Thursday, January 24, 2013

REVIEW: Riverside - Shrine Of New Generation Slaves (2013)

Progressive Rock: a genus of rock n' roll which embodies instrumental, lyrical, compositional....progress through complexity I suppose. Bombastic suites, time changes, jazz and classical progressions: this is how we've boxed in many a great band since the style's heyday of the early-to-mid 70's. And yet this definition has been changing ever since the 80's: more kids today have been introduced to the "proggier" side of alternative musical styles by bands like Porcupine Tree, Muse and The Mars Volta since Y2K as opposed to Yes or Van Der Graaf Generator. These newer bands are simply better at incorporating other contemporary styles into the classic prog. rock architecture, and that's what moves merchandise. Overall result? The 2000's and beyond have been kinder to the genre than any other decade since the golden era, if not downright affluent.

And yet, we are living in a musical era where the old becomes new and vice versa, a trend never more prevalent or clear to see than in Poland's top progressive rock export, the magnificent and ever prodigious Riverside. Their Reality Dream Trilogy of albums (Out Of Myself, Second Life Syndrome and the particularly fantastic Rapid Eye Movement) are considered to be contemporary classics in the early 2000's 'nu-prog' canon, with each album being a vehicle for the gorgeous vocals of Mariusz Duda and his psychedelic blend of alternative rock atmospherics with a certain edge more akin to modern metal groups like Tool or Deftones.

So here we are in 2013 with long awaited opus Shrine Of New Generation Slaves (or S.O.N.G.S.), an absolutely gorgeous LP sitting somewhere between a condemnation and a concept record, a way station for sounds and ideas heading towards the modern world from an antiquated small town somewhere far behind where people still sing about fairies and jam on Hammond organs. And boy when it can hear the Earth's crust shifting beneath your speakers.

The past is inescapable, and its hard to deny that Pink Floyd is all over these wicked songs by accident, design and perhaps well-meaning coincidence. Less drugged out spaciness, more snow blind melancholia and the sort of luscious guitar contemplations that paint a sky grey, but I digress. The title track is bluesy, repetitive, and even fires up a bit about midway through. The blood really starts flowing when we come to 'The Depth Of Self Delusion' and 'Celebrity Touch' though: the former is chill yet armed to the teeth with a bassline that could crack concrete and the latter is a woodland headbanger with a killer chorus and some beautiful bridges to burn. What's not to like?

By the time we get to album anthem 'Feel Like Falling' and very dreamy 'Deprived (Irretrievably Lost Imagination)', I'm goddamn elated. Mariusz goes into falsetto of all things on 'Falling', and they bring in some glorious saxophone on the last couple of minutes on the latter of these two tracks....and I'm just wondering why the whole world can't be celebrating this album as much as I want to when these fantastic songs sweep over my room.

We close off S.O.N.G.S with a suite-de-grace in the form of 'Escalator Shrine' (which is what you're seeing on that thar album cover if I'm not mistaken). It's the penultimate statement of the record, a 12 minute promenade of lip-smackin' guitar solos, spacey Hammond mediation and enough jam to soak your toast from crust to crumble. Whew!

I could have asked for a better album to start 2013 off with nor a more splendid collection to introduce other people to the musical institution that is Riverside. Go buy the damn thing: they deserve every penny for something of this caliber.

Buy It Here!