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Riverside - Second Life Syndrome CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

4.25 | 1723 ratings

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5 stars (10/10)

Whilst "Out of Myself" will always take the special place in my own heart it is Riverside's follow up album, "Second Life Syndrome", that is generally regarded as their defining masterpiece, and I can easily see why. Rather than crumbling under the pressure of the daunting task of following one of the great masterpieces of modern prog, Riverside managed to use it as a springboard and carried the momentum into an expanded new sound. A variety of new approaches were introduced without compromising the emotional core of the band, and it marked a laudable trend in Riverside's discography (that continues to this day) of always bringing something new to the table.

By the second song it is very clear that the metallic intensity in the band's sound has experienced a step change in power, with Piotr Grudzinski's guitar often roaring into life as well as soaring high like on the previous album. It pairs up well with the more organ inflected keyboards that new guy Micheal Lapaj brings to the band. Lapaj also has some pretty impressive soloing abilities up his sleeve that sounds great in all the keyboard voices he's using, and overall he does a good job of picking up where the last guy (Jacek Melnicki) left off. A good example of this new sound would be "Reality Dream III", in which the band really flex their muscles and take you on a fantastical journey within the space of relatively little time.

Of course, it is really Mariusz Duda who steals the show on this album. Firstly, his vocals are more confident and prominent - and he already started out brilliant. He delivers a genuine display of many emotions with a great clarity and honesty, from the the wistful melancholy of "Conceiving You" to the rousing defiance at the end of "Volte-Face", to the screamed fury in "Artificial Smile". Secondly, Duda's bass (especially in conjunction with Piotr Kozieradzki's precise and catchy drumming) is great at driving a hypnotising stream of developing rhythms and themes. If anything he's become more confident in taking the lead, and his distinctive bass lines really set Riverside apart from many contemporaries in their field.

Throughout the songs (especially in the longer songs like "Dance With The Shadow" and the epic and stunning title track) everything is constantly developing. There's always something new added to the developing sound, and interesting details spread throughout this process. It allows your ears to pick up on new things each time you listen. As you could be drawn to so many things you can just lose yourself in the mix. Waves of different instruments wash over you, and this is one of the few albums that allows me to truly switch off the analytic part of my brain and just immerse myself in the music. It's over an hour, but seems to fly by as I get completely lost as the music flows through me. I have a very easily wandering mind so this is a rare achievement indeed.

Compared with "Out Of Myself", "Second Life Syndrome" is less of a spacey continuous journey and more of a mutli-part exploration of different moods. With brighter sounds, and a less atmospheric more metallic style, Riverside tend towards more passages of full band charge, and larger climaxes, raising the stakes compared with last time. Lyrically, Duda is still in similar territory to the first album: dark and emotive, always seeming to know just which bit of your heart and mind to strike at. The mixture of melody, rhythm and emotion that make Riverside what they are is as strong as ever. "Second Life Syndrome" is an absolute winner, do not miss out on it!

ScorchedFirth | 5/5 |


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