It would be fair to say that Shrine of New Generation Slaves
is the “return to roots” album of Riverside’s discography. After Second Life Syndrome
the band had been pushing a heavier direction with each album, and this unfortunately produced rather hit and miss results. They never made any serious missteps and both follow-up albums were still enjoyable, but the decline in quality was evident due to the downplaying of the melancholic atmosphere that made the band so great in the first place in favor of a more up-tempo and aggressive sound.
With Shrine of New Generation Slaves
, Riverside has returned to what they do best. The band’s heavier moments were always the strongest when they were a compliment to the immersive atmosphere rather than on ADHD
where they were the focus, and thankfully they’ve returned to the former style of songwriting here. The melancholy has returned in full force on The Depth of Self-Delusion
, and they’re two of the strongest tracks of the band’s career. Both tracks are reminiscent of Opeth’s Damnation
in the best possible way, with Duda’s vocals at their all-time best as he delivers memorable, haunting melodies alongside active basslines and melodic riffs. Deprived
shows that the band’s chemistry is as strong as ever, with a well-played instrumental interlude that builds to a striking saxophone solo.
The up-tempo tracks can’t match these tracks in terms of composition but they provide a great compliment to the serious, subdued nature of the ballads. Feel Like Falling
and Celebrity Touch
show the band finding the right balance between rocking out and maintaining the atmosphere. Although the latter has received mixed reaction since its release as the lead single, its punchy riffs and overall catchier sound are still effective, particularly in context to the rest of the album.
The key difference between Shrine of New Generation Slaves
and the band’s previous work is that there’s more emphasis on the melodies this time around. While the instrumentation is as great as ever (particularly the guitar/bass interplay), the driving force of the album is Duda’s vocals, with less emphasis on lengthy instrumental sections. The only moment where the band ventures into progressive metal occurs part-way into Escalator Shrine
, the album’s epic. Although the 13-minute centerpiece isn’t as immediate as most of the band’s previous epics due to its more understated second half, it ultimately reveals itself to be another strong composition, with engaging riffs, effective transitions, and well-thought-out melodies. It transitions seamlessly into Coda
, a short but brilliant acoustic reprise of Feel Like Falling
that concludes the album.
While Shrine of New Generation Slaves
may not be Riverside’s most ambitious album musically, the maturation of their sound and varied and engaging songwriting make it a success. They managed to hold onto the elements of their sound that made them stand out in the first place while still adding a few new tricks that reassure listeners that they won’t remain stagnant. The band may not ever put out another Second Life Syndrome
, but this album shows that they still have the goods to deliver quality progressive rock for years to come.