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Riverside - Second Life Syndrome CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

4.26 | 1590 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Excellent Prog Metal with a Little Too Much Black Eyeliner

I don't know why it took me so long to review Riverside's SECOND LIFE SYNDROME. It was one of the first albums recommended to me as a newbie at Prog Archives, and I've enjoyed it quite a bit. My overall impression is that this is progressive goth metal, allied not with Dream Theater, chops, and battle cries, but instead Anathema, gloom, and a little too much teenage bad goth poetry. The last item is what keeps this excellent music from reaching masterpiece level for me. Perhaps it is the translation from Polish to English that causes the over-the-top lyrics, but the images are really the same across cultures.

The opener "After" is an ethereal, slow burner that starts with some ridiculous spoken word slash-my-wrists silliness from vocalist Mariusz Duda, but then the music comes. Glorious low male harmonies over tribal drums are basically likely giving a junkie his fix for me. Delicious. I realize that this sound is just as much a teen goth trapping as the lyrics that make me laugh, but I love it. And while we never quite reach this mesmerizing place again, there is a darkness that surrounds the music through out the album. And with the exception of a few over-reaching moments vocally by Duda, and a few of the lyrics, I believe it all works.

The title song begins with very obvious Pink Floyd trappings but fairly quickly picks up momentum. The fact that the music is clearly more on-top-of the beat than Floyd adds a freshness, an urgency to the melancholy of what could have been a rip-off but instead is a very valid modernization of the mood. The added bonus of the metallic guitars and odd-time riffing also help Riverside make the sound their own. Interestingly, all the teen goth angst works quite well for the ode to infidelity, "Artificial Smile," though there is one painfully bad lyric choice. The ballad-y songs aren't quite as powerful, though they accomplish their intent. The more instrumentally intense songs like "Reality Dream III," "Dance With the Shadows," and "Volte-Face," are probably the most rewarding. The album ends with "Before" which is the best of the slow songs on the album.

There is a distinctive 80's edge to this that is not necessarily from the realm of metal, though the choice of distortion on the guitars is a little dated. It's more in the reverb, and a bit of slap-back delay that points back to rainy-night songs of my youth. And yet the riffs are more modern, so we get a mixture of time frames that gives Riverside their own unique identity. Duda's dark harmonies are also fairly singular, and certainly his voice is the centerpiece for the entire band. His harsh vocals sometimes work and sometimes they don't, but his clean vocals are among the better in metal. His sense of the melodramatic also means that we get plenty of dynamics, with some great dramatic crashes where the band comes in like a brigade of tanks, and open passages that feel like standing on the edges of the light at a campfire in winter.

More than anything, I get the sense that this band is making music, not playing just to play. They have something they're trying to say, pictures they're trying to paint, messages they're trying to communicate. And they succeed. It may have shades of adolescent drama rather than subtlety at times, but hey it's metal. 4/5 stars.

Negoba | 4/5 |


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