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Riverside - Shrine of New Generation Slaves CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

4.06 | 1061 ratings

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Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars Riverside is one of the progressive metal bands that has seen a lot of popularity in their genre, and as such, has inspired many other bands to jump into the genre. However, the prog metal superstars from Poland have always been a step above with their slick production and willingness to keep extending and pushing their sound and also bringing in themes and underlying concepts with each album, helping to garner individual personality between one album and another.

Such is the case with their 2013 album "Shrine of New Generation Slaves" (lovingly designated SONGS for short). This album explores through the bands heavy and moody style how people have the unsatisfying lives of becoming slaves to their work and losing control of their personal lives. As businesses find ways to satisfy their workers, or at least look like they are doing so, by installing on site gyms, and what not, they hope to get more control over their people, even getting to the point that it will cause people to stay at work more and never leaving their offices. They make people think they are giving them a better work life when in reality, they are only finding ways to control them more. This is the new slavery that Riverside is talking about and what they address in this album.

The album is made up of 8 tracks with a total duration of 51 minutes, unless you get the LP edition, which features 2 more tracks. "New Generation Slave" does an excellent job of introducing the subject, with easy to understand lyrics sung in between hard guitar riffs that build the intensity of the album until it finally unleashes with a progressive driven rhythm and a solider heaviness generated by the guitar and organ. Mariusz Duda occasionally likes to use some light effects to help texture is voice and does so on this track. If anything, it seems like it weakens the impact of the lyrics, in my view, and he does this also in "The Depth of Self-Delusion". This track is steadier and flows more like a straightforward sound with a hint of smooth, fusion texture, not unlike the sound of The Pineapple Thief on one side of the extreme to Opeth on the other side, who I often find a lot of similarity with in some cases, Riverside is a band that resides comfortably (and quite successfully, I might add) in between the poles of these bands. The song continues to utilize dynamics very well by throwing in instances of acoustic guitar and high percussive tones (similar to xylophone). You can expect an emotional guitar solo in there too, which is always a great draw to their music. The music is quite melodic and pleasant, but still retains it's dark and moody atmosphere.

"Celebrity Touch" is a bit heavier, and also is more akin to a classic progressive sound, a la "Kansas" or "Styx", but still with a more current overall feel. The melodic and catchy electric guitar riff and the nice layer of organ help to generate this sound. "We Got Used to Us" is a shorter, almost radio-friendly track showing a more mellow side of the band that also give a chance for the guitar to shine a bit, but mostly driven by lovely piano chords and notes. "Feel Like Falling" takes us into a different territory for the band with a synth heavy riff, a bit bouncy even. Of course, there is the underpinnings of heavy guitar to support the track as the rhythm pounds merrily along, only breaking for a short interval after a short instrumental break. "Deprived (Irretrievable Lost Imagination)" takes us back to a longer form at over 8 minutes as we return to the band's form of moody and emotional dark tinged songs. This track focuses on one of the band's strengths of well-written, almost poetic lyrics. The music is nice and pensive, but with a flowing rhythm, again reflecting Opeth at their most mellow (as in the "Damnation" album). Around 5 minutes, things become a bit more intense as a tricky beat generates a solid sound and preps for a nice, melodic guitar solo with twinkling piano backing it up. Then, a nice surprise when guest Marcin Odyniec provides a stellar and captivating soprano sax solo before the song is brought back to its original, pensive sound.

"Escalator Shrine" takes the prize as being the longest track on the album at over 12 minutes. A drone stays in the background as an echoing effect on the guitar gives a nice touch to a Spanish style to the introduction. The classic prog touch is evident again with a nice flowing bass line and moody keys that remind one of The Doors. Just before 5 minutes, a bass introduces a tasty, new driving rhythm and soon the entire band joins in with some great organ and then synths and guitar lines bring it all into an awesome instrumental passage. At 6 minutes, things suddenly get heavy and dark with a thick riff and vocals joining in before finally passing into an atmospheric section with a throbbing bass and layers of keys, synths and atmospheric guitars. This harkens to the melodic instrumentals of Pink Floyd, but done with the Riverside flair. After 8 minutes, the music returns to the original theme, but with some nice variation in the instrumental support. After 10 minutes, a new riff is introduced and the music develops off of this to take the track to the end. This track is what you listen to progressive music for, nice complex compositions that give the listener the challenge they need without making things too complex. It's a well-composed track that testifies to the band's creativity and talent. "Coda" finishes off the CD at this point with a short track, soft and mostly acoustic, it acts as a coda to the album, not the previous track.

If you are lucky enough to have the vinyl version, there is another disc included with a two part track called "Night Session", Parts 1 and 2. Each track is over 11 minutes long, so for Riverside fans, it's a must have. Part 1 is a nice instrumental track that utilizes the band's talent for song development, yet it has more of an improvised sound, and it utilizes a lot of synth loops which allows the band to be more creative on an individual basis, as the fill the spaces with heavenly notes and textures. This seems to pay homage to Tangerine Dream in a way, but also travels to different textures and beat through the track, never staying stuck on a single loop for too long. There is a bit of ambience and a bit of electronica in this one, pretty unlike most of the band's output. Part 2 takes on a more experimental vibe. As a soft noise drone sounds in the distance, the guest saxophonist returns (with the alto sax this time) and provides a real solo, with only the droning sound as back up. Looped percussion comes in and synths ebb and flow making things atmospheric while the soft sax continues. Things turn away from the dark feeling at the start and actually start to sound cheery with just the right shot of jazz inflection coming in and some soft, airy vocals swirl around. It almost seems that you are not listening to Riverside now, but it's nice and it shows the bands ability to be not only versatile, but to do it in an improvised setting. Things go back to a more pensive and ambient state as in its last few minutes, but you are left with a pleasant and relaxing mood.

This is an all around great album that shows the many sides of the band that many had previously thought of as being more one-sided, and even more so if you have the bonus vinyl tracks. But you even hear that in the main album too. It is easy to see why this band is a favorite among lovers of progressive music, mostly those that like the heavy side, but still love the atmospheric and moody edge that this band provides. The album is well-polished. It is one that most people will not regret having. There is no ground broken on the album, but it still satisfies that need to have great progressive music that you don't necessarily need to invest a lot of time in to appreciate it.

TCat | 4/5 |


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