Riverside - Love Fear and the Time MachinePoland’s Riverside should be no stranger to the dedicated reader of these Angry pages. After discovering the band’s Anno Domini High Definition in 2009, Riverside has sneakily become one of the staples of my playlist. I wasn’t completely enamored with Shrine of New Generation Slaves; but its chill, more reflective moments are the ones that I keep coming back to: “The Depth of Self Delusion,” yes, but especially, “We Got Used to Us,” which has a slow groove and a transcendent chorus. Still, SoNGS lacked the punch and progressive drive that ADHD—and the band’s earlier material—had, and landed far more in the territory of post-Marillion prog, without the brooding darkness into which late Gazpacho has wandered recentlySoNGS was, arguably, nothing more or less than a road sign, though, pointing towards 2015’s latest record: Love, Fear and the Time Machine.

Love, Fear and the Time Machine is a subtle, calm album: defined almost more by its feel than by its songs. The record, at least at first blush, could be accused of being uniform—particularly in comparison to the band’s earlier material. At an hour long, I have to admit I was gearing up for a gentle reminder that quantity is not quality. But similar to Riverside 2015-1staring at 3D Stereogram for a while, Love, Fear and the Time Machine opened up before me and started to take form and definition. It proved to be worth the wait. Like its predecessor, this record is mellow; but the band has started to perfect the formula. There is very little of the heavy, urgent material that littered the band’s earliest material. Aside from about 3 minutes in “Towards the Blue Horizon,” the bands heaviest moments sound a lot more akin to ’80s British melancholic rock (see: “#Addicted”) than Riverside circa 2004.

Don’t get too caught up with this idea that the band has started sounding like The Cure, though; if anything, Riverside is transforming into something more akin to Steven Wilson‘s solo material. While not produced and mastered with the grace, skill, and dynamic range of Hand. Cannot. Erase., Love, Fear and the Time Machine definitely walks the same fine line between poppy and melancholy. A song like “Afloat” is simple, but the vocal harmonies evoke existential sadness; “Time Travellers” reminds me of “We Got Used to Us,” with its slow burn groove, nostalgic theme, and melodies reminiscent of Opeth‘s Damnation. Both opener “Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened by a Hat?)” and closer “Found (The Unexpected Flaw of Searching)” bookend the record with hooky—though somber—melodies. And Love, Fear and the Time Machine shines in these moments, showing a deft touch and talent for songcraft.

I have two issues with Love, Fear and the Time Machine. The first is that I’m not enamored in the production (and mastering). While not bad, this record is simultaneously too wet, but not airy enough. The heavier parts sport high-compression modern rock distortion—like the crunchier parts on “#Addicted” and “Under the Pillow”—and while this has defined the band’s sound since its earliest days, their writing has left it behind. Something more akin to later Opeth or Steven Wilson in its bouquet would better complement the band’s sound—where Kozieradzki’s drums don’t have to be so far back in the mix, and Duda’s bass can pop and throb. The production is wet, and it doesn’t feel organic; but the band’s sound—even on its heaviest moments like “Saturate Me” and “Towards the Blue Horizon”—is starting to require something else.

Riverside 2015-2

I suspect that this also affects the flow of the album, which tends towards monochromatic on the bridge between the opening strains and the superb closer. While I love individual songs—”Discard Your Fear,” “Afloat,” and “#Addicted” all stand out—there are times when I lose track of where I am in the album; the cover art imitates the music, colors that bleed together, forming something foggy, but beautiful. A record with a bit more punch, and more dynamic production would turn moments like the break between ethereal and heavy at the end of “Discard Your Fear” (at around 4:40, for those listening to the embedded video below) into something powerful and memorable. I think it would be wrong to argue, even though the album is 60 minutes long, that this is a consequence of the writing not being sharp; the writing is sharp, but those edges are dulled by production choices which mute the pallet at work.

Having said that, Love, Fear and the Time Machine is a clear step up from SoNGS, and while it’s “relentlessly mellow,” as Dr. Fisting put it, it’s precisely the mellow material where Riverside shines brightest. The band as a whole—while still eminently talented—has become secondary to the feel and the songs. No one musician stands out, but everything is in its place. It’s gorgeous, well-written, and a great listen. Love, Fear and the Time Machine isn’t going to blow you out of the water, but it will creep under your skin and stay there.

Rating: 3.5/5.01
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Inside Out Music
Websites: riversideband.plwww.facebook.com/riversidepl
Release Worldwide: September 4th, 2015

Show 1 footnote

  1. I know that I also gave SoNGS a 3.5, and I’ve said this record was better. I should clarify that I think the songwriting here is very good—great, even. My complaints about the feel make me think I really shouldn’t give the record higher than a 3.5 even though I think the music is really good. It actively undermines my enjoyment of specific moments of the record. So while it’s a better record, the different aspects kind of even the albums out. And heck, maybe I gave SoNGS too high of a rating. Or, maybe ratings are highly subjective and will fluctuate wildly depending on all sorts of factors and the fact that measurements like this are so important to everyone involved should be an indictment of our culture of music critique and the enjoyment of art. This record is really good, and I am enjoying the hell out of it. So, y’know, take that for what it is.
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  • El_Cuervo

    Loving this thing. Time Travellers is a beaut

  • Kevin Dillon

    Kind of a bummer about the production not matching the music, I feel like Duda should know better given Lunatic Soul is super mellow (at least the latest one was).

    I don’t know if you’re a lyric person (I vaguely remember saying you aren’t) but I also felt like the lyrics, at least on discard your fear, were a little generic and cliché. Not that their previous albums we’re exceptional lyrically or anything — but yeah it just stood out to me while I was watching the video.

    Regardless, I love all their previous material so I’m definitely going to end up buying this. Kind of in the mood for something more mellow anyway.

    • I try not to get too far into lyrics discussions because it usually turns into me saying something mean. I think Riverside has had some awkward moments lyrically, but I felt like the stuff that stood out here was really good. Still, yeah, saying “hashtag” in a song makes me feel a little.. I dunno, awkward?

      • Kronos

        I agree. Call me conservative but I really hate hearing neologisms in lyrics. If actually rather listen to slam reinterpreted as slam than someone singing about fucking twitter.

        • Yeah, I mean.. I dunno. I agree to a certain extent in that I think it’s easy to feel cheesy.

          • Kronos

            indeed it is.

          • Robert Srzednicki

            Hi, this is Robert from Serakos Studio. I was responsible for mix, mastering and (partly) production of the latest Riverside album. Browsing the web i found (so far the only one) less enthusiastic review of LFATTM on Your site. Maybe that might be interesting what I can tell:)
            The entire phase of the production, mix and mastering was a very conscious process which was “designed” to highlight the qualities of compositions.
            We decided that the whole album has to have a certain “flow” which translates into a very professional but not tiring sound (btw. we tried to give more hi-end frequencies to the mix but i did not work). Anyway, the overall sound seems to be very open but also rich and wide. The bass guitar is a very important element of this record – that is why we set it so loud but IMO the drums are loud as well. Just listed to #Addicted or DYF.
            As to dynamics – i’m afraid that i don’t agree with Your review:) So called ” a lack of dynamics” – mentioned by You, has nothing to do with buss processing and mastering. Overall compression and limiting (during the mixing and mastering stage) was very low – just 1 or 2 db of gain reduction with auto release “on” in mix and parallel compresion with 1,4 : 1 in the mastering. Overall volume of this record is also not loud by today’s standards – more or less about 12 – 11 RMS. There is plenty of dynamics, just listen to the snare drum:) However we did not want to make an unstable record so – just like in pop music – we balanced each part to to make it fit for the next part. So “a lack of dynamics”, it’s only an artistic decision. Distorted guitar parts were set to not overshadow everything else.
            P.S. If anyone is interested – the album was mixed on hi quality analog console (Audient). We were using ProTools HD native system and Apogee Symphony AD/DA.

          • Hey there! Thanks for commenting. I’m very much aware that this was an artistic decision. I think that I’m really clear about the fact that I disagree with that artistic decision and that I think it actually pulls attention away from the excellent songwriting. Also, while a DR 8 is better than industry standards, it still isn’t nearly as dynamic in range as the examples given. And when I said that I wanted it to be more PUNCHY, I certainly wasn’t saying that I wanted the guitars to dominate. I was saying that I wanted the record to be more airy, so that the drums and the bass wouldn’t be “loud,” but would instead be dynamic and fill their own space. Regardless, while I’m critical of its tone, I’m not saying it was a _bad_ production job or that it wasn’t intentional, so I’m sorry if you felt like I attacked you.

            I’m glad people love this record, I think it’s really good (that’s what 3.5/5.0 means, “very good”). Disliking something about the record doesn’t mean I disliked the album. Also, as I said in my footnote, and as I believe I made really clear in the review, I am enjoying the hell out of this record, so please don’t think that spending time discussing my disagreement with the artistic decisions made are me panning the album. I think it would be a misrepresentation of what I wrote. Which would be unfair, since I think I was heaped a lot of praise on the band.

          • El_Cuervo

            3.5 is very enthusiastic by the standards of this website. A 3.5 makes me take note here!

      • Hulksteraus

        #OMG #HASHTAG… yeah, I am far too old for the twit brigade. Still, something of the times I guess. I actually like how Steven Wilson uses neologisms as satire in his lyrics. They can have their place, guess it depends on how they are used. Anyway, these guys are Polish, so English is not their first language.

        • Yeah, though I think it behooves ESL lyricists to contact native speakers for help.

      • Jason Spencer

        The point of saying #hashtag must be lost on some…

  • Oscar Albretsen

    This is now #1 big time on my list of most wanted albums. Personally, SoNGS was my favorite Riverside release, and possibly my favorite from 2013 as a whole. It grew on me immensely to the point where I’d actually get goosebumps every time I listened to it. I prefer the more mellow side of this band, so based on this review, I’m really gonna like this new one, too.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    At least they stopped doing the corny album title gimmickry.

    • Yeah, that’s also good.

      • Kronos

        Anno Domini was a great title but they really had trouble following it up.

        • They’ve been doing it for a while. From the 2nd or 3rd record, I think?

  • Mark Nagy

    I’ve got this for review as well, and I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly is wrong with it. I just don’t think Riverside is as good at doing purely mellow music as they were with the one foot in metal, one foot out. Heavier moments on ADHD gave the music the dynamics that I just don’t hear in this.

    • But listen to the heavier moments, they’re not even dynamic on here. The “soft to heavy” transition in the song I mentioned doesn’t get louder or heavier. That kind of kills the feel.

      • Robert Turnbull

        SoNGS is a favourite of mine, and I’m loving the embedded track so will definitely pick this up.

        I understand your complaint regarding production choices and the break at 4.40, but personally I think a large dynamic shift there would actually break the flow of the music, and getting lost in that flow is part of the experience with recent Riverside albums.

        • Things can flow too well, and this is a case where it does. I’m not a fan of making music so wet and crunching it so much that you don’t have any punch or dynamic shifts. I think this would sound better if the natural flow of the songs were given room to develop and breathe.

      • Mark Nagy

        To be honest, I had hardly noticed the heavier parts that are there, for that exact reason.

        • Yeah, exactly. I think that’s a real weakness with this album. When you produce an album so that it ends up being so wet that it doesn’t breathe and there’s no difference between the peaks and valleys, it just kills the feel. So this was a hard one to rate, because on one hand I love the songs, but on the other hand I find it tough to get into at times because it fades together.

  • The Lascivious Snape

    I liked ADHD well enough, but SoNGS was a complete miss for me, as was that EP in between the two. My hopes aren’t high here, but I’ll give it a fair chance (at least I’ll try to).

    The fun of tracks like “Rainbow Box” and “Panic Room 02” are sorely missed from their later material. Since Duda also has the comparatively mellow Lunatic Soul, I wish he’d get that out of his system there and bring more of the rock/metal sound here.

  • El Lado Oscuro

    Apart SoNGS was an amazing record, and this is also fine, but not that much, your footnote makes a lot of sense to me… why the qualification of a record, a painting or anything related with the arts has to be static? Things change overtime, taste change. Good review

  • Hideous destructor

    Why should I be frightened by a hat? is a question I ask myself every day.

    Also, what’s with this trend of videos with just the lyrics popping up like some kareoke track? I don’t like it.

  • robpal

    Have to admit, I’m super pumped for this one. And for Gazpacho later this year. Very good year in prog music this 2015!

    • sssgadget

      Don’t forgot Spock’s Beard!

      • robpal

        I have already listened to it, very good and pleasing. Also, new Royal Hunt premiered last week.

    • I just found out about the Gazpacho: am excite.

      • robpal

        There’s also new Votum coming this year. And Caligula’s Horse, and Vanden Plas, and Teramaze. So much goodness.

        • Not a Votum fan at all, but that Caligula’s Horse is good.

          • Synthetase

            They certainly are! Saw them live last year in Melbourne – they hold the stage well, too.

      • Hideous destructor

        Yay. new gazpacho. Huzzah!

  • sssgadget

    Lunatic soul creeping in Riverside?

    • Doesn’t feel like it. Maybe some in feel, but certainly not in writing.

  • Innit Bartender

    … but is it “repentlessly mellow”? ^__^
    Love Riverside from day one, I will listen to this. I like the embedded song and the review is very in-depth and helpful, as always.

    • They are proud of their mellowness, I think. And they have every right to be, it’s ridiculously good stuff.

  • MelbCro

    One of those bands where I’ve loved everything they have released, no doubt this album will be the same.

  • Synthetase

    I also thought that ADHD was seriously good and SoNGS less so – though We Got Used to Us is excellent. Based on your comments about it working as a whole, I’m looking forward to giving this one a spin. One of the things I really liked about ADHD was the way that it worked as an overall album. The songs were different in their own way, but there was this common thread that ran throughout that had the ‘feel’ of the record. It’s hard to describe, but it always reminded me of Beethoven’s 5th symphony and 5th piano concerto. Each movement is different and yet builds on the feeling of the whole.

  • Jason Spencer

    10/10 for me. It’s an amazing album that rivals even SLS. Riverside has never been metal, so that expectation from some (not you) is totally unfair. They’ve always been about the feelings and the lyrics, and this album might express itself better than any other they have done.

    • MelbCro

      Metal has always been a part of their sound, particularly early on with the first 2 albums. They even used to throw in the occasional growl.

      • Jason Spencer

        There was metal in “Out of Myself”? Hardly.

        • MelbCro

          Great reply mate, you really showed me (rollseyes)

  • Doomdeathrosh

    I get your complaint about the lack of production punch, but I feel it is quite difficult to land on the perfect production parameters for a song/songs with a prog rock to prog metal transition. Even so, it doesn’t really hamper my listening experience a lot. Its still a great listen!

  • Jaba

    I wonder whether the vinyl version has a dedicated (even) more dynamic master…ahh, who cares, let’s buy it on wax! ;-)