“Let’s believe this is our time”
It was 2008 when I stumbled upon a song called “02 Panic Room” by a band named Riverside. Enthralled, I ended up purchasing every album and have preordered every album since, as well. Riverside is just as valid and exciting to me as they were back then, so you can imagine that I approach a review for their new album with bated breath. A new Riverside album is a spiritual experience for me in many ways; indeed, their music very much falls in line with the various seasons of my life. They have gotten me through difficult times emotionally, and, yes, are my favorite band, without question.
So, is this a fanboy review, then? Maybe, but ultimately no. Only certain albums in their discography would garner a 10/10 from me, but I am thrilled to say that, after listening to the new album “Love, Fear and the Time Machine” about 30 times, it deserves that score every little bit. “LFTM” represents Riverside at their most mature, both on a musical and an emotional level.
“I wanted to turn into a butterfly, but I couldn’t trust you enough”
Keeping their core band the same since the second album, Riverside consists of Mariusz Duda on bass and vocals, Piotr Grudziński on guitars, Piotr Kozieradzki on drums, and Michał Łapaj on keyboards. These four have proven much to the progressive world over the years, but “LFTM” really feels as if they want to prove something to themselves. While they’ve never been much for the technical wanking of many progressive bands out there, this new album is a purposeful exploration of a warmer, lusher, more hopeful side to the band. Anyone that has followed them knows that their past albums are sometimes very dreary and depressing: Indeed, “melancholy” describes their music well (though, I’ve always seen their music as strangely hopeful). However, Riverside has taken that depression and given us a journey with light at the end of the tunnel. Instead of offering pain and fear without remedy, Riverside gives us a vision of life with hope, happiness, and purpose at the end. Riverside has completed and clarified their message.
All four of these musicians are at the top of their games. Duda’s vocals are once again perfect, packed with relatability and emotion. His bass, quite frankly, is the best of the year. Michal’s keys hit all the right notes, and I especially love when he plays counter to the time signature a bit, as I just get an unearthly peaceful feeling from it. Piotr’s drums are more clarified than ever, and I found myself tapping out the beats hours later. And, as always, Grudziński’s guitars are packed with emotional solos, driving rhythms, and even some shoegazing moments. The band, then, feels very calm and confident.
All of this is reflected in the musical choices. Bright acoustic guitar make an appearance here, as well as an overall softer sound and incredibly strong and clear vocal melodies (“Time Travellers”). Duda has also brought back his vocal noises that I love so much. Spacier, lovelier, and happier, “Love, Fear and the Time Machine” laps and flows like the waters at, well, a riverside. Instrumental sections sound organic and naturally flow in and around choruses and verses. One sticks out in particular: the first few minutes of “Saturate Me” reminds me of the “Reality Dream” instrumental tracks from their first few albums. There are others, such as the end of “Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire” and the end of “Towards the Blue Horizon”. There are plenty of instrumental fireworks, but they never lose purpose or restraint.
Influences from the 70’s and 80’s make an appearance throughout, but the core sound is Riverside. In fact, I think the press releases have been overplaying the supposed influences on this album. This is the band reaching maturity in every way. They have their own identity and their own purpose, and they honestly don’t care what you think.
“In my invisible *oh* life, I don’t want to feel like I’m no one anymore”
That attitude spills over into the amazing lyrics on this album. The theme of this album is very personal for Duda, and it involves an analysis of the various situations and catalysts in life that allow or force us to make huge decisions. That might be a misleading description, though. The album is more about encouraging and supporting us as we choose to make life changes; as we throw off our shackles, break our chains, and run from our self-imposed cages. This is an album about freedom and living life as the person you are, without fear and without a focus on the past. In other words, it’s time to move on and become somebody. So, yes, it’s a weighty and sometimes dark theme, but the band channels hope, ultimately.
So, all of this can serve to prepare you for one hell of an album. From the haunted uneasiness of “Lost” to the gentle scolding of “Under the Pillow”, or from the weightlessness of “Afloat” to the pulse pounding excitement of “Discard Your Fear”, Riverside have not only created an album that is beautiful and never gets tired, but they have also once again created an album that reaches me (and I hope you) on a personal level. I honestly can’t get enough of it! My favorite tracks are difficult to choose, so I will say the awesome “Under the Pillow”, the keyboard-rich “Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire”, the nostalgic “Saturate Me”, the single “Discard Your Fear”, the transitioning serenity of “Towards the Blue Horizon”, and probably the strong melodies of “Time Travellers”. Yeah, basically all of them.
“In your Fabletown, you’re still afraid of starting something new this life”
I hope you will give this album a shot. “Love, Fear and the Time Machine” is the best album I’ve heard this year, and I don’t see it leaving my playlist for some time. It is in many ways the best Riverside album since “Second Life Syndrome”, which is not a light statement, as that happens to be my favorite of all time. That’s actually a little scary to say, but I’ll stand by that claim. Everything about this album is Riverside, past and present and future. Yet, now I feel that they have completed their emotional journey, and they’ve taken me along for the ride. Thank you, Riverside, for continuing to try new things and for purposing to reach individuals on a personal basis.
Unfortunately, I’m not a big fan of this one. For me it is too ‘songish’, safe and predictable in parts. The musicianship is weak – the drums and keyboards are more background fillers than proper, distinguished elements. It’s more Mariusz album than Riverside as a band (he was responsible for writing all the songs). Riverside’s members admitted in the book about Riverside (there is only a Polish edition available) that there was a lot of tension and arguments between them when working in a studio. Piotr, drummer, didn’t like the new direction Riverside was talking and the fact that Mariusz pushed him to play more simple, cliched rhythms. Michal wasn’t happy with reduced role of his keyboards in a new recording. Both, Piotr and Michal, mentioned in one of the interviews that one of their favourite Riverside albums is ADHD where real musicianship was happening.