I was browsing through some various CD’s and decided to see if there were actually any bands out there that were under the alternative or progressive style that I had not either already listened to, or had decided I did not care for. Amazingly I found this band, which hails from Warsaw, Poland. A “New” prog rock band? And one without some sort of dragon or universal landscape on the cover?
What an amazing band. The first thing I’d like to say about this band is that they have a distinct sound within all of their songs. Sometimes with “newer” prog rock bands (I’m talking new as in the last 10 years, so NOT Pink Floyd, ELP, King Crimson, Genesis etc.) you find a somewhat formulaic sound that is usually stuck in extreme synthesizers and opera like crescendos that go on forever. Not these guys. From the structure of their songwriting to the arrangements of the guitars and percussion, right down to the middle of the scale vocal tone that emits from the lead vocalist. Don’t get me wrong, there are still keyboards there and plenty of drawn out epics, but the songs don’t sway and swoon, they bob, weave and explode with action while still retaining a mysterious broody mystique to them. They have been compared to Pink Floyd and Dream Theater. I’d say that really isn’t a bad comparison if I think of the two melding together.
I won’t review every song, but several. Enough for you to get a good understanding of what you’re getting into..Or what your missing by not…with Riverside.
“Second Life Syndrome” is the second album by Riverside and was released in 2005. The album has songs on it that vary in tempo and overall pace, making it pretty diverse and an overall great listen. It’s atmospheric but not enough to put you to sleep. The lyrics are brought through clear and crisp and backed with that you get some beautiful instrumentals. The latter is what is fun about progressive styles like this, instead of one cool beat, one little part that you love about a song, one heart stopping jolt, you get a multitude of experience like that on just one track!
Nine tracks clocking in at over 60 minutes in length, Riverside is more soulful than anything. I wish some of the older grunge bands like Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains would have taken notes, simply because this is really a better way tone wise to evoke depressive harmony. Gaelic and not Guttural, Heartfelt as much as heart wrenching. Track one is called “After” and has an almost Indian type chant with great backing vocals and the sound of a Congo drum beating in the background. Track two is “Volte-Face” and is over eight minutes long. This track has some great synthesizer on it and it is here where we really started hearing some great shredding on the electric guitars. The pace of the song speeds way up but still holds a slow town when taking it easy for some of the integral parts of the chorus.
Track three is “Conceiving you” and is not a long song but still a powerful track. This song is a slower set track that has some great melodic guitar that really hits some high notes. One of the most beautiful parts on the song is towards the end with a doom but not to dire crescendo of guitars as the lead vocalist pleads, “Still conceiving…you. All along…still conceiving you…all along”. A wonderful ending of a serenade for this track and its haunting to the point that you almost don’t know if you should replay it…that’s what real music is, its not something you HEAR, its something you FEEL.
Riverside doesn’t pull any punches, and despite me bringing out the fact that some of the songs are slow and calculated, there are others, and even other times within the slower tracks where the singer growls to the backing shriek of guitars. Some of it reminds me of Saigon Kick, some of Type -O- Negative, but its ALL Riverside here, and I like what I am hearing. Track five has a blend like that, with some steady, gripping riffs that add to the mix of intense vocals and brooding themes. I know I mentioned before that you can have to much formulaic sounds within a certain style of music, but these guys have some great keyboard and synth that bring out the dead like some old never say die church organ in a horror movie.
Just when I think they are winding down, they take me higher. Track six is called “I turned you down” and starts out with a solo guitar piece that is like something from Metallica’s days of “One” back in 1991. The amps are dialed in perfectly as its not giving off much reverb but not getting much twang either. The solo opens up into a powerful synth the scales the walls in old school fashion. It then barrels into the chorus with vocalist Mariuzs giving some emotional chorus with “I wish you’d told me that beforrrrrre.” The way he drags out the word “before” is wonderful and again, by this point in the CD I’m just wondering where the heck these guys have been!
Progressive rock and Alternative Metal, both labels this band has had hung above their heads, is really an acquired taste. Those who like it, really probably love it. And those that say they like it, really don’t get it. It’s not for everyone, but if you like music that paints a picture but still packs a punch, then try Riverside’s “Second life Syndrome”.