The first letters of the words in the title of Riverside's new album form the word 'songs' and aptly so. Decidedly the most popular Polish progressive rock band has always been concerned about crafting actual songs rather than overly complex compositions that require plenty of time to decipher. Shrine Of New Generation Slaves is no exception in this respect delivering a collection of accessible progressive rock tunes. However, the album also makes substantial alterations to the outfit's core sound. While their previous full-length delved into progressive metal that was primarily inspired by Dream Theater, this endeavour merges their signature art rock with classic hard rock and blues influences. Not only have bluesy, often psychedelic riffs become an integral part of the quartet's sound, but also numerous songs feature extensive Hammond organ segments. On top of that are improved vocals of Mariusz Duda whose penchant for powerful melodies feels more apparent than ever before.
The discernible shift in style propels the first single “Celebrity Touch,” which juxtaposes a sturdy, Southern rock-ingrained groove with perfectly paced, atmospheric art rock passages to startling effect. “Feel Like Falling” comes as another highlight blending infectious vocal harmonies with stomping bass lines and heavily distorted guitar play featuring great kaleidoscopic soloing. In result, this rocker sounds like nothing Riverside have done before referencing both Peter Gabriel and Rush in the process. No matter how impressive the other tracks are, “Escalator Shrine” is evidently the pinnacle of the record. In its over 12-minute running time, the epic intricately advances from a blues jam built around terrific guitar licks and muddy keys to an expansive progressive rock anthem, culminating in a nearly pastoral section with grandeur.
For every attempt at dynamic songwriting, there's a cut that encompasses an inclination towards subtler, more contemplative arrangements being perfectly in line with the foursome's pre-Anno Domini High Definition work. “The Depth Of Self-Delusion” definitely stands out among other significantly less enticing ballads. The song begins with a hypnotic Tool-echoing rhythmic pattern only to give way to Mariusz Duda's plaintive voice and splendidly arranged accompaniment enriched with acoustic guitar, strings and cymbals. It's a shame that “We Got Used To Us” and “Deprived” fail to make an equally strong impression settling in the safe confines of ethereal art rock. The latter is slightly more alluring drifting into ambient and a fine saxophone solo in its second half.
Thematically Shrine Of New Generation Slaves revolves around the enslavement of an individual in the course of ongoing technological progress. While the lyrics generally convey this concept rather well, the clunky lines occasionally pop up. The main offender seems to be the opener which is overly straightforward tackling its timely subject matter in a heavy manner. This shortcoming hardly affects the quality of music though. At its core, the fifth Riverside album showcases the further evolution of the outfit integrating a new set of classic rock influences into their superbly performed brand of progressive rock. Even though the record would definitely benefit from more consistent song craft, the new direction taken by Riverside is nothing short of enthralling resulting in songs that impress as much with intricate arrangements as with a permeating sense of levity.