December 23, 2013 by Beldrac
Riverside – Shrine of New Generation Slaves
Genre: Progressive Rock/Metal
2013 has been a good year for Metal, not the best of the last few I dare say, but it kicked off beautifully with Riverside’s “Shrine of New Generation Slaves.” The Polish Progressive Rock/Metal group has been around for a while and I’ve spent a lot of time listening to “Rapid Eye Movement,” “Second Life Syndrome” and others, but by this year I’d nearly forgotten about them. (Or rather, the sheer volume of music I try to process shunted them out my left ear.)
Riverside has never been the heaviest of Progressive Metal bands, leaning mostly to the side of Rock, but to those already familiar with their other albums, “Shrine of New Generation Slaves” – here forth referred to as “the album” – takes a large step away from Metal altogether. This doesn’t distract from what’s a very good and classy album though. The band has always liked to work some jazz influences into their sound and this album is no exception. Overall it’s a slower, softer, milder and more thoughtful album, one you can mull over with a glass of red wine while the sun slowly sets in time, or late at night when you’re burning the midnight oil with a cup of coffee.
As always, there isn’t much to say about the skill of the band members, it’s all top-notch and I believe Riverside can rightly be seen as one of the biggest names in the scene at the moment. Some people might not like the softer nature of this album and others might unfavourably compare them it Porcupine Tree. Fact is, I don’t believe that’s a good comparison at all, even though they drink from the same cup of 60s/70s-inspired eclectic Prog, Porcupine Tree is just a little more psychedelic than I can enjoy on a regular basis, even one-dimensional at times. On this album Riverside may not have covered as much ground as before, but the metallic edge is certainly there.
The album starts off with lots of energy and a foreboding tone, the lyrics speak of the realisation that when we come to this earth we’re all formed into little boxes who are expected to conform to certain social standards, questioning just how free we actually are. Yep, not exactly uplifting subject matter. The second song slows down a bit and continues on this theme, realising that we’re always chasing something, becoming slaves to our own greed, needs and wants…I think this is why the album works so well as a combination of lyrical subject matter and musical style; when you listen to the album it engages you in such a way that you can’t help but come to a standstill (physically or mentally) and take a time out. That’s the beauty here, I believe.
“Celebrity Touch” ups the tempo again and this is more traditional Progressive Metal, still leaning heavily on keyboard styles from a bygone era, but quite lively. “We Got Used to Us” is the first real ballad on the album and is a post-mortem of sort of a close relationship between two people. The words are rather touching and again, befit the music perfectly. “Feel Like Falling” has a more upbeat tone and tempo and is highlighted with a few screeching riffs and some good work on the four-string axe. “Deprived” calls on some psychedelic styles to paint a vivid and colourful picture of rather grey subject matter before it sends you on a wild instrumental ride. “Escalator Shrine” brings the album towards a great end, moving from early Prog and incorporating some of the 70s-styles with some groovy keyboard melodies on a layer of more modern guitar and drum interplay. The last track, “Coda” is a footnote of sorts to “Feel Like Falling” and closes off a great album.
Even though this album didn’t make my number one spot for 2013, it very nearly did and it certainly deserves top accolades. If you’re already a fan of the band I suspect you’ve heard and made up your mind about this one already. Anyone else who’s a fan of Progressive Rock of an eclectic nature that still has the balls to be considered Metal, should definitely check this one out.