Album: Love, Fear and the Time Machine
Label: InsideOut Music
I discovered Riverside two years ago, and the Poles’ atmospheric prog struck a chord with me immediately. I find myself gravitating towards the band’s first two albums, which are the perfect blend of bands like Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree, although the heavier style of Anno Domini High Definition (2009) is very appealing as well. The retro-sounding Shrine of New Generation Slaves (2013) has its moments, but as a whole it’s not on par with the aforementioned releases.
That brings us to the sixth Riverside album, Love, Fear and the Time Machine. Frontman Mariusz Duda has stated that the band aimed to combine the 70s and the 80s on this record, and that the new material is brighter than before. The 80s influence is the most obvious on the lead single “Discard Your Fear,” whose bass riff sounds more than a little like The Cure’s classic “Fascination Street.” The album gets optimistic towards the end, but there’s also plenty of traditional Riverside melancholy on it.
Have a listen on Spotify:
The gentle yet rocking “Under the Pillow” is the highlight with its infectious melodies. Other standouts include the intricate “Saturate Me,” which reminds me of Dream Theater’s “Erotomania” in its first half, and the gorgeous semi-acoustic ballad “Time Travellers.” The album is fairly consistent, though, and the only real miss is the somewhat forgettable “Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire.”
As the album title implies, the lyrics deal with human relationships, personal emotions, and nostalgia. Songs like “#Addicted” (yes, there’s a hashtag in the title) continue the musings on modern world that started on the previous two albums. The lyrics and music complement each other well, especially on “Towards the Blue Horizon,” which starts out as a major key childhood recollection, gets heavier, and concludes with yearning for the good old times.
Mariusz Duda is the undeniable star of the album – many of the songs have strong basslines, and the shorter song structures allow his voice to shine more than before. The aggressive shouted vocals have disappeared completely, but Duda uses his range more widely than ever, even singing in falsetto on a couple of tunes. However, the rest of the band can’t be ignored: Piotr Kozieradzki provides a solid backbone with his drumming, Michał Łapaj’s keyboard sounds – especially the organ – and playing retain the 70s spirit in the band’s music, and guitarist Piotr Grudziński’s elegant solos and smooth arpeggios are a vital part of the album’s atmosphere.
“Discard Your Fear” music video:
Love, Fear and the Time Machine is a beautiful rollercoaster of emotions and a step forward for Riverside, while maintaining the band’s identity. It may not satisfy the appetite of those craving a return to the aggression of Anno Domini High Definition, but it feels like at last Riverside has managed to create a recognizable and unique sound of its own. The band’s influences are still audible, but Riverside alone can put them together in such a distinct way. The songs are shorter than before, but neither predictable nor formulaic; instead, the material comes across as focused and coherent. Time will show how well Love, Fear and the Time Machine can hold up compared to the rest of Riverside’s works, but I have a strong feeling that I won’t need a time machine to know that it will earn a spot in my personal top 3 of the band’s albums.
Rating: 8/10, 4 stars
1. Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened by a Hat?)
2. Under the Pillow
4. Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire
5. Saturate Me
7. Discard Your Fear
8. Towards the Blue Horizon
9. Time Travellers
10. Found (The Unexpected Flaw of Searching)