Review Summary: Where quality and interest part ways
Riverside had ideas for this album; that much is clear from a glance at the song names (and album name), which immediately suggests a common theme (disillusion with the modern lifestyle and an attack on how civilisation has become vapid and purposeless). On first listen, it’s clear that they knew how they wanted to communicate those ideas musically; the album is well-structured, cohesive and consistent. There is a lot here that typically ticks all the boxes for me when I listen through a new album; variety, ambition, excellent vocals and skilled songwriting. However, at the end of Shrine of New Generation Slaves
, I can’t help but feel like something’s missing. Thinking back over it, there are no obvious major faults – the lyrics could have been better, but their delivery was easily convincing enough for me to overlook that – but it nevertheless feels underwhelming. And then it hit me; despite the quality of the album, it simply isn’t interesting enough to leave a lasting impression.
This might seem like a very harsh statement, and slightly nonsensical given the praise I’ve already given the album, but when considered carefully it makes perfect sense; at its worst, the album almost falls flat – the whimsical regret of We Got Used To Us
, the power and energy of Feel Like Falling
and the epic introduction of New Generation Slave
are all executed well, but somehow avoid being engaging at all – and at its best it creates a captivating art-rock-inspired atmosphere that entrances the listener while he/she is actually listening, but fails to leave much of an impression after listening (The Depth of Self-Delusion
and Escalator Shrine
are prime examples). The exceptions to this are the single Celebrity Touch
, which contains a monster riff that acts as the album’s single hook and maintains an upbeat feel throughout that is enhanced by varied dynamics, and Deprived (Irretrievably Lost Imagiation)
, which features an intriguingly mysterious vibe that is maintained throughout, a fascinating bridge, and excellent saxophone solo that allow the song’s atmosphere to linger with the listener after it ends.
Although it has a definite lack of memorable features, there is some good that can be said of Shrine of New Generation Slaves
. As I mentioned before, vocalist Mariusz Duda is solid throughout, contributing a performance that avoids the emotionless dreadfulness that seems to permeate so much of modern prog. The musicianship is solid as well on all fronts, with tasteful solos and effective melodies in display throughout the album, and a frequent use of the Hammond Organ, which adds a vintage vibe to the album. Finally, the band’s songwriting abilities are excellent; their ideas are all structured and presented very well and each song feels like it runs its course naturally. Although none of these factors are enough to make the album particularly interesting, they do make it enjoyable while being listened to.
So, for an album that has virtually no replay value and seems to delete itself from the listener’s memory as soon as it finishes, Shrine of New Generation Slaves
is pretty damn good. If you’re looking for an album that will stay with you for a while, look somewhere else, but if you want a take on modern prog that has its roots firmly in the past (outside of Wilson and Akerfeldt’s shameless 70s tributes), then you may well find this rewarding.
2. Celebrity Touch
3. Escalator Shrine
4. The Depth of Self-Delusion
5. We Got Used to Us