Riverside - Second Life Syndrome

Year of Release: 2005
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: IOMCD 231
Format: CD
Total Time: 63:39:00

Second Life Syndrome is the second chapter in the trilogy started with Out Of Myself. It is the same dark and moody mix of metal and rock. I know people mention Porcupine Tree in connection with the influences on Riverside, but I don't hear that so much, other than the mix of harsh and soft textures. Of course, I hear a lot of Marillion in the guitar playing (Piotr Grudzinski), though Riverside are heavier and darker than Marillion, even at their darkest. And that's owing to the many other influences that band has. In fact, what I hear at various times is Pink Floyd, Arena, Pain of Salvation, Threshold, and probably others that I sense but can't name. And yet, these elements mixed together do create for the band something new, as these influences are then filtered through what the band wants to hear on the other side. If anything, the Porcupine Tree influence is really filtered through that band's latter employment of stylistic touches picked up from Wilson's collaborations with Opeth (who in turn took some PT into their sound). The results are something that is filled dark tension and release that leads to new tension? Vocalist/bassist Mariusz Duda keeps things tense, as his vocals teeter on the edge of madness. That tension breaks with his infrequent snarls and grows with his quieter moments -- an example for me of when the use of growly vocals makes sense. Tension is also created by the interplay between the quartet (notably in the instrumental "Reality Dream III").

What shows through - evident on their debut, and again here - is a mature band. Perhaps because while the band is fairly new on the scene, the members themselves aren't. Still, bands often burst on the - any - scene with a strong debut, the music that ends up there honed and refined before the opportunity to record it comes to them. But the follow up is then rushed, pieces not fully realized. That isn't the case here. The second album is as polished and complete sounding as the first. Perhaps because it's a concept album so there's a framework to work with, avoiding the need for filler. But, it's more than that. There's a self-assuredness to the presentation of music that shows this band is confident. To have a three part concept album as your debut takes guts (what if the first album didn't do anything?), that band backs it up. And if there's room for improvement - and of course, there always is - this band will only get stronger. A fact that might have us comparing up 'n' comers as being influenced by Riverside.

The subtleness and understated feel of the opening track "After" makes the following track "Volte-Face" seem high energy in comparison. Though, in fact, there is a great deal of energy in this piece, in the rhythm section of Piotr Kozieradzki (drums) and Duda. This alone is the example of the contrasts between light and dark (the album closes with the less subtle, but equally understated and mellow, "Before").

"Conceiving You" is a melodic, balladic piece with a slinky bass line and romantic vocal delivery. The guitar solo here gives it a mid-period Marillion-esque feel, but a sense of where that band would have gone had they not changed direction. A feeling that continues in "I Turned You Down," though this also is a chunky, heavy rocker with bursts of distorted guitars. This leads to heavier, grungier/dirtier, harsher sounds that dominate "Reality Dream III" (though we get some searing, clean solos from Grudzinski).

Gilmour is evoked in the light, elegant sparsely-stated guitar intro to "Second Life Syndrome." Yes, there is a latter period Floyd feel - that dreamy, floaty, solidly-ethereal territory that was explored on the band's last two albums. Though that's not it entirely, as the fat and funky bass line shows a modern prog metal/rock edge. As you might have suspected, "Second Life Syndrome" is the epic of the album, a 15-plus minute opus that moves through both languid passages (here including a nice use of keyboards, sounding a bit Rhodes-like); moodier, atmospheric passages with vocalizations that remind me of Fish; not scatting, but subvocalized vocals that build tension; nevermind that the build up of instrumentation here - complex guitar, bass and percussion - just underscore that tension. Guitar tells part of this story with expressive soloing; in fact, I simply love the solo that closes out the piece. It's sweet, sad and melancholy without being too much of either. A hint of Floyd marks the opening of the otherwise furious "Dance With The Shadow," a track that becomes acidic and harsh, a churning power surge that reflects the character's inner turmoil aptly.

While some album's take you on a physical journey, evoking landscapes and movement, Second Life Syndrome takes you on an inner journey. The temptation is to say "into the heart of darkness," and perhaps that's apropos? but certainly into the inner psyche. Musically it reaches out and touches the senses, thematically it goes deeper. This moody, lyrical, metal-meets-prog-meets-rock-meets? whatever, is really something I dig. You can tell that the band is passionate about what they do and that depth of feeling comes through in the album. Complex but not inaccessible. Very well done, and one of my favorites for 2005.

After (3:31) / Volte-Face (8:40) / Conceiving You (3:40) / Second Life Syndrome (15:40) / Artificial Smile (5:27) / I Turned You Down (4:34) / Reality Dream III (5:01) / Dance With The Shadow (11:38) / Before (5:23)

Piotr Grudzinski - guitar
Mariusz Duda - vocals, bass
Piotr Kozieradzki - drums, percussion
Michal Tapaj - keyboards

Out Of Myself (2003/2004)
Voices In My Head (2005/2006)
Second Life Syndrome (2005)
Rapid Eye Movement (2007)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin PL

Added: July 23rd 2006
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.riversideband.pl
Hits: 1823
Language: english


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