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Riverside - Second Life Syndrome CD (album) cover

SECOND LIFE SYNDROME

Riverside

 

Progressive Metal

4.24 | 1758 ratings

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Kempokid
3 stars 'Riverside's' second album manages to rectify the issues that their debut, 'Out of Myself' had, balancing between the heavier and softer moments much more effectively, and also not wearing their influences from bands such as 'Anathema' and 'Pink Floyd' quite as much on their sleeves. Their sound in general is a much darker one, with more emphasis on the metal aspect of their sound, rather than their soft, beautiful ballads. Despite many changes that I find positive, especially the better establishment of their sound and identity, I do have some issues with this album, particularly in terms of certain songs not quite leaving any kind of impact.

'After' already shows how this album will have a darker sound to it, beginning with whispering before leading into a really nice, and simultaneously eerie chant nicely utilising vocal layering. This segues into one of the better songs on the album, 'Volte Face', a great, heavy piece of music with some great riffs with a Middle-Eastern sound to them. I like the way the song slowly progresses as it goes on, starting off with the chorus ending in regular, clean vocals, and then having every time it appears be more intense, until harsh vocals are used, which sounds excellent in this, and really displays how 'Riverside' are trying to make a heavier album with less focus on their softer moments. Speaking of softer moments, the next song, 'Conceiving You' is the first weak point on the album. I find this to have nothing of much merit, with it being fairly unmemorable, and not even having the beauty or impact that's usually associated such ballads. I honestly find this slightly perplexing how a band who on their previous album made songs such as 'OK' and 'The Same River' could miss the mark with something beautiful quite as much as they did here. I think the main issue with it lies in the highly unsatisfying vocal melody, particularly the chorus. The title track, despite having some pacing issues and sounding far too much like 3 songs stitched together, manages to be quite good, as each section works very nicely. It's full of great instrumentals and solos, is quite dynamic, and has some absolutely incredible vocal melodies, most notably the chorus, which is nicely implemented in the second section, getting slower before transitioning into the third section. While I wouldn't put it among the various amazing epics, it's still a good song in general, despite some flaws in terms of pacing and the last section definitely dragging a bit. 'Artificial Smile' kicks things back up after the lull from the end of the title track, being another great metal track with heavy riffs and a lot of energy. Despite this being one of the more simple tracks, and Mariusz Duda's thick Polish accent making some inflections sound off, it's nonetheless an excellent song and one of the higher points on the album.

The second half of the album feels somewhat weaker than the first, with some excellent songs, but nothing that particularly amazes me as much. 'I Turned You Down' is mostly unimpressive, but then has some absolutely exquisite guitar work thrown in that elevates it quite a bit, making it a good listen all around, with the keyboards also adding some good atmosphere. 'Reality Dream III' isn't on the same level as the first 2 in my opinion, but is still a good, heavy instrumental with plenty of great riffs and a really fun piano section, which plays nicely off the bass and guitar. 'Dance With The Shadows' is the biggest weak spot on this album, being very overlong without having any particular moments in which anything which particularly grabs me, outside of some really cool keyboards at around the halfway point. The big problem is that the almost 12 minute length makes it a much more difficult song to deal with than 'Conceiving You' which at least has the benefit of being very short. After that slog, the album ends well with 'Before', the one moment on the album which I find truly beautiful, and definitely ends the album on a high note.

Despite the more intriguing sound that 'Riverside' possesses here, I do find this album to be vastly inferior to their first, largely due to many moments on this either feeling overblown, as is the case with parts of the title track and 'Dance With The Shadows' or not explored enough, especially 'Conceiving You'. This definitely is impressive in the sense of how great I find the tone and production of the album, being extremely distinctive and interesting, definitely paving the way for later albums which improved upon some issues. Despite the blatant issues with it, I do find that this album has both enough interesting moments as well as sounding great, that it warrants getting 3 stars despite the almost 20 minutes worth of music I find largely uninteresting.

Best Songs: Volte Face, Artificial Smile, Before

Weakest Songs: Conceiving You, Dance With The Shadows

Verdict: Really dark sounding music with quite a bit of heaviness to it. I'd recommend it to those who enjoy this sort of music, despite me finding this album very mixed. At the very least, I'd give Volte Face a listen, as it's definitely one of the highlights of the album, balancing their heavier, metal aspects, with some prog, providing a great balance.

Kempokid | 3/5 |

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