Shrine Of New Generation Slaves (Limited Edition)
Inside Out Music/Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia
Long running Polish (Warsaw based) progressive rock/metal act Riverside has always been a hard act to follow at the best of times, with each and every one of their releases showcasing a change in direction from the band. While on the one hand it keeps things interesting for both the band and their fan-base, it has also meant that the band’s output over their decade long career to date has been somewhat hit and miss.
A perfect example of the band’s willingness to try their hand at something different could be found on their last full-length release ‘Anno Domini High Definition’ (2009), which was by far the heaviest and most metallic sounding album to date. While the album drew plenty of praise, it also left some feeling that the band had strayed too far from the sound they established themselves on with their first couple of albums (2003’s ‘Out Of Myself’ and 2005’s ‘Second Life Syndrome’).
It’s been a couple of years since we last heard from Riverside (In 2010, the band released their live D.V.D. ‘Reality Dream’, and in 2011 they released the ‘Memories In My Head’ E.P. and the mammoth ‘Reality Dream Trilogy’ boxed set), but after a short hiatus, they’re back with their fifth full-length effort ‘Shrine Of New Generation Slaves’ (Which is otherwise known as ‘SONGS’).
The four piece outfit (Who comprise of vocalist/bassist/acoustic guitarist Mariusz Duda, guitarist Piotr Grudziński, keyboardist Michał Łapaj and drummer Piotr ‘Mittloff’ Kozieradzki) open up the album with ‘New Generation Slave’, which in all honesty took me a while to truly appreciate. The rather long and disjointed intro to the song does take a while to really go anywhere, but when the band eventually do get the song moving (About two minutes in), there’s plenty of dynamics, heaviness and progressive elements to keep fans of their last album pleased to no end.
In a complete turnaround, the follow-up track ‘The Depth Of Self-Delusion’ is a far more introspective and semi-acoustic based effort that boasts a mix of heavier elements and melancholy moods, an outstanding performance from Duda. Again, it took a while for this song to grow on me, but after repeat listens, Duda’s subtle melodies and Grudziński understated guitar work really do work their way to the surface in a major way.
The single ‘Celebrity Touch’ (Which was released at the tail end of 2012) is by far the most direct and straightforward sounding track that combines the heavier sound of their last album with the atmospherics of their formative releases. Grudziński’s killer riffs are given a bit more grunt with the addition of Łapaj’s thick Hammond tones, which gives the song a bit of a classic rock vibe. But there’s definitely a bit more to the song than just classic rock influences, with Duda managing to incorporate some very Steven Wilson-like tranquil atmospherics into the structures, which completely transforms the song into something else.
The piano based ‘We Got Used To Us’ is a personal favourite with Duda’s heartfelt and emotive vocal performance one of his most mesmerising and memorable, while the guitar/Hammond organ driven ‘Feel Like Falling’ is another firm favourite with its complex mix of varied time changes, guitar effects and strong melodic passages.
‘Deprived (Irretrievably Lost Imagination)’ is another moody and contemplative ballad-like effort that sees the band focuses on creating a mood and atmosphere in support of Duda’s vocals, rather than work alongside. The tail end of the track does see the band stretch out a little more on the progressive rock side of things (In a very Tool-like manner in places with the heavy bass presence), but essentially retains a very melancholy feel for most of the time.
Clocking in at just less than thirteen minutes, there’s no denying that ‘Escalator Shrine’ is the centrepiece of the album, and the one track that most fans will be drawn to. And rightfully so too, as the track seamlessly combines a touch of the blues, classic rock and progressive rock into one huge melting pot, with the end result sounding something like the sort of material Riverside have come to be defined by. Although far from immediate (Although its more structured and thought out than most of what was offered on ‘Anno Domini High Definition’), the song does seep its way into your mind with its strong melody structures and subtle instrumentation, and therefore stands out in its own unique way.
Finishing up the album is the rather short ‘Coda’, which is essentially an acoustic reprisal of ‘Feel Like Falling’. This brief but beautiful rendition is an absolute stunner. It’s a shame that the whole song wasn’t included on here.
As stated at the top, this is a review for the limited edition version of ‘Shrine Of New Generation Slaves’, which boasts a second disc containing two additional tracks – namely ‘Night Session Part One’ and ‘Night Session Part Two’.
Stylistically, the two tracks are very different from ‘Shrine Of New Generation Slaves’, with the two mostly instrumental sessions (Which combined run for just over twenty-two minutes) sounding more akin to Duda’s side project Lunatic Soul. In other works, they dwell more in ambient/jazz/electronic/progressive territory, with comparisons to Radiohead and Steven Wilson coming to mind. Although both tracks don’t enhance ‘Shrine Of New Generation Slaves’ itself, their inclusion as a bonus disc is pretty cool.
Overall, while it took me some time to fully appreciate ‘Shrine Of New Generation Slaves’, Riverside’s latest release does stand as every bit as worthy as their former releases. All up, this album is highly recommended to fans of the Polish outfit.
For more information on Riverside, check out - http://www.riversideband.pl/en/
© Justin Donnelly