Anno Domini High Definition



by jybt USER (24 Reviews)
July 15th, 2011 | 15 replies

Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The best album ever to come out of Poland. A complete masterwork of modern progressive metal, with just about every aspect of a musical recording about as close to perfection as it gets.

The album artwork for Polish progressive band Riverside’s fourth album Anno Domini High Definition is instantly enveloping: an upper-class man in the finest couture stands in the middle of a post-modern metropolis, lost and out of breath in the turbocharged maze of modern society. When the entire booklet is folded out, the visual experience is larger than life, and Riverside’s well-stocked website that (once) had its art as the default skin is a prime place to spend time. Like the narcoleptic allure of technology and the information age, Anno Domini High Definition is instantly captivating from its opening piano notes to hazy noise conclusion and simply defines modern progressive music.

ADHD is a more progressive and much heavier release than the band’s first three releases, which were generally dark prog-rock with metal influences; the three albums were linked together conceptually and detailed the journey of a man through many changes in mental state of mind. I first heard Riverside in their new form, and because of this conceptual linkage I knew the trilogy belonged together (which they do); however, their consequent long playing time of almost three hours meant I only rotated Anno Domini High Definition for a long period of time, which has still not revealed everything about it. This album is the beginning of a new journey down different roads, demanding different sounds, each of which succeeds mightily.

Keyboardist Michał Łapaj has a much stronger creative role, exploring huge soundscapes and prominent background and lead organs; though his style is strongly reminiscent of ‘60s and ‘70s rock including Deep Purple, it is also played in a distinctly modern manner, which sounds fresh and relevant in the context of the CD. Łapaj has a sense of rhythmic interplay with the rest of Riverside despite playing instruments that don’t usually take a rhythmic role, and the equally creative rhythm section creates often world-beating results. The bass and drum intro of Driven to Destruction features each instrument joining in turn, with the articulate and very audible bass carrying the first two minutes and dueling comfortably with the drums until its owner Mariusz Duda also begins to sing. Piotr Kozieradzki clearly has plenty of muscle and power but knows exactly where and how to use it, as a form of energy rather than aggression, and has comfortably worked into this band so well that his death metal origins seem illogical; this is definitely his most accomplished drum performance to date.

Guitars by Piotr Grudziński are turned up slightly, but he will explain in interviews that "melody, atmosphere, space, some kind of mystery" in metal means more to him than heaviness; even when the distortion is turned up, there’s always a distinct mood and feeling to his playing that fits both the other musicians and the music as a whole. Unisons between guitar riffs and organ phrases, traded with a capella verses (Hyperactive), distortion fading into piano breaks (Driven to Destruction), and palm muting and theremin on the incredible Egoist Hedonist display this philosophy, that heaviness can be an emotion and a way of feeling. Everything on the album works towards this idea in some way or another, musically and conceptually. Anno Domini High Definition is a theme album about modern life and society, described by Duda as "liquid modernity, life in a constant hurry, stress and anxiety about the future. A picture of our times in 1920 x 1080 definition." The album title implies that humankind has found spiritual fulfillment and salvation in such a life, which is a strong philosophical and sociological statement, yet rarely has any concept been executed this convincingly. Riverside’s increased emphasis on keyboards surrounds the protagonist with electronic effects, as he is introduced living "just another day of my life / in the high-res next-gen wonderland." Moments of calm introduce the first vocals of track two, Driven to Destruction, as he searches to find fulfillment, and duel against impatient, slamming riffs and a few shouts, not quite growling but nevertheless powerful.

As the track times increase, the equation complicates further. Track three Egoist Hedonist features rousing, chugging guitars and classic rock vocal phrasings leading into a swing brass interlude with a funky guitar figure underneath (!), signaling the start of the "hedonist party;" as the protagonist is warmly invited to join the masses, the instrumental third movement incorporates Riverside’s frequent experiments with exotic Eastern melodies into a dance-like groove, finally culminating in another brief wall of hypnotic low-end riffs. If nothing else, this is among the absolutely mandatory works of progressive metal. Immediately, track four Left Out establishes the melancholy, wistful mood the Polish quartet had made a cornerstone of their work, as if the main character has come to his senses the morning after. Duda’s vocals are spectral, almost whispery, portraying the outcast his character has become; as the music picks up at two minutes in, Grudziński shows why he is known so well for his lead guitar abilities, as few have made the six strings so expressive. This musical theme is scattered somewhat through the next four minutes until the vocals disappear; the remaining four minutes are all instrumental, orchestrating a dramatic mood change into one determined to rise above the world that imprisoned him.

The closer Hybrid Times is the longest track on the album and easily Riverside’s heaviest song to date. A seductive piano intro is the call from society's representative to embrace "hi-tech salvation," yet M. Duda will not let him win easily. Slicing, agile riffs, pounding drum beats from Kozieradzki and vicious growls by Duda combat against vibrating Hammond organs, and the battle continues to gain energy, abruptly shifting between two different metric figures, until an equally abrupt shift at 5:49 that brings the album to its lyrical climax. For through the endless struggle for perfection, "doggedly at any cost," the main character has in fact surrendered and lost the battle for his own individuality. Exchanges between melodic lead guitars and electronic keyboards lead to a spectacularly unhinged climax: Łapaj sends his keyboards whistling out of control while Kozieradzki ruthlessly bashes the skins, ending with a blast beat and then dropping out completely, leaving Łapaj’s whines and bleeps to reverberate into the distance. Attempting to play this section on drums will leave average drummers breathless, sagging from hyperextension, as the music fades over the remaining minutes into white noise, processed drumming and wordless singing.

All of this happens in less than 45 minutes. Riverside’s goal in making a five-track album that was by far their shortest full-length was to make something more cohesive, to the point and energetic, moving bravely forward as a band; the reason its success is so powerful is that their evolution has only increased their originality, musicianship, songwriting and progressive spirit. I struggle to find a flaw with this release and can only accede that the kick drum is too quiet, lacking the solidity it had on 2007’s Rapid Eye Movement; the production quality is otherwise flawless, with the bass quite high in the mix, the snare and other toms quite punchy, the most au naturel organ sound going, every subtlety of the expressive vocals audible and Grudziński’s melodic and heavy guitar styles produced to maximize the impact of his phrasing skill. ADHD is, to put it very simply, a portrait of a band at its absolute peak of performance. It is among my favorite albums ever recorded and my number one release of 2009, among the best years in prog metal history, with no question whatsoever; I am wholly confident it will remain there for an exceedingly long time. Fresh, modern and 100% relevant on all accounts, this album is progressive music in its purest form.

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user ratings (404)
other reviews of this album
Iai EMERITUS (2.5)
A disappointing effort from the best prog rock act in Poland....

OmairSh (5)
Powerful and aggressive, but not without retaining signature Riverside elements. The true definition...

Comments:Add a Comment 
July 15th 2011


Album rules but you prefer this over Riverside's other albums? That's interesting.

Digging: Beastmilk - Climax

July 15th 2011


Album Rating: 5.0

Second Life Syndrome is my favorite trilogy album, then Out of Myself (rather immature in comparison, Jacek isn't as good as Michal on keyboards) and then Rapid Eye Movement (third by a small notch). I started Riverside with this album and every second of it is awesome; when I can remember exactly how it goes and I still love it, an album is something REALLY special. That's what ADHD is to me, and I hope it inspires some viewers to give it a second look.

July 15th 2011


Well said, this album definitely deserves to be in the same rank as their other albums.

Staff Reviewer
July 15th 2011


Album Rating: 3.0

Second Life Syndrome is better than this.

But that's just me.

Digging: Fleurety - The White Death

July 15th 2011


Album Rating: 3.5

Hahaha no.

July 15th 2011


I like this band but always had trouble really getting into them. So you inspired me to try again. Way to go. Cool review

July 15th 2011


Album Rating: 3.0

I think this is their worst album

there are some good atmospheres, but the ideas are stretched and few

second life syndrome was superior in any aspect

July 16th 2011


Album Rating: 4.0

Very good review.

But in my opinion the first three albums are a little bit better than ADHD.

Still a great album, of course... Left Out is something unbeliavable.

July 25th 2011


Album Rating: 4.5

Yet another fantastic review, further cementing your place as one of the best on the site! Really captured the spirit of the music, I believe. And Egoist Hedonist is such an amazing song. The entire album absolutely kicks unholy amounts of ass, but that song is just...beyond my abilities to describe, so I guess you are definitely a more capable reviewer of this album than I.

January 9th 2012


Album Rating: 4.0

Very detailed review of an exceptional album. Great job, but i still think i like their earlier albums a bit more.

October 11th 2012


Album Rating: 5.0

It's funny how I've just read the 'other 5' review now. But brilliant review! Your transitions and

detail match those of the album :D. How does this only have 2 POS's? Adding a 3rd. Monster album, new

one coming next year! :D

February 13th 2013


Album Rating: 5.0

What a monstrous album, really under appreciated here.

March 16th 2013


Album Rating: 5.0

"ADHD is, to put it very simply, a portrait of a band at its absolute peak of performance. It is among my favorite albums ever recorded and my number one release of 2009, among the best years in prog metal history, with no question whatsoever; I am wholly confident it will remain there for an exceedingly long time. Fresh, modern and 100% relevant on all accounts, this album is progressive music in its purest form."

March 16th 2013


Album Rating: 4.5

This album took some time to grow on me. I bought it, Rapid Eye Movement and Second Life Syndrome at the same time. At first ADHD was the album that I liked the least from those three. But now I would say that it is their best. I love the beginning of the first song. It is so amazing.

Digging: Jolly - The Audio Guide to Happiness (Part 1)

March 16th 2013


Album Rating: 5.0

Definitely their best and most cohesive album imo. Yeah when I first heard the intro I was intrigued, the quality of the production was immediate. This album still hasn't grown off after so many listens.

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