Poland isn’t one of the biggest metal exports, but anyone who is into progressive metal should at least have a passing familiarity with Riverside. They came through Helsinki for the second time in 2009 on November 28th, and Musicalypse had to be there to see if their music was as good on stage as prog fans promised.
The show started out with a local prog metal band called Ageness, though we only arrived part-way through their set. The band certainly had some potential but, considering they were founded in ’91, I’m not sure they’ll ever meet that potential. Vocalist Tommy Eriksson looked like a blend of Geddy Lee (Rush) and Dio, and he seemed to be the “mastermind” behind the band, which was clearly his baby. It’s a shame the whole performance didn’t do more to prove itself interesting. The music wasn’t bad, per se, but got old pretty quickly. They seemed like the quintessential opening band: good but not great, appropriate music for what is coming next, but in no way going to overshadow the headliner.
I have only a passing familiarity with Riverside, as I found one of their albums on a friend’s shelf once and borrowed it – I think it was 2007’s Rapid Eye Movement. I enjoyed the album, but couldn’t say that anything much had stood out to me. So I had pretty low expectations going into the show.
That said, I was very pleased that I had decided to check it out! For starters, the music was really, really good. Even when they played the long (and by long, I’m talking 12+ minute songs), the music changed frequently enough to keep things interesting and never stagnated. Also, as is the risk with progressive music, it never once felt like the musicians were showing off. Piotr Grudziński (guitar) was sort of bouncing on the spot at all times and Michał Łapaj (keyboards) was goofing around and having fun. In particular, I really enjoyed Mariusz Duda who, reminiscent of Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth), was awesome to watch live – he had a great sense of humor, joking onstage about singing and the length of their songs, among other subjects. He had a great voice too – smooth transitions between regular and higher notes, and in general he was just fun to watch.
As for the music, there is a plethora of influence to be found in there. Obviously, there were bits of Dream Theater, as well as some of Iron Maiden’s newer stuff, a hint of Deep Purple, and even at one point a touch of The Smashing Pumpkins. The music was diverse and compelling, powerful, melodic, and mystical, as good prog metal should be. You could hear every member of the band doing their thing and enjoying it all the while – particularly when it was Łapaj’s turn to play with the theramin!
Ultimately, I had very little to complain about during this show. It took a while for the band to get the crowd into it, but after a few songs it was clear that everyone was starting to feel it and eased into rocking out and singing along. Again, it was helpful that Duda was charismatic and funny, making it easy to sing along even if you didn’t know the words. The song selection was great (even though I couldn’t name a single song) and much more diverse than the Rapid Eye Movement album alone. So if you’re into prog, these guys are undoubtedly worth checking out if you haven’t already!
1. 02 Panic Room
2. Second Life Syndrome
3. The Same River
4. In Two Minds (with The Time I Was Daydreaming outro)
6. Driven to Destruction
7. Egoist Hedonist
8. Left Out
9. Hybrid Times
10. Reality Dream II (followed by Improvised Jam)
11. Reality Dream III
12. Rapid Eye Movement