Publication: 04 January 2013
Author: Raymond Westland
Note: 9/10

Polish progressive rock band Riverside are one the leading exponents in the contemporary progressive rock/metal scene. Albums like “Second Life Syndrome”, “Rapid Eye Movement” and “Anno Domini High Definition” are stalwarts in any progressive rock/metal collection. Now these Poles are back with their latest effort, entitled “Shrine Of New Generation Slaves”.

The main concept revolves around the notion that many people are completely bound to their job in what can be seen in form of modern serfdom. Something that’s all too familiar for many among us. Compared to its illustrious predecessor “Shrine Of New Generation Slaves” is a bit more introvert, contemplative and drawn out. There are still plenty of harsher moments present (‘Celebrity Touch’, ‘New Generation Slave’), but the emphasis is more on drawn-out and atmospheric compositions like ‘The Depth Of Self-Delusion’, ‘Deprived’ and ‘Escalator Shrine’. Mariusz Duda’s soothing and introspective vocal style acts as the proverbial guide through this album. He’s in the same league as Tool’s Maynard James Keenan and Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson.

What has remained are the prominent classic rock and seventies prog influences which dominated “Anno Domini High Definition”. Although I’m not the biggest fan of this trend within the prog community I have to admit they’re tastefully integrated within the Riverside framework. They really augment and enrich the listening experience without sounding retro, just like “Grace For Drowning” by the aforementioned Steven Wilson. Another key asset of this album is the song-orientated approach of Duda and Co. They don’t rely on endless keyboard versus guitar duels or a surplus of technical tricks. Every element in the music feels like it actually belongs there, serving the bigger picture. This makes “Shrine Of New Generation Slaves” also interesting for people who aren’t necessarily into progressive rock and metal.

“Shrine Of New Generation Slaves” is a very mature and tasteful, but above all a very human record. It doesn’t need Dream Theater-like theatrics to get the message across. The album is great as it is, a quality shared by like-minded bands like Opeth, Porcupine Tree and to a lesser extent, Anathema. If “Shrine Of New Generation Slaves” is sign of things to come in 2013, we’re in for a good year. Come what may, Riverside has raised the bar mighty high for its contemporaries. A great, great album!