Riverside–Love, Death & The Time Machine

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Two and a half minutes into Riverside’s new CD, they finally find a pulse.  Listening through the remainder, I don’t find the instrumental nuggets or the expansive tracks I found in 2013’s Shrine of New Generation Slaves.  What I hear is a more mature and measured delivery with almost pop sensibilities. The production stops the guitar fromriverside-love-fear-and-the-time-machine review cutting and soaring across the keyboards and vocals.  The muscular attack that propelled their songs has been lost or otherwise bow to lead singer Mariusz Duda’s almost hushed vocals.  It’s not what I was expecting.

That said, often things come your way that you weren’t expecting that turn out to be pretty good.  Fast forward 15 or so listens, and I quite like this CD.  There’s not a single track that really stands out, but as a whole, it works.  A song too slow?  It’ll speed up.  Missing those rock guitar leads?  They’ll come.  The secret in the sauce is to follow Duda’s bass, let it lead you through the moods then appreciate how the band and Duda’s vocals flow around it.  The production still frustrates, though.  It’s one of those recordings that is so sonically compressed that it’s impossible to play it too loud.  Maybe that’s a good thing, but it mutes moments when their should be emotional peaks, such as in “Lost…” where the guitar tries to raise its voice after Duda (relatively speaking) shouts “…neverland.  Oh!”  Still, it’s very pretty music, and there’s ample instrumentation to satisfy.  It just feels a little emasculated.

 

Lyrically, Duda continues to write observations that one might easily confer upon someone who prefers to wear a hoodie when in public, hiding in the shadows, not freely entering the world so to speak… like his own tendency.  He pretty well spells it out:

There’s a mask upon my face
I can’t live without
So you won’t recognize me
When I am in the crowd
I lost my calmness in the world
Where everything is searchable

 

We hear regrets of  choosing the lesser path, feeling unworthy of better things, and lack of self-confidence. 

Hewn from happiness
In your fabletown
You’re still afraid of
Starting something new this life

or:

I was tired of suppressing all of my needs
I wanted to belong to the cloudless sky
Not to the shaded ground

These are not quite balanced by the exhortations to step forward and live life more fully. 

Discard your fear of the unknown
Be here and now
Just find yourself in peace
Try to free your mind
Wake up
Get unstuck
Let it go
Send your shame to nevermore

All in all… you don’t even have to pay attention to the lyrics to enjoy this CD.  I didn’t.  I had no idea what he was singing about until I decided how I felt about this CD.  Overall, the band has never sounded more unified, free of its excesses in search of what is “Metal” or “Prog.”  They’re sounding more and more like their own band, rather than rattling their influences for all to see.  That’s good.  They just need a new generation producer who has absorbed the influences of Bob Ezrin or Glyn Johns to make a more emphatic statement.  Despite it all, it’s hard not to like.

4 of 5 STARS_thumb

 

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