Riverside have come a long way since their critically acclaimed debut Out Of Myself, and have undergone flourishing changes that have morphed the band considerably from that early incarnation. Over the course of their career, Riverside have often been overshadowed by contemporaries with whom they share many similarities; namely, Porcupine Tree and Opeth. With their new album Love, Fear & The Time Machine they find themselves as far away from metal as they’ve ever been – and the result is something truly special, and deserved of the same fame and recognition of those greats.
Love, Fear & The Time Machine marks less of a drastic change for Riverside, and more an evolution similar to Opeth’s Heritage or Porcupine Tree’s In Absentia. The darkness that has characterized Riverside‘s work still pervades every pour of its melancholic surface, but what is new is the sheer amount of joyful harmonies that bring with them memories of 70s progressive pop. Containing shorter, but no less progressive songs, the album is as sweepingly overwhelming as it is infectiously catchy. As a whole the album stands as a continuous flow of melancholic splendor, often bringing a paradoxical joyful sadness, but fortunately works as a collection of songs that are robust enough to stand alone.
The metallic routes from where Riverside has grown are often hard to decipher within compositions, but they are definitely visible – occasionally cutting through the haze. Mariusz Duda provides a mature and sedate performance that always compliments the instrumental chloroform whilst instrumental quality is high throughout, with atmospherics and hooks weaving together with a robust synergy that overwhelms but is never brash. Whilst it is hard to discern a highlight from what is a very consistent album, I feel that it would be a great disservice not to mention tracks ‘#Addicted’, ‘Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened By a Hat?)’ and ‘Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire’. Indeed ‘#Addicted’ is a very strong contender for the best harmonic song of the year, with some stellar synth work that will cause you to miss it as soon as it’s over. Ending track ‘Found (The Unexpected Flaw Of Searching)’ is as uplifting an album closer as you could hope for and, without treading into cliché, musters up the tranquility to be genuinely touching as a culmination of the piece.
The true strength of this album lies in the ability that Riverside has shown to take these progressive, metal and pop elements and make them near indistinguishable from each other. In more ways than one, this album reminds me of In Absentia; in the way that all of its elements come together to form something greater than its indecipherable parts. Track ‘Toward the Blue Horizon’ could almost be mistaken for a Porcupine Tree track from the In Absentia sessions, but Riverside manage to keep their own particular personality intact over the course of the album. Love, Fear & The Time Machine is one of the most positive progressive rock albums released in a while, and its hard not to be taken with its sonic pastoral beauty. At times it could be mistaken for an alternate Nick Drake album where the outcome was far less tragic.
Your receptiveness to Riverside’s new album then will depend on your feelings towards them shedding their metallic skin in favour of a more classical progressive outfit. I personally was utterly taken with it, and in many ways the parallels to Opeth’s Heritage and Pale Communion are there also in its possible reception. If you enjoy progressive rock then this album is an essential, and it speaks volumes that I feel this may even better Steven Wilson’s Hand. Cannot. Erase. for progressive album of the year…and I am still in slight disbelief that I believe that. If there is an album that should bring Riverside the acclaim that they deserve, this is it.