This album is called Love, Fear and the Time Machine, and on first listen, sounded like a delightful combination of Steven Wilson (especially his most recent work that I wrote about, Hand.Cannot.Erase.), Opeth, early Pink Floyd, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Put those all together and you get a great album. Before going any further, I will add a 2016 update to this review: Founding member and guitarist Piotr Grudzinski passed away on February 21, 2016, sadly and unexpectedly from cardiac arrest. In his memory, the remaining members of the band announced that they would release a new album. This album would be dedicated to him and included tracks that he had worked on prior to his passing, and that it would be primarily an ambient and instrumental album. The album has not yet been released, and there is no slated release date, but there is no rush. The band should take all the time it needs to process this. Before the music starts, I have posted an interview he did about this album in 2015. May he rest in peace.
This album was once put up by the band or record label in its entirety on youtube, and has since been removed. As it is no longer available, I’ll post their “single” below. I say single because I don’t know if that’s the word for it in the prog rock sphere, although a huge development has come to progressive rock/metal as of late: there will be a CHART of prog music sales! This may come about 40 years too late, but like every other bloody kind of music out there, albums will be ranked based on their sales, which is strange but kind of spectacular. The genre, as compiled by OCC or Billboard or whomever, still needs a little work, as bands like Tame Impala and Sigur Ros are considered progressive in this category. I guess it’s better than nothing, but it’s still amazing to see. Yes, I am amazed, because it seemed to random and bizarre to have a chart, but great to see this genre finally appreciated in this manner. It seems minor, and it probably is, but it’s another feather in the cap of bands releasing albums. Also, it’s great to see Faith No More and Symphony X on that first list. You can see the first list here:
9/21 note: I see that link was broken and sent you through a redirect, so I apologize for that. I have fixed the link today. Back to the review.
No, Riverside isn’t on that list yet, so it seems strange to go off on this tangent in this review when it’s not entirely related to this band, but it’s pretty significant for the genre nonetheless. Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds on the all-time top list is pretty impressive, as I recently discovered this gem last year.
Ok, back to the task at hand: Riverside. No need for a sleek transition, just a clean break from the previous discussion and on to more of this very complicated band. This track above may be the only one you’ll get to hear if the full album above gets removed. What I notice immediately is that in each track, I hear influences from certain bands. For instance, listen to the track Saturate Me and tell me that you don’t hear Dream Theater in at least the first minute of it. With Discard Your Fear, there’s a massive amount of The Cure in the track (that intro, oh my god), and it practically screams its presence on the track. In Under the Pillow, there’s some definite Steven Wilson in there, and in Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened By A Hat?) there’s some serious Opeth mixed in. Yes, Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened By A Hat?) is the name of the first track. The final track’s name is Found (The Unexpected Flaw of Searching). Lost and found, that’s an appropriate description of this album, and I’ll explain why. This album draws a lot of inspiration from the first Riverside album, Out of Myself, and even sounds like it to an extent. Granted, Love, Fear and the Time Machine is a much more polished and clean and well-made album, but the general tone comes from Out of Myself. Over the years, Riverside has evolved their sound from light to heavy to incredibly complicated to smooth and simple, and the sound they lost from Out of Myself is absolutely found again on this album.
What I enjoyed a lot about this album was its subtlety. It doesn’t have many aggressive tracks, choosing instead to remain calm and composed for most of its length, but it is hardly monotone and each song distinguishes itself from the others. The subtlety I mentioned is highlighted in how some of these tracks seem very simple, especially compared to to their previous albums of Shrine of New Generation Slaves (SoNGS) and Anno Domini High Definition (ADHD, yes, both are intentional…they have SLS and REM too). Mariusz Duda, the vocalist, doesn’t use any significant voice altering effects in this album, and instead sings with his voice untainted. On their last album, I mentioned that the additional effects on his voice were distracting and hit-or-miss, but he discards those this time which proves to be a total success. He doesn’t need to change his voice at all, and although he tries a few other vocal stylings in this album including a falsetto, they don’t get in the way and never seem to be a problem. His voice really shines on tracks like Towards the Blue Horizon and Found, where he can let it free (which in itself is a strange concept, letting your voice free, but go with me on this one).
My comparison of this album to other artists is not a takeaway from Love, Fear and the Time Machine. In fact, it’s actually very high praise, because the musicians and bands that Riverside channels are some of the best around. They don’t draw from something like 2015 Muse, and instead pull from bands and musicians with established sounds and grow on them with a Riverside flair. I always like bands drawing from their influences and enhancing them, and this album did just that. The most significant influence without question has to be Steven Wilson, who I can’t praise enough, and he is a fantastic person to draw inspiration from. I enjoyed Riverside’s Love, Fear and the Time Machine from the first time I heard Discard Your Fear a month ago, and when I finally heard the entire album, it caught me under its spell. It isn’t flawless, and of note the track #Addicted (that’s really the track name, I didn’t put the pound sign in by accident) falls a bit flat. Otherwise, I don’t have much negative to say about this album, so I gladly give it 14 RUs out of 15.