RIVERSIDE, for most of the 21st century has been Poland’s premier progressive band, starting with a middle ground somewhere in between psychedelic and atmospheric prog in the vein of PINK FLOYD or recent ANATHEMA, and modern progressive metal sounds like later PORCUPINE TREE, TOOL, or even at times DREAM THEATER. What that eventually congealed into was an incredibly distinct sound that’s stayed fairly consistent through the band’s six albums thus far. However on 2013’s Shrine of New Generation Slaves the band began to take emphasis off the metal moments, and try to find musical excellence in a more somber, restrained package. Love, Fear, and the Time Machine (out September 4 via InsideOut Music) continues on that path, and is improved in many ways, but there are still a few major issues that hold it back.
I will start, however, with the good. Mariusz Duda’s bass performance on the record is a consistently engaging experience, and is mixed high enough to be a lead instrument for many of the songs. His ethereal sounding vocals are well suited to the music, and in terms of the progressive songwriting, the band is perhaps as good as it has ever been. Piotr Kozieradzki’s drumming is another highlight, although he tends to fall off the more mellow parts of songs, which make up a pretty significant chunk of the album.
As a result, there is less ‘musicianship’ on display than any of the previous RIVERSIDE albums. Rather than trying to impress with instruments, Love, Fear and the Time Machine, is built solidly on the tone and overall feel of the songs, which is melancholic, and subdued. The production reinforces this pretty heavily, and so even passages that might be written heavier are weaved seamlessly into the lighter tone of the album. Consequently, the disc is severely lacking in dynamics. Not only do the individual parts of songs run together, but it’s even difficult to tell the songs apart.
There are a few that stand out a bit from the rest, “Towards The Blue Horizon” is probably the closest thing to older RIVERSIDE material on LFatTM. The song starts in a typically mellow impression, with Duda singing over an acoustic guitar, and slowly builds to a darker, heavier middle section that really takes off when it transitions to a longer instrumental bridge, and ends on the same motif. “#Addicted,” despite having a stupid title and even more cringeworthy lyrics, is undeniably catchy.
I don’t want to make it seem like I’m criticizing RIVERSIDE simply for moving away from metal. Fellow Polandites VOTUM took RIVERSIDE’S style in a more mellow direction two years ago on Harvest Moon and made a masterpiece. Love, Fear and the Time Machine just falls into the unfortunate trap of being mostly populated by mellower songs that aren’t musically engaging, but produced to the same sound the band was known for when there was a lot more going on.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “#Addicted” “Beyond The Blue Horizon” “Discard Your Fear”