Riverside was a band that I approached with some caution. I’ve often been unimpressed with progressive metal in the modern era. Not just unimpressed, but often so much as incredibly annoyed with them. Fortunately, it appears that progressive metal and rock have dodged the bullet when it comes to Poland’s Riverside. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that these guys are bringing something new and cool to the table while being able to maintain a familiarity and compositional approach that does what good progressive rock has done since the 1970s—that is, they write good, interesting music, but manage to make it interesting, memorable and fun to listen to at the same time.
Of course, the name Anno Domini High Definition definitely wasn’t helpful when it came to me being worried about this album. I looked at it immediately and thought “well, that’s kind of a stupid name,” which was followed by “oh, right. ADHD. The genius. It hurts.” But while the name is not the best, the music is something worth further consideration. The band has managed to produce what I think is a much of a mature, engaging and excellent progressive metal record with its roots in bands as diverse as Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Dream Theater and Marillion. Sure, these bands overlap in certain areas, but they are also varied enough that when you think about the combined, you definitely have to spend a couple of minutes pieceing together how that would sound.
But while one can compare Riverside to other bands (they also share a similar sound with another band from Poland called Votum, but they have a more modern sounding vocalist), they stand alone as well. Every song on this record slowly shifts between different styles, overlapping industrial sounds with varied time-signature keyboards at one point, or even getting to blast beats in ADHD‘s final minutes. Everything here, though, is pieced together in a very smart way and held together by the glue that is the vocalist.
The vocals on ADHD are definitely unique within the progressive scene, and it’s often times in the area of vocals that I have my biggest disagreements with the scene’s biggest bands (here’s looking at you Dream Theater). Riverside has a distinctly modern rock vocal approach, which had kind of turned me off in the opening moments of the first track “Hyperactive.” He sounds more like he should be singing in Nickelback or Puddle of Mudd than in a progressive metal band. But what I saw as a downer at first, turned into a serious upside. By distancing themselves from the traditional progressive metal vocal approach Riverside is able to create a modern sound for a music that doesn’t seem to want to leave the 80s behind. Certainly these guys will not become a radioplay band, but I think that with a vocalist of this style the band will be able to attract individuals who wouldn’t normally listen to a progressive metal band.
I’ve had a lot of trouble finding downsides to this record, actually. The musicianship is stellar, tight and oh-so-well put together. The band is definitely on a musical roll, and even with the cheesy name the lyrics (from what I could tell) aren’t super cheesy. Not only that, but the band is just heavy enough that they’re able to build good, heavy grooves that the fan of heavier music will definitely like, but they never break the extreme metal vocals barrier—so the old fans of progressive music will also be pleased. This album is a total pleaser and for the fans of almost any kind of modern progressive music, this is definitely a record you’ll want to be buying.