Riverside
Anno Domini High Definition


2.5
average

Review

by Nick Butler EMERITUS
June 20th, 2009 | 216 replies


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A disappointing effort from the best prog rock act in Poland.

Given that we recently elected a couple of neo-Nazis to the European parliament, I should probably go easy on the immigrant jokes, but never mind; Riverside are the best thing to come from Poland since corner shops that sell imported Cheetos. Even in a genre and scene where there's not really a shortage of good bands, they stand out a mile for their talent and ambition, and you can only respect the fact that they already have three great albums under their belt. Four, if you include the singer's solo album last year, under the name Lunatic Soul.

And yet, there's been a slight hint of regression about the band's career to this point. Having started in prog rock territory, the band moved toward metal on their third record (2007's Rapid Eye Movement), and over the course of the transition, lost a few things - complexity, uniqueness, subtlety, even confidence. These are all things you'd expect a band to gain as they get older, but they'd taken a small step backwards. Still, Rapid Eye Movement was a very good album all the same, and the fans seemed willing to write off the flaws as growing pains.

Sadly, Anno Domini High Definition suffers from the same problems on a much deeper level, and worse still, it brings one major, unexpected new problem to the table. Somehow, on their fourth album, their grasp of the English language has got worse.

This defies all logic. Riverside have been recording music in their second language for 8 years now, and have never had any problems with writing interesting, intelligible lyrics before. Why would they suddenly start to have problems now? Lord knows, but that's what's happened. As "Hyperactive" bursts into life following a short piano intro, the vocals appear in stop-time, leaving you nothing to focus on but the awful, awful lyricism. The high res next gen wonderland? I hope my sell-by date didn’t expire yesterday? Sung in that falsetto? Yikes. Perhaps it's simply the case that the band are trying too hard, but either way, it clangs like you wouldn't believe - I felt myself visibly cringe listening to it. Luckily, the lyrics do improve later on, but that opening track does throw one fact into sharp relief - each Riverside album before this had better lyrics.

It's thus left to the music to carry the album, which for the most part, it does - but again, the signs of regression appear. Like Rapid Eye Movement, this represents a step down from the album before it in terms of maturity, something that the new sounds they introduce don't help. In fact, some of those new sounds are likely to alienate their fanbase - one particular section in the middle of "Egoist Hedonist" is likely to send some people running for the hills, screaming meaningless phrases like 'sell-out' and 'nu-metal'. There's Draiman-esque vocal spits and scratches, a brass section that could have been lifted from Streetlight Manifesto, and a nimble, funky guitar riff underneath it - for all the world, this section could have been lifted from Fungus Amongus.

Keyboards also find their prominence on Anno Domini High Definition, much more so than on any other Riverside album. Album standout "Left Out" displays this throughout its instrumental second half, as does "Egoist Hedonist", by occasionally sounding like Faithless when it's not sounding like Incubus. It's tempting to criticize the band for using the presets on Reason (which they do at least twice), but the keys, and the way the band blend them with their always-excellent lead guitar playing, is the most interesting thing about this album, and the only area where the band have kicked on and progressed. Some of the organ sounds move the band into Deep Purple territory, which is a prospect much more likely to appeal than Disturbed.

Anno Domini is far from a bad album, and their fans can take encouragement from the fact that the flaws on this record are easy ones to fix. It's similarly encouraging that with their new-found affection for keyboards, the band seems to have found a new sound to exploit in future. Riverside probably need one more great album to move beyond the comparisons to Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree that have dogged them throughout their career, and there's no reason to think that their next outing won't be the one that cements them as their own band. This, however, is a slight disappointment from a band who, at one point, seemed destined to become one of the best in the world. They still might, but they'll need to put songs like "Hyperactive" behind them, and soon.



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user ratings (296)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
OmairSh (5)
Powerful and aggressive, but not without retaining signature Riverside elements. The true definition...

jybt (5)
The best album ever to come out of Poland. A complete masterwork of modern progressive metal, with j...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Iai
Emeritus
June 20th 2009


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

One thing I wanted to mention but couldn't wedge into the review well enough - if you're going to write a concept album about modern life and everybody's impatience with it, then naming your album ADHD is a very nice touch.

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
June 20th 2009


8387 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

great review. This album is ok, but it lacks any kind of charm to it. I find nothing all that special on this album to come back to

lauriej
June 20th 2009


1712 Comments


Given that we recently elected a couple of neo-Nazis to the European parliament

hah, nice one. good review, too lazy to check this out.

jingledeath
June 20th 2009


7104 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

oh damn it, I liked this album a lot but great review

Mendigo
June 20th 2009


2299 Comments


only listened to it two times so far and haven't heard any other Riverside albums except for Second Life Syndrome. But I think it's some very nice stuff. didn't focus on lyrics and concept at all though.

Riverside probably one more great album to move beyond the comparisons to Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree that have dogged them throughout their career

is there a "need" or something missing or is it just me?


fireaboveicebelow
June 20th 2009


6837 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

review is how I feel basically, except I've never liked a whole album by this band

Willie
Moderator
June 20th 2009


16117 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

I really like this album, but I haven't heard anything by them that I haven't liked yet. Needless to say, great review.

Digging: Kenn Nardi - Dancing With the Past

Altmer
June 20th 2009


5652 Comments


sucks, the album I have by them (second life syndrome) rules, think i'm gonna stick with the back catalogue for now

Yazz_Flute
June 20th 2009


18847 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Caught between a 3.5 and a 4 first listen. I agree about that stop-time vocal delivery in the first track being awful, but the other 4 songs are much better. Only other album from these guys I own is Out of Myself, which is fantastic. I need to get their other two.

Digging: Kenn Nardi - Dancing With the Past

Riverpeth
June 20th 2009


146 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I don't really think that this album deserved a 2.5 by any means, but I do have to agree that this is not as good as their previous efforts. In particular, I feel that the album is missing some key element which links all the songs together as a whole, it doesnt feel as much as an album as it does a collection of songs. Some of the songs do tend to go a little too long and I would've liked to see more variety, but all in all, I still think this is a great/excellent album.

Mendigo
June 20th 2009


2299 Comments


tbh, for me it felt at least as much as an "album" in the sense of linked songs as Second Life Syndrome if not more.

Iai
Emeritus
June 20th 2009


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

is there a "need" or something missing or is it just me?

It's not just you. I'll edit now.

Riverpeth
June 20th 2009


146 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I understand what you mean, hmm its hard to explain really. I just find that the album doenst flow due to the fact that it sounds to samey. Like I mean it just sounds like a collection of songs where most sound the same at some point or another, no real hook or variation to keep the listener wanting to listen to the whole album as a whole.

Nagrarok
June 21st 2009


8292 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Damn, I was looking forward to this.

BallsToTheWall
June 21st 2009


44789 Comments


Great review. Still going to acquire this, The 2.5 doesnt concern me.

Digging: Pink Turns Blue - If Two Worlds Kiss

jrowa001
June 21st 2009


8750 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

album is pretty good. at first i liked a lot but after a few listens i realize their first two album are still better than this one. this one is better than rapid eye movement though

Yazz_Flute
June 21st 2009


18847 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Liked this more with the second listen.

I like the Fungus Amongus namedrop btw, old Incubus is the best.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
June 21st 2009


17941 Comments


Somehow, on their fourth album, their grasp of the English language has got worse.



is this a joke idk

Riverpeth
June 21st 2009


146 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

is it the "has got worse" part thats throwing you off,lol

rasputin
June 21st 2009


14555 Comments


got is the british english past participle of get, whereas it's gotten in american english



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