One of the finest albums you will listen to all year, full of imagery, melodies and emotions
If there could ever be an unbiased measure of quality amongst musical genres, Riverside would undoubtedly be ranked amongst the best progressive rock bands of today. I cannot find a single flaw in any of their five studio releases, which is something I don't think I can say about any other artist. In their sixth studio venture that attempt a sharp turn, which could potentially break their streak...
If there is something that could characterize Riverside's music is their primary focus on rather emotional subjects, mostly involving the darker aspects of the human condition. I mean, it might sound cliché, but there is always some sort of catharsis that emerges from this approach. This time around it seems that they have let optimism and positivity take over, which is something older fans might not find too appealing.
Said new approach is not only reflected in their lyrics, but in their music as well. Heavy distortion has been stripped away from the guitars, leaving their metal influences nowhere to be found, as David Gilmour's spirit seems to be surrounding Piotr Grudziński as we plays his impressive guitar parts. In the meantime, Mariusz Duda has also abolished his aggression and grit from his singing, as he no longer sounds mad or desperate, but rather calm and mellow.
You can read whatever you need to know about the lyrical approach in the interview we recently conducted with Mariusz. However, there is no real need to focus on the lyrics, as listening to a Riverside album is a rather experiential thing to do, and as such, some people might find their change in pace a bit harder to swallow, thus the 'risk' I mentioned earlier. In reality, it will only take a few listens to understand that the only thing that has changed is the mood. Everything else that makes a Riverside album -well- a Riverside album is still right there.
Melodies, emotion, sound, those basslines, Mariusz vocals, their personality. Everything's there. The only thing that seems to be dialled down is the complexity of some of their compositions and certain uber-technical aspects of their music.
Opening track, "Lost", is one of their best compositions which features a very catchy vocal melody, whereas "Under The Pillow" seemingly starts mellow and calm, takes an unexpected sharp turn to a very energetic chorus. "#addicted" clearly demonstrates how Duda uses certain common inspirational elements as Steven Wilson, while it is with "Caterpillar And The Barbed Wire" where the band's tone shift is more evident than ever. However the track's ending -where a multitude of keyboard layers mix together to form this amazing sonic wall- is a wonderful zenith. "Saturate Me", which follows, is probably the proggiest moment on the album, reminding us of what they can do as a band.
"Afloat" is a rather obscure composition, as it only features bass, vocals and keyboards, and is also relatively short. It's a song where Duda really shows his vocal abilities, but it is also a transition piece of shorts, as from that song onwards, the rest of the album becomes much more subdued and mellow, such as "Discard Your Fear". The 8-minute long "Towards The Blue Horizon" is one of the standout tracks, with the dynamic changes between acoustic and heavier composition bringing a nice feel to the track, bringing contemporary Opeth to mind, whilst "Time Travellers" and "Found" -the album's closers- bring an ideal finish to the album, with their appropriately calm demeanour.
It might not be an older Riverside fan's favourite work, but it might well be that for a newer wave of fans. Regardless, it is undoubtedly one of the finest albums you will listen to all year, full of imagery, melodies and emotions. Do not hesitate.