Review Summary: Subtle, yet substantial
When I decided to write a review about Riverside’s new album, I wondered how I would make it sound appealing so more people would give it a try. Should I say it’s an exceptional piece of work" Should I repeat the band’s statement that it is a return to the roots" Could I even claim it is the prog gem of the year, done with tremendous musicianship and production" Could I claim it saves them a seat at the top of progressive music hierarchy"
It didn’t feel right. All those words have been used before. Great, astonishing, superb, brilliant. In my previous reviews I’d search the thesaurus to find even more sophisticated, intelligent and pretentious words to write. Riverside don’t need that. Throughout their career, words like incredible, fantastic, genius have been written side by side with words like atmospheric, dim, melancholic and esoteric to describe their sound. This time, though, Riverside took a step - small one, yes, but a step nonetheless – forward. The only word suitable to describe this album is humane.
Mariusz Duda, the leading force behind Riverside, had expressed his desire to move to a more song-oriented sound, already from their previous offering, Shrine of New Generation Slaves (S.O.N.G.S – ring a bell"). His work on his parallel project, Lunatic Soul, focused more on melody and he wanted to incorporate its philosophy to Riverside, too. Thus, they trimmed the fat of lengthy solos, complex songwriting and experimental sounds, leaving only the smoothness, the warmth and the earthly core of their sound.
For an instance forget that old saying, never judge a book (or a record, for that matter)by their cover. Love, Fear and the Time Machine has an absolutely fitting cover. Soothing, relaxed and dreamlike. The band finally pours light and color in their music, leaving the troubled years of alienation, dysfunction and dark psyche behind. The music, feels more cathartic than ever. More positive, pure and clean. Feels like bathing in a brilliant white light. Thematically, the lyrics contemplate on life choices, overcoming obstacles and embracing ourselves. Darker lyrics can be found, as in Towards the Blue Horizon, about old friends that’ve been long lost, but we are sure whatever we said, was a farewell, not a goodbye.
That being said, one shouldn’t assume it’s a mellow and boring album that I praise for its simplicity. Songs are accessible but don’t reveal themselves completely on first listen. Songs like Caterpillar and the Burb Wire, Saturate Me and Towards the Blue Horizon disclose their virtues slowly, like an ambiguous painting that needs time to fully comprehend. Others, like Under the Pillow, #Addicted and Discard Your Fear, are more energetic and groovy, the band lets loose for a while and plays with rhythmic changes a bit and with the shadow of their previous identity. Finally, there are the ballads, like Afloat, Time Travelers and Found, mind-numbing tracks with deep sound and emotional vocals, that will undeniably be the perfect companion for times of relaxation.
The band works great together and prove they are not the narrow minded people most prog musicians paradoxically seem to be. Piotr Grudziński’s playing is omnipresent, adding guitar sounds when needed, in multiple forms, be it soloing, rhythm or chords, avoiding becoming excessive and tiresome with boring up-and-down-the-scale soloing. Mariusz’s bass provides a steady wall of sound with his bass, which is high in the mix, creating the bass sound that Riverside’s fans adore. One retrieves great pleasure listening to the wonderful execution of organ parts and piano playing by Michał Łapaj. It’s no secret that Riverside’s sound relies largely on him and he delivers once again. He shines on songs like Under the Pillow or the magnum opus of the album, Towards the Blue Horizon, without sacrificing harmony for speed and peculiar sounds just for the sake of it. What could have been higher in the mix and more present is Piotr Kozieradzki’s drumming. He is a skilled musician and knows when to be aggressive and when not, but it’s a constant complain by listeners that he should become more sure of himself and take the lead on various occasions, giving character to the songs.
All Riverside have to say, they demonstrate through this record. It’s simple, yet charming. Emotional, yet innocent. Old elements sewed with new attitude. That’s why this album and all the songs in it will find a place in the listener’s heart and mind. Rarely do we see a record without any filler. They are a reminder of simpler days of the past and brighter days to come in the future. This is merely a simple output created because the contract said so. It’s a loveable, fearless and timeless piece of art from the Polish band we all love.