Released by: Inside Out Music
Release Date: January 21st, 2013
Genre: Progressive rock
Piotr “Grudzie?” Grudzi?ski – Guitar
Mariusz Duda – Vocals, Bass, Guitar
Piotr “Mittloff” Kozieradzki – Drums
Micha? ?apaj – Keyboards
1. New Generation Slave
2. The Depth of Self-Delusion
3. Celebrity Touch
4. We Got Used to Us
5. Feels Like Falling
6. Deprived (Irretrievably Lost Imagination)
7. Escalator Shrine
What do you look for in your progressive rock? Is it the constant shifting of tempo? Or perhaps you prefer exuberant keyboards or an endless series of solos? Or then again, are you simply looking for sophisticated rock, driven by emotion and a desire to touch others? If you answered that last statement in the positive, then it is likely that you may already be a fan of the Polish progressive rockers of Riverside. If not, then I hope this review will entice you to check them out.
To me, Riverside always had one essential element that makes them, well, Riverside: the voice of vocalist Mariusz Duda. This man has a voice unlike any other that I know. He has a deeply emotive, highly melodic croon which when coupled with the band’s equally emotional musical output, creates a whole which makes this band one of my favorite progressive bands out there and a band that I find has some of the most touching concepts and overall vibe. Be it the introspective Out of Myself, the disturbingly familiar concept of Second Life Syndrome – which by the way, boasts one of my coveted perfect scores – or the unsettling parasomnia of Rapid Eye Movement, Riverside always delivered some incredibly solid experiences.
However, 2009 brought Anno Domini High Definition (or ADHD, see what they did there?). After Rapid Eye Movement, which was slightly lackluster to many, I think the band thought that it was that they needed to move away from their sound and try something different. So Anno Domini brought a heavier, more “metalized” sound which to me kind of broke the Riverside “vibe”. It has its moments (“Egoist Hedonist” is a great song) but didn’t appeal to the Riverside fan in me much. It’s a great progressive rock/metal album if it came from any other band but it’s a bad album for Riverside standards. I really wondered if this was the band running out of ideas or just moving towards a sound which I didn’t feel especially keen on. Riverside trying to be heavy doesn’t work for me at all.
Enter 2013. It’s been four years since the last album and Riverside drops their new opus: Shrine of New Generation Slaves. To say I had mixed feelings about this album is an understatement. As previously said, I was incredibly disappointed by Anno Domini taking a more metal approach. It just seemed to destroy some of the emotion which makes Riverside, well you know, Riverside. Although admittedly, it’s always been Mariusz Duda’s ridiculously perfect and emotive voice which makes them such a wonderful band to me. I’ve been putting back listening to this in fear of being disappointed and now that I’ve already listened to it over 10 times, I can put my worries at rest: Riverside is back in force!
Now, let’s get into the meat of the album. I find myself really liking the opener, “New Generation Slave”. It serves its purpose as an “intro” quite well and is quite surprisingly heavy at times but thankfully, it doesn’t compromise on the melodic side of things with Mariusz’s vocals shining as always, even with the slight grit effect in the sound. But then, “The Depth of Self-Delusion” hit me with full force and I had my first “oh my god!” moment in years with the band. What a stupidly beautiful song! As a bonus, it is nicely devoid of this needless metal which Riverside should never rely on again. The band’s trademark emotion pierces through that song with conviction, with some sweet keyboards and some terrific guitar playing. That song makes me want to melt.
And you know what is awesome about all that? It’s the only the second song and the rest of the album is just as killer! With such strong songs as the beautiful “We Got Used to Us” (which to me almost comes to rival with “Conceiving You” from Second Life Syndrome), the touching and emotional “Feels Like Falling” and the progressive drive of the 12-minute epic “Escalator Shrine”, the album is just incredibly strong from start to finish.
I’m infinitely thankful that Riverside didn’t feel the need to shift towards a more metal-driven sound. I felt so much resentment towards the last album. And now that I look back, if the heaviness of Anno Domini was part of its concept, I think now that Shrine of New Generation Slaves is here and is so wonderful, I might actually be able to appreciate Anno Domini a bit more once I go back to it.
So even after all that gushing, the album isn’t perfect. I already knew “Celebrity Touch” and to be honest, even though it’s not bad by any means, it’s my least favorite on here and probably the reason I can’t give Shrine of New Generation Slaves a perfect note. The lyrics are spot-on, though. I also feel that – while I do like it – “Escalator Shrine” drags a little bit and may be a few minutes too long.
The whole concept of the album seems really cool and much better than the denunciation of society’s current state from punk bands and their “social awareness”, which often is nothing more than complaining about the system without proposing any kind of solution. On this album, Riverside proposes a much more metaphorical and introspective look at our lives and the unstoppable spiral of madness that is the pace we live our lives at. In Mariusz’s own words: “It’s based on the fact that we all hear almost every day from friends and close people how unhappy they are, how they hate their jobs, how they don’t have a time for this or that, how time flies and how they actually feel like slaves in their lives. I thought it was a good option to write about that kind of unhappiness and this “new generation slavery”, where people seem to be unable to take control over their own lives”.
At this point, any complaints are really just minor nitpicking and other than that, it’s just another masterful work from Riverside, which to me truly is one of the best progressive rock acts out there right now. But other than that, Shrine of New Generation Slaves is just a wonderful ride from one end to the other and it will likely get the most spinning time out of all progressive rock/metal albums in 2013. What a strong start to the year!
Written by Chris Auclair
Ratings Chris 9/10
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