Riverside – ID.Entity Review

Riverside - ID.Entity

Riverside was one of the first bands I reviewed on Angry Metal Guy. In 2009, they released the excellent Anno Domini High Definition which grabbed my attention immediately with its excellent composition and an adventurous, heavy edge. Since then, Riverside has released good after very good record; but rather than being the adventurous prog of earlier material, albums like Shrines of New Generation Slaves and Love, Fear and the Time Machine tended toward aggressively chill. These later records shared a kind of sad boy chill with Steven Wilson or Gazpacho; a delicate sensibility, but could not be described as edgy or adventurous. That’s always been a bit of a disappointment to me. As much as I enjoy the later material, I have always adored the variability and vitality of ADHD.1

ID.Entity changes the script for Riverside, however, coming five years after Wasteland—an album whose strengths I defined as “mournful, fragile melodies.” In 2023, though, Riverside’s strength can again be found in its adventurous roots. Part of this is that ID.Entity sounds like it was written from the bass – which changes how one tends to write music and which defined earlier Riverside albums to my ears. Like so much of the post-Dream Theater prog that I grew to love, Riverside was build from frontman Mariusz Duda’s fretboard; and that feeling is back. Though embedded in synths and wreathed in clean or crunchy guitars, the bass is often the motor on ID.Entity. This leads to moments that genuinely crackle with energy like the Policeesque ska breakdown on the brilliant “Self-Aware,” or the noodly, bass-driven intro to “Big Tech Brother.”

The script change isn’t a complete reimagination of Riverside’s sound. Instead, they pull out a lot of tricks and ideas that have been on the shelf for way too long. This may be the influence of their new guitarist Maciej Meller’s performances, which sound a lot more like Alex Lifeson (Rush) than Steve Rothery (Marillion). His style seems to fit this music perfectly, with lively performances complemented by Duda’s writing vivacious songs. The music feels alive on songs like the fantastic, synth-driven single (“Friend or Foe?”), or driven and forceful on the hard rock (“I’m Done with You”). And at times, they just drop fantastic groove-laden prog (“Landmine Blast”).

ID.Entity’s flaws are few, then, but they’re also vivaciously committed. While the album features some of my favorite Riverside moments in over a decade—the Snow Goose vibe between guitarist Meller and keyboardist Michał Łapaj at the 10-minute mark of “The Place Where I Belong”—this adventurous vibe also extended to some of Duda’s worst impulses. This comes through most aggressively in the lyrics—or voiceovers—aimed at being topical. “Big Tech Brother” leads in with a “disclaimer” as a commentary on the state of the the tech industry that apparently got 30 seconds of consideration before being included on the album.2 This awkwardness is outdone, however, by Duda’s most moralistic—and poetically lacking—lyrics on “The Place Where I Belong.” While Duda’s ultimate point—don’t individualize structural oppression through mindfulness routines—is completely legitimate, the poetry reeks of The Steve Harris in the Loo after Reading the Daily Mail School of Composition™. One of the reasons this stands out is that “The Place Where I Belong” makes up 20% of the album’s length; making it a bit of a black eye on an otherwise great album.

ID.Entity is still my favorite Riverside album since ADHD and it’s a great starting point for new listeners and old ones alike. While the lyrical miscues and parts of “The Place Where I Belong” stood in the way of me declaring it a great album; I’m finding myself drawn back to ID.Entity in a way that latter Riverside hasn’t done. Hearing the band’s adventurous side, complete with energetic writing and a more immediate and enjoyable production makes me love this album, in spite of its warts. In particular, I love the throwbacks to the classics that peak through here—be that Rush, Camel or The Police—which give ID.Entity a timeless proginess that is only mildly undermined by extremely dated lyrical themes.3 After a five year break, Riverside seems to have grieved enough and ID.Entity is a welcome change of pace.

Rating: Very Good!
DR: 7 | Media Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: InsideOut Music
Release Date: January 20th, 2023
Websites: riversideband.pl | Facebook.com/riversidepl

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Which is why the ladies love me, too! That is, the variability and vitality of my ADHD (Inattentive).
  2. If you’re going to do it, commit to the fucking bit! Don’t try to make it an awkward joke. It just feels cheap and it loses its charm.
  3. Whining.
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