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Riverside - Second Life Syndrome CD (album) cover

SECOND LIFE SYNDROME

Riverside

 

Progressive Metal

4.27 | 1181 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

ergaster
4 stars I discovered the Polish prog metal outfit Riverside in December of 2011 because of a free CD that came with the October 2011 Classic Rock Presents Prog package. It was basically a compilation of various progressive music tracks from the earliest years to the present, a nice collection of material that introduced me to a lot of artists I had heard of but hadn't mustered up the initiative to actually seek out and listen to. There were several tracks I kept coming back to, but one in particular really seemed to resonate: "Conceiving You" by Riverside.

Now I had heard of Riverside before (I've been a Progarchives member for a couple years now, so I've probably heard of pretty much everyone), but this one track had really gotten under my skin, which gave me the impetus to follow up on it. I eventually ended up buying two releases: Second Life Syndrome, and the first part of Mariusz Duda's other project, Lunatic Soul.

I am immensely pleased with Second Life Syndrome. The rich tunefulness of "Conceiving You" was the main thing that drew me, and Riverside really do know how to create a powerfully melodic and densely-layered sound, even when (perhaps especially when) they are in full-on metal mode. Discoveries like this make the whole music-listening enterprise worthwhile.

Riverside is reminiscent of Porcupine Tree in that Michał Łapaj's keyboard backdrop is a crucial element of the band's sound; but for me that is where the similarity ends. Riverside sounds like what I imagined a real "progressive metal" band would sound like, with the emphasis on the metal: it is evident where their roots and heart are. There are songs that rock very hard, full of thickly overdubbed power chords and a carefully judicious use of growl vocals, but the metal aspects never detract from the overall progressive feel.

What elevates this band is the massively beautiful soundscape they create via Lapaj on keyboards, Piotr Kozieradzki on drums, and Mariusz Duda on bass. They provide the canvas on which the lead elements work--the huge guitar sounds of Piotr Grudziński, and the rich and evocative vocals of Duda. Damn, this man can surely sing!

In general the musicianship does not strike one as virtuosic, but of a skilled band whose members have a close and intimate understanding of each other's roles. However, it soon becomes clear that Piotr Grudziński is something else again -- here is a guitar player who has a thorough and intimate understanding of the concept of Less is More, who has all the chops and then some, and knows that most of the time you do not need to show them off. He is a true master of understatement: his absolutely gorgeous solos and thematic hooks are the core motive force of the entire album.

Points of interest: "Reality Dream III" --an instrumental track of powerful keyboards and guitars; this song gives Lapaj a chance to really stretch out and demonstrate his ability to do more with the keys than provide background atmosphere.

"Second Life Syndrome"--this is the "epic" of the album, over 15 minutes long and very possibly one of the best progressive rock epics in recent memory, a real tour de force of composition, atmosphere, and performance. And Grudziński is a revelation: his incredible and powerfully sensitive guitar themes and solos wind flawlessly around and through the vocal lines, supporting and underscoring Duda's delivery. This is a beautiful song to listen to, a fifteen minutes that passes all too quickly.

The issues are rather minor--I find it to be a somewhat overlong album, the first track probably extraneous (anyway, it is the least memorable). The other long piece, "Dance with the Shadows", starts out promisingly with a 70s folk-rock feel, but despite some nice moments it is perhaps more ambitious than successful. The lyric themes throughout the album are relentlessly melancholic.

Overall, though, I am very happy to have discovered Riverside, and Second Life Syndrome is a wonderful introduction to their work. I look forward to exploring more of their material.

ergaster | 4/5 |

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