Riverside – Shrine of New Generation Slaves

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I purchased this CD at the conclusion of their Atlanta concert several months ago, and I might have reviewed it immediately.  But, I was either procrastinating or wanted to give it a fairer report after time had moved on a bit.  It’s probably both, but I do prefer reviewing CDs after I’ve lived with them a while.  I have no idea how paid reviewers are comfortable with judgmental reviews on the date of release.  Maybe they get their demo copies weeks in advance.  If you’re a record company, yeah, help me out there.

I love this CD.  It’s progressive rock, which means it has some ambition musically, from chord changes, to instrumental solos, to song length, to tonal complexity, etc.  It takes only a moment for me to get used to Mariusz Duda’s vocals.  This is a Polish band, but he sings in English and his accent fits in beautifully with a style of music that built upon European musical history anyway.  He really has one of the finer voices for this type of music, and he has suitable inflections to cover the range from their heavy metal to all-but pop styles.  

Guitar, drums, and keyboards play their roles, the first two rather heavily to suit their fallback preference of rocking with a punch, but tasteful through any song.  Keyboards are rarely used in a lead role, which I might prefer more of in a Genesis/Tony Banks complexion, but they’re tasteful and enjoyable throughout, especially in the jazzier sections.  Bass is spot on, both melodic and driving where needed. 

Riverside is an original band but suffer from being labeled as similar to many others, primarily Porcupine Tree and Opeth.  Whatever, but the places they borrow from, I really like.  Radiohead, Steven Wilson, Pink Floyd...  They take tones and occasionally sections of others music to supplement what is their own.  It works for me.

Still, a full CD listening takes a little getting used to.  Sections of a song may sound like mid-tempo, melodic FM radio fare, then are shattered by crashing drums and heavy metal riffs.  In places like that, I struggle to find how the music melds with the lyrics.  But over time, I’ve found that it all works together to a very enjoyable listen, and one that continues to hold my attention.  Plus, even as I age, I don’t mind some aggression in my music, as long as its not noise.

I tend to favor the second half of the album slightly more than the first, where the band moves beyond rockers into the more exploratory instrumental musings.  “Escalator Shrine” is the standout song for me as it gives room/length for their musicianship to shine, though there are other songs or sections within that I think are excellent.

Lyrically, it’s all fine.  There are no moments of revelation on the cause of the sores of human nature, but the songs comment ably on resignation to life’s wear and tear, relationships that suffer due to things left unsaid, the recognized loss when failing to commit to a relationship, isolation, and similar odes to melancholy.  Despite all that, the music and overall feel is positive and uplifting.  Go figure.  But give it a listen.

4 of 5 STARS



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