When Found (The Unexpected Flaw of Searching), the last track of Riverside’s latest album comes to an end, it is clear for every listener familiar with the polish band that Riverside completes the transition toward a more (post) progressive sound.
A transition officially started with their last album, Shrine of New Generation Slaves, although it was sprouting within them since the very beginning of their career. On Love, Fear and the Time Machine, the songs are shorter (at 10, it is the highest number of songs yet on a Riverside album),softer (less and less distortion, more and more clean melody and smooth vocals) and, overall, without any pejorative connotation, more accessible. They choose to follow a path that is more and more popular with many contemporary progressive bands in the likes of Anathema or Steven Wilson. To say the least, Love, Fear and the Time Machine wouldn’t shy from any comparison with these bands best works.
When I met with longtime Riverside guitarist Piotr Grudzinski a couple of weeks ago (http://arcticdrones.com/interviews/riverside/), he compared the evolution of Riverside and Anathema before beautifully describing the progressive side of Riverside by saying, we are progressive not because we play progressive music, but because of our skills and the way our music is progressing. He also stated that the band wanted to avoid the progressive rock sound of the 70’s on the album and focus more on the new wave of the 80’s. Even though Riverside don’t borrow direct influences from The Cure, Cocteau Twins or Dead Can Dance on Love, Fear and the Time Machine, the 80’s feeling is there. Just like it is on Steven Wilson’s latest album, Hand.Cannot.Erase, not too far from Riverside’s latest record in influence and production.
RELEASE DATE: 04 September 2015 LABEL: Burning Shed, Inside Out
Even with that in mind, there is still some strong 70’s prog presence in Love, Fear and the Time Machine. When coupled with influences from neo-prog acts like Marillion or IQ combined with that 80’s touch, it gives a fresh contemporary sound to the album. From the first song, we quickly sense we are somewhere else. The focus is on an amazingly melodic chorus that we are just eager to hear more and more as the song progresses. This is the kind of song that made me think of neo-prog era when listening to Love, Fear and the Time Machine (and other contemporary progressive acts); both styles share this desire to make progressive rock more popular with a more accessible approach without denying their progressive roots. The talented musicianship is still here, but condensed in shorter songs or sometimes resting behind the beautiful melodies of vocals, guitars or keyboards. The work in sound, production or experimentation is also what makes this music progressive and challenging to the listener (hello again Steven Wilson!)
However, a shift in sound doesn’t mean a denial of themselves for Riverside. Saturate Me, for instance helps in keeping the 70’s rock feel with a classic progressive rock sound that also draws a lot from The Flower Kings or other prog rock revival acts. The distorted riffs of Under the Pillow recall the good old Riverside sound from Rapid Eye Movement or Second Life Syndrome. I would say that this is a mature album from Riverside; not in the sense that it is so much better than previous ones, but rather that they seem to have found an accessible style that they are comfortable with and very good at. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Riverside keep pushing in that direction from now on for our greatest pleasure.
As before, Mr. Mariusz Duda is the clear leader of the band here. As well as bringing most of the ideas for the album, he sings and leads the band with his bass playing on songs like Under the Pillow or Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire. On other songs, like #addicted, he simply carries the song on his shoulder with a smooth leading bass line and a soft and beautiful voice that haunts us long after the song is over. When played live, he knows how to lead the band and how to step back to let his bandmates shine a little more. He acts as a band leader and a conductor that knows how good his musicians are. His mark is even stronger on Love, Fear and the Time Machine as he seems to have taken some sounds and ideas from his side project Lunatic Soul. Walking on a Flashlight Beam, his fourth studio album release last year, shares some similarities in terms of sound and ambiance that were surely in the back of his mind while writing and recording Love, Fear and the Time Machine with Riverside.
With Love, Fear and the Time Machine, Riverside accomplish quickly and more effectively than any other contemporary bands (and they are numerous) the transition from (roughly) metal to progressive. They never seek too much into themselves and simply enlarged their musical spectrum, their fan base and their possibilities by exploring all directions. Love, Fear and the Time Machine is an album that stays with you from the very first listen, but that takes months to unveil all its secrets. There is always a guitar melody, a keyboard progression, a bass line or a cymbal hit that you haven’t noticed that will blow you away (just pay attention to the first minutes of Towards the Blue Horizon). This album is stripped to the bones in structure, but packed to the skins in arrangement. They succeed in doing what a lot of neo/post progressive bands have tried with variable success; be seductive to the ears but challenging to the mind. With this success, they cannot be ignored anymore in the contemporary progressive scene and set a benchmark for the upcoming works of their contemporaries.