Review Summary: Riverside's 2004 debut automatically positions them as one of the most interesting, enjoyable prog rock bands in the world.
Though I have only just recently discovered them myself, and I might not have spent enough time with their music to make a true, lasting judgement, I've already come to see Riverside as a mighty fine band; perhaps, one of the best in the world right now. Perhaps this view is helped by the fact that they share a name with Middlesbrough's football stadium, but there are about a dozen concrete reasons to love this band. They're very able songwriters, and everybody in the band is clearly very talented at what they do - both vital for making progressive rock that doesn't disappear up its own backside, or bore everyone to death.
In fact, quite the opposite is true for Riverside. Their music is powerful in a subtle kind of way, their sound is brought together from disparate influences (the usual suspects like Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree are most obvious, but there's slight elements of metal, arena rock, grunge, and even dub) yet remains stunningly coherent, their compositions are gripping, and the band are unique without being smug about it. In other words, this could well be the prog band you've been looking for all your life.
It's the guitarist that stands out for me, though. I've long held the impression that David Gilmour is one of the greatest guitarists ever, maybe evn the best, simply because nobody can play the things he does as well as he can. His tone, vibrato, dynamics, mode choice, everything, is perfect, and nobody's ever replicated the things he's done. Riverside make me challenge that statement, because this and Second Life Syndrome
are, without a doubt, the best Gilmour impressions I have ever heard. And far from being intended as a swipe at Piotr Grudzinski's lack of originality (which would be an idiotic claim anyway), it's very much intended as a compliment of the highest order.
Perhaps, the album's biggest delights are saved for the last 3 tracks. The soaring melody in "In Two Minds" is beautiful, and naggingly reminiscent of several other songs without feeling derivative. "The Curtain Falls" has some fantastic, inventive bass work, and a beautiful extended instrumental outro where Grudzinski gets to show off just how much emotion he can squeeze out of a few simple notes. The closer, "OK", is a resigned, yet defiant, ballad, that simultaneously sounds like it could have slotted very nicely onto The Wall
, and yet manages to be idiosyncractic enough to not really sound that much like Pink Floyd at all.
This stands alongside Opeth's Damnation
and Dredg's El cielo
as the best prog rock release of the new millenium. The follow-up, Second Life Syndrome
, is very nearly its equal, the only real differences being slightly less interesting songs and a more assured vocal performance from Mariusz. If they sustain this level of quality, Riverside could go on to become on the biggest cult bands in the world if they sustain this level of quality. They might even make Poland fashionable. Imagine that.