Review Summary: Riverside’s magnum opus and a truly outstanding piece of modern prog.Out of Myself
was a fantastic debut album for Riverside. Despite often wearing their influences on their sleeve, the band managed to create a unique piece of work that managed to combine impressive musicianship with a melancholic atmosphere, topped off by the emotive vocals of Mariusz Duda. After such a beautiful and surprisingly mature debut for such a young band, their sophomore effort had a lot to live up to. Second Life Syndrome
not only lives up to its predecessor, but surpasses it. It’s heavier, more epic, and more ambitious, and yet it still retains the atmosphere that was so pivotal in the debut.
Second Life Syndrome
is extremely consistent, but where it shines the most is in the epics. Volte-Face
is a perfect introduction to the new epic rock sound that Riverside sought after on this album, with massive riffs, engaging vocals from Duda, and the band’s signature melodic guitar solos. Even with all of this, it’s far from the best track on the album. That honor goes to the title track, which is the best song Riverside will ever do, and a song that deserves to be called of one of the best prog epics of all time, even though it will probably never get anywhere near that level of recognition. Despite its running time of nearly 16 minutes, it never drags or feels like a filler passage has been added; it’s cohesive and each section is well-developed. This is where Riverside’s band chemistry was at its absolute best, as sections of technical guitar and bass riffing mix with beautiful melodic sections, all leading up to the outro which contains the most brilliant guitarwork in the band’s discography. Dance with the Shadow
is not far behind this track in quality either, and while the musicianship is once again superb, this epic is made complete by Duda’s vocals, whose delivery perfectly complements the darker atmosphere.
Although the biggest appeal to most prog fans will be that trio of epics, the shorter tracks are just as impressive. Conceiving You
, the album’s sole ballad, is driven by emotional vocals and gorgeous guitar leads. Elsewhere the band demonstrates great use of dynamics with the melancholic I Turned You Down
and the post-rock inspired closer Before
. Instrumental Reality Dream III
shows a marked improvement over the first two installments on Out of Myself
and is an epic guitar and keyboard-driven rock track that is just as engaging as Riverside’s vocal-driven pieces. After
and Artificial Smile
are both solid tracks but are easily the weak points of Second Life Syndrome
. The former is a pleasant-sounding intro piece that is much less interesting than everything that follows, and the latter is simply a great but straightforward hard rock song that pales in comparison to the atmosphere of the rest of the album.
While Riverside’s career has generally been an impressive one, this is where the band reached their peak. Although their next two releases were still very good, they would unfortunately not live up to the standard that they set on Second Life Syndrome
. Here the band displays great technical ability but never to the point of indulgence in pointless soloing or meandering riff sections. The focus is on memorable musical passages and this is achieved throughout the album. With Second Life Syndrome
, Riverside made a convincing case for why their name should be included with the other greats of progressive rock.