being as good if not better than anything from the main feature. The 13 minute "Ultimate trip" wraps up the gig but not the presentation.
Seven further live recordings are taken from gigs in Germany, Holland and Canada between 2006 and 2008. Admirably, none of these duplicate the main set, although all but two are also taken from the "Reality Dream trilogy". The two other tracks here come from the same period, but featured only on the "02 Panic room" EP. While these recordings are technically noticeably inferior (visual and audio wise), they offer an interesting contrast with the smooth production of the main event. The final video is a behind the scenes look at the band filmed by John Vis.
In terms of the technical production of the product, I was surprised to note that the sound is in 2.0 Dolby only, no 5.1. This does not detract from the quality of the recording though. The lighting and camera work are excellent throughout, although the visual effects used to enhance the experience are perhaps an acquired taste. I can understand the desire to present a product with its own identity, but the effects can sometimes appear as art for art sake. My other minor criticism is the DVD navigation, which can be hard to see. The package as a whole comes in an appealing digipak type double fold out box. Although released under the auspices of Metal Mind productions, this set is the first for the ProgTeam Management label, gaining the PT_001 number.
In all, a quite magnificent DVD set, which offers a superb insight into the live performances of this fine band. The quality of the music helps a lot of course but the bands ability to translate their studio recordings into top rate live recordings should not be underestimated. This is an excellent summary of the band's first three albums.