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




Progressive Metal

4.07 | 1158 ratings

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5 stars I must say, this album is one that has pleasantly surprised and challenged me in a way I was not expecting. I truly did not know what to think of it the first time I heard it. I knew it was progressive, I knew it was Riverside, I knew there was talent in the playing and writing, but it was very different from what I was expecting. There were passages that were very subdued, pensive, and ultimately accessible. This accessibility even translated into the more hit- oriented songs, such as Celebrity Touch and Feel Like Falling. These were tracks that I knew were not nearly as complex as those I usually gravitate towards, but in the context of the whole album, they don't seem as susceptible to losing their power after a few listens as one might expect. Basically, this album was a chance to help me pull down the walls of pretension and enjoy the whole and its parts for the merits they hold in their message, their directness, and how friendly and accessible they are, unlike so much of the progressive genre, especially among the more metal-oriented groups.

To be more direct, the saving grace to this album is its unified theme as conveyed through each track: striving to live a meaningful, fulfilling life in spite of a multitude of obstacles we face as members of modern society. Musically, the more direct, streamlined song structures actually compliment this concept in a way more over-the-top or free-form arrangements would not. With that being said, there is still plenty of complexity within several tracks to keep even the most discerning listener intrigued. The soar-away peak of the album, "Escalator Shrine", falls into this category, with its alternating 10/8 and 9/8 blues- inspired riff as Mariusz Duda communicates a truly powerful message of a stagnant, empty generation. We are treated to a wonderful, explosive demonstration of the instrumental talents of each members in the following sections, culminating in a biting breakdown following the final brooding statement of words, and the song fades in a chant-like outro following the alternating 6 and 5 beat pattern established by the instruments.

In contrast to the power demonstrated by this track and the more hit-oriented songs referenced earlier, Riverside presents us with a few ballads that in my mind sit amongst the most superior of softer selections. This band really is at their best when they're writing ballads. The softer, sweeter song "The Depth of Self-Delusion" is very soulful, laying groundwork for the atmospheric message unifying the entire album. "We Got Used to Us" is a sorrowful reflection on a stagnant relationship than encapsulates the experience wonderfully, at least from the perspective of a listener who can relate to the message. The absolute best ballad in my mind, though, is the ever-evolving "Deprived". Instrumentally, this is the most intriguing ballad on the disc, and for me, of the band's entire catalog I have heard up to this point. The varied keyboard textures, Duda's masterful singing and bass playing, and the unexpected addition of soprano sax was a breath of fresh air to me. Hearing that reminded me that prog truly does still have many new frontiers to cover. This song and "Escalator Shrine" alone are enough to revitalize the genre in my book, and the rest of the album is so rewarding too that I can't help but give it truly sincere and emphatic praise.

This album is truly unlike any album the band has released to date. It strips away the atmosphere generated by the Reality Dream trilogy and reigns in the metal aspects explored on the previous album. I do not think this album is a prog metal album, nor should any listener treat it as one. This album is more eclectic-meets-crossover prog, as it draws on so many other genres and embraces more traditional song forms for certain tracks. The lead guitar does not have the same degree of prominence as it had on, say, Second Life Syndrome, but the playing is not inferior. The focus has merely shifted to accommodate a more vocal- and keyboard-oriented album, which to me indicates just how full Riverside's bag of tricks really is. In short, if you go in to this ready to hear an album that marries old and new rock traditions, both progressive and as a whole, while still preserving the edge and false modesty of this group's talents both individually and collectively, you will not be disappointed. There's something for everyone here, and I for one am inspired by the powerful message, compositional prowess, and top-notch playing by each member more and more with each listen. 5 stars given proudly and without hesitation.

Neo-Romantic | 5/5 |


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