Tag Archives: Riverside

The Music of 2016 — Part One

The Music of 2016

2016 … When the (probably apocryphal) Chinese sage said “May you live in interesting times”, this must have been close to what he meant.  We lost so many great musicians, especially in the early part of the year, it seemed as though the music gods were punishing us for unknown sins by taking beloved people, one by one by one.  There were personal losses as well…and at least one of those crossed the boundary between fandom and friendship.

At the same time, the music that was released was of a quality that I haven’t experienced for a long time.  This is not to say that everything reached the same stellar heights but almost everything I sampled had moments of interest. I ended up investing in more new music than I have for several years, just because so much of it seemed worthy of further attention.  This made the task of sorting through the list of potential year-end albums excruciatingly difficult.  Therefore this list is a Top 20 instead of last year’s Top 15, which itself was a statement about the quality of music out in 2015 since normally I think in terms of Top 10.  You get the picture.

Things didn’t start off so well.  I look back on my first statement, in early July I think, about how the year was going. I said this:

I can’t say I have made much of an effort to find new music this year.  Just way too much stuff in the personal realm has gone wrong.  In fact I have been so disinterested that I may not write up a full year-end report for 2016.  But a few things have managed to sneak onto the list.  And I know that some stuff is yet to come…so who knows.  At least a couple of albums so far have been real surprises, so I’m not ready to write off the year just yet.

Oh how things changed after that….

Speaking of the music…if 2015 was my metal year, for 2016 it was industrial electronica.  Some psychedelia (but just a little).  And the 1980s are definitely still a thing, since the best of the electronica has looked back to classic days. Metal and post-metal, a bit of prog and some alternative are still present of course, but my horizons are expanding.  At least, the best of the stuff coming down the pipeline has been from unexpected directions.  But good music is good music, whatever the genre.

There were more things to consider than just new releases though. It was also quite a good year for specialty releases: compilations, re-releases, one-off projects, and such-like: albums that could not be included in the year-end album list but that deserve mention anyway because they are just very good.  So for the first time I have a separate list for those.

And this is where I will begin.

The Reissues, Compilations, and Live Albums

These are the albums that cannot really be regarded as presenting “new” material, at least for the most part, but are definitely worth the money.  It was a good year for this kind of thing as well, with bands finalizing anticipated projects, or stretching out into different territory, or small labels flexing their muscle with some outstanding examples of their artists.  I have presented them in reverse order of interest (to me).

  1.  Pelican – Live at Dunk!Fest 2016

One of the iconic post-metal bands, and one I’ve never managed to see live, but one day I sure hope to. In the meantime they made available their utterly fierce performance at Dunk!Fest, available as a digital download or a beautiful coloured vinyl release.  Well worth checking out.

 

  1. Shearwater – Shearwater Plays Lodger (live)

One of the more curious projects to come along this year. I’m not quite sure what inspired the band to do this, apart from the fact that they love David Bowie’s Lodger album…but they really do manage to pull it off.

 

  1. Nash the Slash – Dreams and Nightmares

Nash the Slash (Jeff Plewman), who died in 2014, was one of those musicians who, if you knew of him at all, you were captivated. With his bandaged-wrapped face, top hat, and electric violin, he was an iconoclastic purveyor of atmosphere and electronica, both solo and with the band FM. He was a legend in Toronto and across Canada and enormously respected in the electronica community. Dreams and Nightmares is a reissue of his 1978 album of the same name; this album features the spectacular soundtrack he created for the Bunuel/Dali 1929 silent film Un Chien Andalou.

 

  1. Riverside – Eye of the Soundscape

This was released as a companion album to the rest of the discography, bringing together their much-beloved but still oft-overlooked forays into ambient electronica.  It gathers together bonus tracks from the last two band releases, two of the bonus songs from Rapid Eye Movement II, and four spectacular new songs.  It also stands as a heart-breakingly poignant tribute, because it was the last album that guitarist Piotr Grudzinski ever worked on before he died suddenly in early 2016. My review of the album is here.

 

  1. Artoffact Records – I am Awesome Because I Still Buy Music

Label compilations, especially around this time of year (getting towards Christmas) are a dime a dozen.  One can understand the motivation, since they bring together sample tracks from a label’s roster of artists; the problem, sometimes, is that these can be massive collections – I’ve seen upwards of 50 tracks on some of these things.  Who has that kind of time?

Artoffact Records is the in-house label of the Toronto-based online shop Storming the Base, supplier of music leaning strongly towards electronica and synthpop. They have put together their own sampler, and folks, this is how it’s done.  A lean and focused collection from six artists who are releasing new albums, with two tracks each, so it doesn’t overwhelm with quantity.  But the quality…! The result is a monster sampler of dark wave, raucous and melodic industrial electronica/metal, compelling listening as an album on its own, and it’s free for god’s sake.  And if the aim was to get you to investigate the musicians included here, it sure worked because I have bought albums from three of the six.  Outstanding examples:  the bleak and beautiful “Expiring Time” by Dead When I Found Her, both tracks by Toronto-based solo artist v01d, and “Shut Up” by Out Out, an incandescent statement of outrage against the faux news of Fox News.

http://artoffact.com/album/i-am-awesome-because-i-still-buy-music-compilation-volume-one

 

  1. Porcupine Tree — Nil Recurring on vinyl.

My very favourite supplementary project for my very favourite Porcupine Tree album.  It is no secret by this time that I am not much of a PT fan in general, I like a few albums and songs here and there.  But Fear of a Blank Planet is one of my desert island albums, and IMO the four tracks that make up the Nil Recurring EP are just as brilliant.  Of course the EP has been available for years, but it is great to have a silver vinyl copy of this as well, and in fact I play it pretty relentlessly.

Eye of the Soundscape

Released:  October 21, 2016

Tracklist:

CD 1

  1. Where the River Flows
  2. Shine
  3. Rapid Eye Movement (2016 mix)
  4. Night Session Part 1
  5. Night Session Part 2

CD 2

  1. Sleepwalkers
  2. Rainbow Trip (2016 mix)
  3. Heavenland
  4. Return
  5. Aether
  6. Machines
  7. Promise
  8. Eye of the Soundscape

(Triple vinyl tracklist is in a somewhat different order)

When I first discovered Riverside, I really had no idea what I was getting into.  I was astonished: this music grabbed me in a way none ever had before — emotionally, intellectually, even physically – I listened in an enraptured transcendence that never seemed to fade.  A friend of mine likes to say: “The music of your life will find you”, and it was only with the discovery of Riverside and Lunatic Soul that I truly understood what he meant.  I’d listened to and loved a lot of music and artists over the decades, but nothing like this.

I eventually realized that I had also become part of an extended family, that there was a real connection – something I had never experienced before – between the band and their fans, and the fans with each other.  We shared anticipation, accolades, joy, and alas, the tragedies.  In this year especially that connection became manifest, where we came together, sharing our shock, our loss, our memories.  The line between the band and the fans blurred in the tears.

I discovered the experimental side of the band early on with the REM bonus material, and those tracks became among my favourites from that album. Fast-forward to the release of Shrine of New Generation Slaves and the spectacular “Night Sessions” bonus tracks: surely here was a direction that the guys should explore — in fact it would almost be criminal if they didn’t. Of course, the “Day Sessions” tracks just reinforced this. Piotr Grudziński was openly eager to do a dedicated ambient experimental project; his excitement was palpable.  And then, it became a reality.  The guys – at least Piotr, Mariusz Duda and Michał Łapaj — headed into the studio to make this special album, this anticipated addendum to the Riverside discography.  Good news indeed.

recording

Then…early in 2016 came that devastating blow to band and fans alike; and instead of being a celebratory exploration of a beloved genre of music, the project became a memorial.  A poignant tribute to an unfinished journey, a legacy of love and loss.

Continue reading Eye of the Soundscape

Love, Fear and the Time Machine

Released September 4th 2015

Tracklist

CD 1

  1. Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened by a Hat?)
  2. Under the Pillow
  3. #Addicted
  4. Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire
  5. Saturate Me
  6. Afloat
  7. Discard Your Fear
  8. Towards the Blue Horizon
  9. Time Travellers
  10. Found (The Unexpected Flaw of Searching)

CD 2 Bonus “Day Sessions”

Tracklist

  1. Heavenland
  2. Return
  3. Aether
  4. Machines
  5. Promise

It was about a year ago as of this writing that Riverside’s sixth album, Love, Fear and the Time Machine was released, with all the usual hype from the band, and excitement and anticipation amongst the fans near and far…and oh, I was going to review the shit right out of it.  I had the keyboard all polished and ready to go, headphones warmed up, I’d heard a couple of the songs on Youtube that had been played live at summer festivals…it sounded so hopeful.

Well…I listened to it and listened to it.  There were days when I loved it to death, and days when I couldn’t figure the damned thing out.  It was both a Riverside album and not a Riverside album.  It was marvelous to hear, and yet at the same time strangely off-kilter.  It should be a well-known fact by now that Riverside refuses to remain stylistically static – but LFatTM went even beyond that.  The album was written by Mariusz Duda during and after a series of events that influenced its flavour and direction, and his persona is more deeply embedded in this album than in any that have come before. It hangs like an obscuring veil over the presence of the other guys in the band. In fact, this is the first Riverside album on which Riverside the band received no writing credits at all.

My review, at least something sensible and coherent, never appeared.  I simply couldn’t figure out what to say.

Now, whatever the roadblocks were to writing … they might still pertain in some ways, but their importance is diminished.  Love, Fear and the Time Machine, due to an event after its release that no-one could even imagine, let alone foresee, is for all intents and purposes the last Riverside album.  There may well be other albums by a Polish band with that name, but with the death of Piotr Grudziński the old Riverside is gone forever.

So this is what I will say.

Continue reading Love, Fear and the Time Machine

They Go From Us Too Soon

Piotr Grudziński:  1975 – 2016

As of this writing, I have spent well over a week reading the flood of tributes, stories, and remembrances of Riverside’s guitarist, from everyone: those who knew him intimately, those who knew him casually, and those who knew him only through his music.  It is astonishing how thoroughly he has touched people’s hearts, what an impression he made simply by being himself.  I have not said anything substantial beyond shock and sadness, but I need to say goodbye now.

2016 started out as a year bound to go down in collective musical memory as a major suckfest, as one by one musical icons and beloved individuals left us…but for most of them, somehow it was not completely unexpected. Illness, age, lifestyle choices — we regret their loss, and mourn it, but at some level we know that it is inevitable.

This was not one of those times. Fate was not yet done with us.  On February 21st, with both middle fingers stuck high in the air, she dropped the biggest karmic Fuck You possible on the prog music scene: She took Piotr Grudziński.

There are people in this world whose kindness, generosity of spirit, whose sheer genuineness set them apart. They find a way into your heart just because of who they are.  I met Gru because of what he did for a living.  I am broken-hearted because of the man he was.

MD PG

Continue reading They Go From Us Too Soon

The Top Albums of 2015: Nos. 6 – 1

 

The Music of 2015

2015 has been a wonderful year for new music, one of the best years in recent memory.  Almost all the new releases I checked out were worthwhile, even the ones that eventually didn’t make the cut. What’s more, most of the albums I found that had come out in previous years were also exceptional.  It is quite the opposite of last year when I had real trouble coming up with ten albums to talk about; this year the difficulty is deciding what to leave out.  That is why I have gone with a Top 15 of 2015.  Too much is just too good.

Some clear themes have emerged: this year’s music of preference seems to be either hard and heavy post-metal, post-punk, or sludge/doom metal; or beautifully sweeping songs, lush and melodic…there are few exceptions.  But pretty much all of it features lots of great powerful riffage, and real honouring of the song. Instrumental music makes up a significant portion of the albums I chose.  Established artists surprised by the shift in their direction, and new artists absolutely stomped into prominence.

This was also the year that the 1980s dominated: the influences from that decade are all over the damned place. Two bands active in the 80s that I hadn’t paid any attention to for years (or ever) blasted out of the past with monster releases. At least three other bands heavily reference 80s sounds (although technically one will not release their album until next year; at this point a single is available). Several decent live albums were released but only one snuck into the list. Live albums are generally not regarded as legitimate candidates for year-end lists, and the one that made it into mine was actually released in 2014, but fuck it, this is my list and I’ll include what I want.

 


 

And here we present my most beloved albums of the year — it was not easy to rank these last few; in fact, the Number 1 album did not arrive in the queue of possibilities until November, which is very late for consideration.  But such an album….anyway, see for yourself.

  1. Blindead: Live at Radio Gdańsk

I am cheating with this album. First, it is a live album and many people think that only studio releases should be considered for Album of the Year status.  Maybe they are right but in this case I don’t care.  Second, it isn’t a 2015 release at all, but came out the year before.  I just couldn’t lay hands on it until very late in 2014 so I am pretending it is a current album.  Sue me.

This is a great live album that presents impeccable versions of the last couple studio albums, along with several guest musicians including Piotr Grudziński of Riverside, playing guitar on the incandescent “A7bsence”.  This is a band that deserves way more attention than they get.

 

  1. Eschar: Nova

The first full length album from this UK-based prog metal outfit displays an astonishing level of maturity, an excellent follow-up to their first EP. Instrumental post-metal is a tricky genre – there are so many bands and they can all sound alike after a while, but Eschar have managed to avoid that trap with their thoughtful and sophisticated songwriting and intense playing.  This album has not disappointed; and coming in at No. 5 it has clearly kicked the ass of a whole lot of more established acts.  See my full review here.

https://eschar.bandcamp.com/track/discovery-one

  1. Klone: Here Comes the Sun

Another new discovery for me this year, a French band who have been around for about 16 years, and another band who seems to have made a shift in the nature of their sound with the current album, away from earlier harder-edged metal.  This is magnificently lush stuff, beautiful and sweeping and heartbreakingly melodic, played with intricate skill, a huge surprise to me.  “Nebulous” is the attention-grabber but almost all the tracks are superb.

 

  1. Riverside: Love, Fear and the Time Machine

I did so want this album in the No. 1 spot, because I am unapologetically in love with this band, but alas it was not to be.  Riverside’s sixth album follows the now-familiar trajectory of the last two in its uncompromising shift in style and direction, but this time there is something different. It is paradoxical. On an individual song-by-song basis it has moments of incomparable beauty, and at least one track that seems to be beyond transcendence…but the overall impression, the afterglow, as it were, when the last song ends, is almost like a musical coitus interruptus: a curious feeling of incompleteness. We know it is Riverside, there is no mistaking the characteristic sounds and nuanced richness of the guitars, drums, and organs…but the songs are more strongly bass-and-voice driven than ever before. And while Duda’s singing is more purely beautiful than anything he has ever done, there is a disconcerting lack of vocal diversity, an unusual absence of the playfulness of voice that Duda is noted for.  This leaves a strangely mono-tonal aftertaste when the album is done.  It seems very much like an album in limbo — not quite Riverside but not fully a Mariusz Duda effort either. One walks away from it vaguely dissatisfied.

 

  1. Sisters of…: The Serpent, the Angel, and the Adversary

This was the Album of the Year for me for most of the year, until a very late contender showed up.  But…this.  This album is something.  Sisters of… is a guitar/drum duo out of Missouri, and this is their first album, following up an EP from a couple years back that astonished almost everyone who heard it. The Serpent… is an absolute behemoth of an album.  Hard, relentless black instrumental post-metal that offers no mercy; listening to it is like clinging to the top of a runaway locomotive, loud and terrifying and yet exhilarating as hell, as long as you hold on for dear life.  Face-melting, heart-pounding, unstoppable.

 

  1. Killing Joke: Pylon

This album literally came out of nowhere, hitting my consciousness late in November.  Killing Joke are a band I have paid very little attention to – well, none at all, really — apart from “Love Like Blood”, a song which everybody knows, I knew nothing about them except, like Shriekback, they’d been around since at least the 1980s.  I followed a link someone posted to one of the tracks from the album and it grabbed my interest long enough for me to follow up – and boy am I glad I did.  I found the first couple or three listens a bit iffy, I couldn’t quite decide…and then Boom!  Like a ton of bricks.  This is just one monster of an album, industrial post-punk, compelling and addictive and heavy – sardonic, excoriating lyrics that deal with a bleak post-modern-age world: politics, the disconnectedness of virtual connection, wars and misery — everything I need.  Number One with a Bullet.

The Top Albums of 2015: Nos. 15 to 7

The Music of 2015

2015 has been a wonderful year for new music, one of the best years in recent memory.  Almost all the new releases I checked out were worthwhile, even the ones that eventually didn’t make the cut. What’s more, most of the albums I found that had come out in previous years were also exceptional.  It is quite the opposite of last year when I had real trouble coming up with ten albums to talk about; this year the difficulty is deciding what to leave out.  That is why I have gone with a Top 15 of 2015.  Too much is just too good.

Some clear themes have emerged: this year’s music of preference seems to be either hard and heavy post-metal, post-punk, or sludge/doom metal; or beautifully sweeping songs, lush and melodic…there are few exceptions.  But pretty much all of it features lots of great powerful riffage, and real honouring of the song. Instrumental music makes up a significant portion of the albums I chose.  Established artists surprised by the shift in their direction, and new artists absolutely stomped into prominence.

This was also the year that the 1980s dominated: the influences from that decade are all over the damned place. Two bands active in the 80s that I hadn’t paid any attention to for years (or ever) blasted out of the past with monster releases. At least three other bands heavily reference 80s sounds (although technically one will not release their album until next year; at this point a single is available). Several decent live albums were released but only one snuck into the list. Live albums are generally not regarded as legitimate candidates for year-end lists, and the one that made it into mine was actually released in 2014, but fuck it, this is my list and I’ll include what I want.

So: onto the list, starting at Number 15 and working upward.

 

  1. Ghost: Meliora

Ghost are a band with a clever, well-formulated gimmick, and they are not unskilled, and Meliora is an album of nice poppy metal, nothing too straining, pleasant to listen to, but I do not understand why everyone seems to think this is a great album.  No, it is not “great”, it is well done but not exceptional by any means,  and there could be other contenders for the bottom spot that didn’t quite make it.  This is the kind of album I play when I do not want to pay too much attention to what I am listening to: it has to have some merits in terms of good song structure and decent melodies, but not too demanding of one’s attention.  Meliora fits.

 

  1. The Fierce and the Dead: Magnet

I do admire Matt Stevens; he is a dedicated guitarist and untiring in his self-promotion, which one must be in this day of DIY musicianship.  However I tend to prefer his band project, The Fierce and the Dead, over his solo efforts. Magnet is a brief EP that came out this year showcasing their eclectic style, hard-rocking somewhat freeform math/post-rock.

 

  1. Steven Wilson: Hand Cannot Erase

I write this as I am listening to Insurgentes, Wilson’s first solo album.  The differences between these two albums, the first, and his fourth, could not be more stark. Insurgentes is superb; but I find that listening to H.C.E is an exercise in sheer determination to get through it; it must be done though because it is, you know, Steven Wilson and he is god (or something).  Naturally, the album is superbly executed with exceptional performances by the musicians, beautiful melodies, and is at times almost poppy (a welcome shift away from the jazz influences of the last two albums) — and while it is clearly meant to grab at the heartstrings I find it so obviously manipulative that it just leaves me cold.  But you can read my (rather generous) review here.

Continue reading The Top Albums of 2015: Nos. 15 to 7

The Gigs of 2015: Part 2 (Shows 8 – 1)

Continuing on with the Gigs of the Year…now we are into the good stuff.  I saw some great shows this year as well as some no-so-great.  The best concert of the year also turned out to be the last one I saw — I had high hopes for this gig, and the guys did not disappoint.

 

  1. Riverside (The Agora Ballroom, Cleveland)

This was the fourth of the four gigs in a row that I caught during the Love, Fear and the Time Machine tour in North America.  It was a difficult show; Duda was sick and exhausted, battling some kind of throat infection. Cleveland came the day after blowing the roof off in Chicago and Mariusz was essentially running on fumes, doing his best to not just phone it in but clearly struggling, short on energy and fighting his way through the songs.  However, towards the end he got a huge injection of energy when the crowd belted out Happy Birthday (and mangled his name; his expression was priceless).  That really seemed to make him happy and boosted the last few songs.

Cl_MD and PG

 

  1. Árstíðir (Church of St. Stephen’s-in-the-Field)

I can’t remember exactly how I came across this outfit, gentle folk rock/post-rock from Iceland; I tried a few tracks from youtube and they didn’t really grab me, far too sedate; but the idea of seeing a band like this in a church seemed like something worth checking out.  And they really were very good, very musical, personable and intimate, a beautiful setting, it was a special evening.

 

  1. Riverside (The Mod Club, Toronto)

Toronto audiences are a bit weird.  Really hipster alty and metal types, not really into prog, and I was a bit nervous about the turnout for Riverside given the size of the venue.  And the crowd was smaller than I had hoped for, a couple hundred people or so, but the show, being the first of four in a row I was to see, was a great introduction to the new material and new stage presence of Riverside.  They were much heavier on stage than the new album would have suggested, lots of energy; and it was the first time to experience the beauty of “Found” with the lights.

T_MD 5T_MD and PG 4

Continue reading The Gigs of 2015: Part 2 (Shows 8 – 1)

Shrine of New Generation Slaves (SoNGS)

Released January 2013 Europe; Feb. 2013 RoW

Tracklist:

  1. New Generation Slave
  2. The Depth of Self-Delusion
  3. Celebrity Touch
  4. We Got Used to Us
  5. Feel Like Falling
  6. Deprived (Irretrievably Lost Imagination)
  7. Escalator Shrine
  8. Coda

Bonus Disc:

  1. Night Session Part 1
  2. Night Session Part II

Confession time…and some context. I will say right off the bat: I struggled mightily to review this album when it first came out.  I made a few attempts, and even posted some, but frankly none of them ended up worth the time it took to launch Word.  It pains me to say that they were pretty much the sort of hagiographic piles of adulatory crap I deplore reading from others, and deep down, even at the time I wrote them, I knew it.  But I chose to ignore my gut.

What I think happened was this: Shrine of New Generation Slaves was the first album that Riverside released after I discovered them and became a fan, and I had just spent most of the preceding year immersed in the band’s (and Lunatic Soul’s) discography, listening to almost nothing else, stunned and exhilarated by the discovery of music I had been waiting for all my life.  Naturally I had a huge emotional stake in the new material.

When the special blue vinyl pre-order arrived (the first of the several versions to hit my doorstep) and the playing began…well, things started to go south from there.  My immediate reaction was: This is not the album I have been waiting for.  But because at some level it had to be that album, and the accolades began pouring in from all directions…I suppressed my instincts and spent the next year trying to talk myself into loving it. Even the video accompanying the first single, “Celebrity Touch”, didn’t dismay me as much as it should have.

…But now a couple of years have passed, and I hope I am far enough distanced to deal with SoNGS fairly. The truth is, I don’t love the album, and that is tough to admit.  So let’s get this party started.

Continue reading Shrine of New Generation Slaves (SoNGS)

Memories in my Head (EP)

Released June 2011

Tracklist:

  1. Goodbye Sweet Innocence
  2. Living in the Past
  3. Forgotten Land

After the release of Anno Domini High Definition, four long years passed before the fifth full-length album appeared in 2013. However, the guys were not idle: Mariusz Duda released two albums for his Lunatic Soul solo project:  Lunatic Soul II in 2010, and Impressions in 2011, and the band continued to work on new material.

As it turned out, 2011 marked the 10th year of the band’s existence, and the Memories in My Head EP became part of the celebration of their first decade.  It certainly seemed as though the band had reached a high water mark: Their label in Poland, Mystic Productions, released the 6-cd Reality Dream box set (combining the first three albums with additional material), and Inside Out released several limited edition coloured vinyl versions of their first four albums.  The band then embarked on a “Jubilee Year” tour of Europe, which culminated with the release of this EP; they also began talk of a new album.

 

“When something ends, something else begins/We are moving on”. 

Memories in My Head was intended as a farewell nod to the foundational Riverside sound of the Trilogy years (and perhaps to placate the fans impatient for a new album): as ADHD (and subsequent albums) demonstrated, the musical intentions and direction and of the band had shifted, and would continue to do so.  Still, the EP may well be one of the band’s most beloved releases, and it is not hard to see (or indeed hear…) why.  MiMH truly is a magnificent little album, a consummate distillation of everything that made the Riverside sound unique, an almost perfect summing up of ten years of musical and lyric artistry, inspiration and influences, writing and touring.

Clocking in at a shade under 33 minutes (and by now the numbers game should need no explanation), the three glorious tracks merge seamlessly into each other, creating a musical flow that makes the EP feel almost like one long, magnificent song.  Driven by Piotr Grudziński’s hallmark melodic winding guitar themes, and Mariusz Duda’s powerful leading bass and fine vocals, it is packed with musical metaphors and classic Riverside tropes and themes, lushly atmospheric, full of the vast, cinematic soundscape that is so fundamental to their sound.  Lyrically Duda is very much on the ball; there is some excellent word-smithing here, at least on the first two tracks, evoking both nostalgia for the past and hope for the future.  “Forgotten Land” does break the continuity in that regard, being one of the very few songs he has written (for any of his projects) that is not from an intimate first or second-person perspective.  However, the track was used in a trailer for The Witcher 2 video game, so it works in that respect.

Memories in My Head looks back to the more expansive, more progressive, much-beloved sound of the band’s origins, and winds up that era of the band’s history in an almost perfect fashion.  There could hardly be a better way to commemorate their first ten years.

Anno Domini High Definition (ADHD)

Released: June  2009 (Poland); July 2009 (Europe and RoW)

Tracklist

  1. Hyperactive
  2. Driven to Destruction
  3. Egoist Hedonist
  4. Left Out
  5. Hybrid Times

And then there were four….

Mariusz Duda, when interviewed, often likes to draw attention to a couple of things: that Riverside has a recognizably distinctive sound, and the band does not like to remain stylistically static.  These facts are abundantly clear nowadays, but I warrant that even after three albums, the second point was not so obvious. The Trilogy introduced an unmistakable Riverside-ish musical Gestalt, one that essentially defined them and even though there were some differences from album to album (especially in regard to how heavy they became), there really was a unity of sound that likely has helped pigeonhole them in the “progressive” category from which it is proving difficult for the guys to extract themselves (in fact, anyone who has paid any attention at all to interviews and comments over the past couple of years will realize that being styled “progressive metal” is somewhat of a Duda bugbear).

Anno Domini High Definition (ADHD), their fourth album (with its four-word title and double-entendre acronym) was the first album where this desire for stylistic change became undeniably manifest.  And what a change it was.  It must have seemed as if they were not just abandoning their lush progressive roots, but dropkicking them into the next solar system.  The guys took their sumptuous atmospheric sound and slammed it head on into a heavy metal wall; they embraced it so enthusiastically one might even suspect they were eager for a change.  The keyboard sound acquired a much harder edge.  The guitars are dense and raunchy and full of relentless energy, the bass punchy and riff-heavy, taking the lead like it had never done before. Piotr Kozieradzki must have been in drum heaven on this one, with his extensive death metal background.  No acoustic guitar, no ballads, no real soft pieces except the start of “Left Out”.  For all that, Duda’s first point stands: There is no doubt we are listening to Riverside—their distinctive core remains untouched.

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