Polish prog quartet Riverside has definitely made a name for itself in the underground scene over the years. The lads from Warsaw have a few things going for them, most important of which is a line-up that hasn’t changed for 12 years. The band’s most notable feature has regularly been the tendency to create a harmonious balance between all the instruments, especially during numerous instrumental sections where the bass, keyboards and guitar seem to be wandering off on their own. Long term fans can definitely trace the maturity of the band ever since it’s humble yet ambitious beginnings and the past five albums have given everyone a lot to argue about. So having elegantly trod the line between progressive rock and metal for the better part of 12 years, where does Riverside go with studio album number six (with a title of six words, mind you) Love, Fear and the Time Machine?
Well unsurprisingly, Love, Fear and the Time Machine kicks off with the delicate intro ‘Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened By a Hat?)’ as it lays down the main points discussed throughout the album’s lyrics which are the fear of failure, rejection and loss. ‘Under the Pillow’ provides a little more musical variety as the bass takes off on its own like it used to do on previous albums but it didn’t last very long. Next comes ‘#Addicted’ which is a scathing commentary on the influence of social media and how it is shaping the way people are living their lives. This one is reminiscent of ‘Celebrity Touch’ from 2013’s Shrine of New Generation Slaves, musically though, it follows a predictable structure and carries no surprises.
This is when it can dawn on fans of Riverside’s older material that this album is more focused on the lyrics than on the music, which is fine in principle but ‘Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire‘ comes with an alarming hint of teenage angst in the lyrics. However, there is the poignant ‘Afloat‘ and ‘Discard Your Fear‘ which has the only piece with a heavy section where the guitar soars off post-rock style; two back-to-back pieces that work to elevate the album and give it some much-needed variety. Unfortunately, the momentum is not capitalized upon and the inconsistency returns with ‘Towards the Blue Horizon‘ which is weighed down by its lyrics and, at this point in the album, doesn’t convey the confidence a fully realized band such as Riverside should exude.
The overall feel of the album is definitely a lot more subtle and delicate than any of the band’s previous work and, given the quality of such work, this album could sound a bit weaker by comparison. Riverside has always been a band that has placed a lot of importance on the lyrics, tackling personal and social topics with wit and intelligence yet has also been a band that pushed itself musically and created fantastic melodies. This new bare-bones approach is the sound of Riverside being comfortable in their own skin and playing the music they want to play with confidence. Yet this album doesn’t hit the same heights that propelled the band’s earlier efforts to great heights of prog in past years.
Riverside’s Love, Fear and the Time Machine gets…