This fifth studio album from Polish progressive rockers Riverside – their first since 2009’s ‘Anno Domini High Definition’, which charted at number one in their native Poland – is an interesting beast, drawing as it does on a myriad of influences, from underground central European jazz through English folk music through to dark, Scandinavian tinged ambience.
It doesn’t get off to a promising start, it must be admitted, as the opening couplet of ‘New Generation Slave’ finds from=ntman Mariusz Duda sounding like an exact clone of Chris Martin: however, a crunching guitar riff soon takes the song in a more upbeating, upliftingly metallic direction – although it has hard to shake off that initial Coldplay reference.
‘The Depth Of Self-Delusion’ is more recognisable a traditional prog, with a strong performance from Duda, whose bass work is also complimented extremely well by Piotr Kozieradzi’s remarkably understated drumming: in fact, that is a characteristic of the both the album and the performances as a while, as there is a remarkable feeling of restraint throughout – as if the band are deliberately holding back, letting what they have left out speak just as loudly as what is actually included. That’s not to say that there aren’t some fine moments of ‘indulgence’ (for want of a better word), especially on Piotr Grudzinski’s magnificent pair of solos on the complex and hugely impressive ‘Celebrity Touch’, which starts off very much in a Jethro Tull meets Deep Purple mode and evolves into a twisting, contorted masterpiece.
‘We Got Used To Us’ is the simplest song here, built on a touching piano/acoustic guitar motif which accentuates the heart-breaking pathos of the lyrical theme (although Duda’s vocal could have done with being stronger). ‘Feel Like Falling’ is another traditional prog offering, referencing both Yes and, erm, Coldplay as well as Rush – with the Canadian trio perhaps being the most accurate comparator for the album as a whole… ‘Deprived (Irretrievably Lost Imagination)’ is dark, dense and ambient, building layers of instrumentation and highlighted not only by the effectiveness of its complexity but also by its sparse sound, especially on the vocals (which is not a criticism, but merely a reflection of the ‘less is more’ ethos of the album), and even surprising the listener with introduction of a beautiful, jazzy saxophone in its closing moments.
The jazz motifs are continued on ‘Escalator Shrine’, which is not only the album’s longest song but also its darkest, most brooding – and again surprising in its moments of simplicity amidst is sweeping orchestration: the middle section explodes into a huge musical workout, with both Duda and Grudziński delivering stunning solos and Michael Lapaj being given the first real opportunity to flex his musical musicals, with blistering, almost hyperbolic organ interludes and swells. The brief ‘Coda’ is a suitably genteel conclusion, with Duda’s almost whispering vocal over a simple picked acoustic melody again effective in its simplicity.
A superb album, only let down for me personally by too many references to Coldplay (and if there is one band I cannot stand….)[8/10]
- New Generation Slave
- The Depth Of Self-Delusion
- Celebrity Touch
- We Got Used To Us
- Feel Like Falling
- Deprived (Irretrievably Lost Imagination)
- Escalator Shrine
Riverside bring their ‘New Generation Tour’ to the UK on the following dates:
March 14th – O2 Academy, Islington
March 15th – The Corporation/Y-Prog 2013, Sheffield
March 16th – Classic Grand, Glasgow
March 17th – The Assembly, Leamington Spa
‘Shrine Of The New Generation Slaves’ is out now on InsideOut Music.
Band photo by Monika Grudzińska.