Riverside - Wasteland

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Inside Out Music
Produced by Magda Srzednicka, Robert Srzednicki, & Mariusz Duda

Nearly three years since the last studio album proper, Polish progressive rockers Riverside return for the first time since front-man Mariusz Duda announced they would continue as a three-piece with guests, after the tragic and untimely death of founding guitarist Piotr Grudzinski.

The album is a concept piece, based on the idea of surviving in a world after the apocalypse, surviving in the face of tragedy, and moving on, remembering those loved and lost, and building for a new future. As is to be expected, it's quite reflective and sad sounding at times, yet still has moments of light and hope. The melodies are strong throughout and when they do let loose and heavy up, the riffs are powerful and well placed.

The initial stand-out feel of the album is how melodious it sounds, and how haunting the vocals are. The quieter bits seemed more reflective and beautiful than normal, and perhaps because of this, the heavier parts seem to have even more impact. The album is top and tailed by two songs that focus on plaintive vocals, emphasising that feel on both the way in, and the way out. Opener The Day After has very little instrumentation at all apart from sound effects and violin, which only comes in at the end. It is like a lament ("a passionate expression of grief or sorrow"); a beautiful opener. Ending song The Night Before has piano running through it and vocally takes a leaf from Pink Floyd, almost whispered, yet urgent at the same time. It feels like a final farewell, whether to the lost or to the situation of sadness. Whichever, it is extremely graceful.

Between those bookends are seven other songs full of mood and elegance. There are one or two influences, or at least hints of artists that are maybe new to Riverside's music, like the small touch of Pearl Jam's Black in Lament, with a little mid-to-late era Fish in the vocal style. The Struggle For Survival, the longest track, is (in the main) an instrumental and has a touch of The Main Monkey Business by Rush in the way it has a motif that keeps floating in and out and sounds slightly bizarre and playful yet has plenty of kick, and a bass line that could be used in a spy or thriller movie soundtrack. It is a very inventive and well-constructed piece of music and live should be an absolute blast to hear (and no doubt play).

Other highlights include Acid Rain, with its heavy opening riff which is taken over by a rather ominous sounding counter melody, and Morse code-like tapping before the main guitar solo, which is sparse, with “woah” vocals underneath it. The title track starts acoustic until about a third of the way through, when the riff kicks in like a mule surrounded by drum rolls and fills. About another third of the way through it becomes quite Celtic-sounding. That is under pinned by a very hypnotic series of beats. Wasteland is one of those songs that slowly draws in, and each time sounds even better and more captivating.

A couple of years ago Duda remarked "the new chapter starts this year" referring to the future. Many were not sure if there would be one or whether they could continue without their friend and colleague. Their last studio album (not including the stop gap “Eye Of The Soundscape”) was their biggest seller outside of their home land in Poland, and showed that they were in the ascendancy, with a real chance of making it to a bigger and better level. The wonderful news is that they have triumphed in the face of adversity and made an album to be proud of. The first chapter is terrific and gives hope for the rest of their story.

Tracklist: The Day After / Acid Rain / Vale of Tears / Guardian Angel / Lament / The Struggle For Survival / River Down Below / Wasteland / The Night Before

Written by Tom Cornell
More: 2018, Albums, Progressive,

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