Riverside // Shrine of New Generation Slaves
Rating: 3.5/5.0 — An older, more delicate Riverside
Websites: riversideband.pl | facebook.com/riversidepl
Release Dates: DE/PL: 2013.01.18 | EU: 2013.01.21 | US: 02.05.2013
Back in 2009 when I started this website I was really getting back into metal after having spent the previous year working on my own music and being really invested in learning a new language and trying to integrate into a new country. Upon having done this, I started up Angry Metal Guy with the purpose of giving myself something to do and a crash course in new music. One of the first labels I actually got a hold of was InsideOut (via Century Media) and received several very cool promos at around the same time. 2009 was actually a really good year, with several awesome releases that still stick out for me. In any case, one of these is the modern metal tinged opus Anno Domini High Definition with the slightly embarrassing acronym of ADHD by Polish progressive rockers Riverside. The record was modern, heavy and progressive and it rocked my world. Since then, the band has been working on the follow up (with an EP released last year to celebrate 10 years) and I have been anticipating it avidly.
But with expectations comes inevitable disappointment, as readers of this blog are well aware. Shrine of New Generation Slaves is not like ADHD in many ways. While many of the same features are in places – progressive music with a heavy bass presence and a vocalist who has more in common with modern rockers than most of the prog scene – SoNGS is instead a way more chill progressive rock album in the veins of Marillion or Steven Wilson‘s stuff. The disappointment wasn’t helped by the record starting with a completely unmemorable 2 minutes before turning into something worth listening to on opening track “New Generation Slaves.” But after the initial poor blues-rock misstep things move in a much more promising direction. Older fans will be happy to hear that the organs and keyboards are back throughout the record, making their presence felt even from the first track.
One of the things that had impressed me with the band’s earlier material was the delicacy and the melodies of the band’s calmer material, and the merge from “New Generation Slaves” to “The Depth of Self-Delusion” shows off the band’s melodic chops with the deft use of counter melody and melancholy. This more delicate side of the band is what is on display throughout the whole album, peaking on the 8 minute second track and rolling downhill all the way to the track “Coda” – a reprise of “Celebrity Touch.” “We Got Used to Us” is a piano driven ballad – even if it does have an excellent bassline that pushes the music forward – and the 8:26 of “Deprived (Irretrievably Lost Imagination”) also fits into the bass-heavy, but chill feeling. This is where vocalist Mariusz Duda shines; while his voice isn’t the kind of fragile and emotive thing like Daniel Gildenlöw (Pain of Salvation), he handles the more melancholy material with a fantastic touch and a deft hand. I think his finest moment is actually the end of the album’s major epic “Escalator Shrine,” though. It’s a treat.
The other thing that stands out is that Shrine of New Generation Slaves feels like walking through a historical document of progressive rock. “Celebrity Touch” bursts out the door with a straight up Jethro Tull riff and “Feel Like Falling” reminds me of 1980s Genesis. But these songs work perfectly, blending into the greater whole of what Riverside is putting together in terms of modern prog and being held together by the glue that is Duda’s voice. Of all of the tracks on the album, though “Escalator Shrine” is the one that most resembles the 1970s, hammond driven prog that has become the bane of a lot of band’s that I love (see: Opeth and related projects), with a breakdown that screams “DIRTY HIPPY” like nothing I’ve heard since Beardfish.
Despite the flow of the record and what I ultimately see as the band’s success, I actually really missed some of the things that reeled me in on the last record. For one, SoNGS is rarely heavy. The in-your-face production from ADHD is gone and Piotr Kozieradzki’s drumming never really wanders into the metal arena, like it did right out the gate – even cresting into blasts on “Hybrid Times.” While one cannot expect the same record every time, certainly for me, the intensity is part of what turned me on about Riverside. SoNGS is a very good record with songs I love, but that missing intensity is a drawback.
Still, for all you haters who want to know what kind of progressive album I was hoping for from Heritage two years ago, this would be a good example. This is a band who can write 70s influenced prog, while still maintaining cohesive and interesting songs that are fun to listen to and simultaneously intellectually stimulating. Shrine of New Generation Slaves shows that Riverside hasn’t lost a step talentwise while wandering into their fifth album, even if they have dialed back the heaviness. This record is a pretty good way to start out the new year and might well be a grower. It comes highly recommended from this Angry Metal Guy.