Who are you in these strange times? Are you still yourself or have you started playing the role of someone else? Or maybe you’re living a double life and HERE you are someone completely different than THERE? Certainly, the concept of “Identity” is multifaceted and it would be impossible to fit all of its aspects in a 53-minute-long story. On their new album ‘ID.Entity’, Riverside are trying to answer some of these questions beginning with the one about… their own identity.
“Before we started working on the new album, I asked myself a few questions,” says Mariusz Duda, the leader of the band. “Some personal ones, some about the current times, but most of all, questions about the band, for instance, ‘What is our strongest suit?’ There were two answers: ‘Melodies and… live performances!’ ‘What is the most comfortable setting for Riverside?’ Again, the answer was pretty obvious: ‘the stage’. Ironically, we haven’t really spoilt our fans with live releases, so I thought perhaps it was time to record a studio album which would musically reflect the character and dynamic of our live shows. Especially that we really wanted to say goodbye to the decade of sadness and melancholy, which dominated our recent releases.”
So, that’s the publicity blurb about this stunning new album from Poland’s premier prog-metal band Riverside and, after the ‘sadness and melancholy’ of their previous three releases, ‘ID.Entity’ hoves into view like a welcome dose of lightness and fresh air. Don’t get me wrong, there is no such thing as even an average Riverside release (and ‘Love, Fear and the Time Machine’ is still my favourite release from the band) but the darkness and heartache felt since the tragic loss of original guitarist Piotr Grudziński has finally cleared and enabled the band to return with one of their most uplifting albums. It is still a cutting diatribe about lack of trust, social divisions, uncertainty, lies, propaganda and invigilation and a world full of anger and helplessness but there’s an upbeat drama to the music.
The album consists of seven cleverly woven tracks that detail Mariusz opening up to social problems: Big Techs, populists,conspiracy theories, hatred, greedy corporations causing the planet and the human nature to die at an accelerated speed. The opening track Friend or Foe is dominated by the sublime keyboards of Michał Łapaj, who gives the song a real 80’s feel that combines with the grinding riffs of Maciej Meller and Mariusz’s Morten Harket-esque vocals to create a darkly contorted version of a-ha lost in a time warp. It’s a magnificent track full of vigour and vitriol and gives a flying start to this sublime record. Landmine Blast is a wonderfully dynamic song where the guitar is central to proceedings, fiery and compelling with a uniquely edgy feel thanks to the vibrant drumming of Piotr Kozieradzki. The staccato beat adds a real sense of urgency and mystery to things and Mariusz lends a flowing vocal to add ebullience and energy, this is classic Riverside in the vein of ‘Anno Domini High Definition’. I know a lot of people are not convinced by the artificial voice that opens Big Tech Brother and, yes, it is a bit corny but it doesn’t spoil what is another powerfully compelling piece of music. The funky keyboards and pounding drums add focus before some mountain sized riffs deliver a primeval dominance to the song. Mariusz interjects a sense of calm with his elegant vocal delivery but this track is a dark leviathan at heart.
The Riverside of the class of ‘Shrine Of New Generation Slaves’ then deliver an authoritative demonstration of intent with the all-powerful techno-metal of the catchy Post-Truth. Another finely crafted piece of music that I found rapidly became a quite addictive listening experience that ebbs and flows with a life force all of its own, Maciej’s guitar playing on this track is just sublime. This album will rapidly become part of your life and on constant replay and one of the reasons for that is the utterly brilliant The Place Where I Belong, the longest track on the album and one where Mariusz is at his songwriting best. Thirteen minutes of compelling, spellbinding music that fascinates and enthrals you in a irresistible manner. Perfectly constructed, both musically and lyrically and delivered by musicians at the height of their considerable powers, it is a landmark song in a stellar career and has something for every Riverside fan.
Anarchic and in your face, I’m Done With You is a metaphorical sucker punch to the gut that grabs your attention with its electronic edginess and in your face attitude. Vibrant keyboards, forceful drums and rabid riffs combine with Mariusz angry vocal to deliver the most incendiary track on the album and one that leaves you edgy and restless. The helter-skelter fast-paced intensity and magnetism of the fantastic Self-Aware is almost something new from Riverside, more reminiscent of 90’s hard rock and grunge than the intellectual prog-metal usually associated with the band and I absolutely love it. A sign that the band have shed any self-imposed shackles and feel free to do whatever they want with no fear of repercussions, it’s melodic, upbeat and just a little bit in your face and I’d love to hear more of it. A new direction? Why not when it’s this good!
Riverside are a band who have always gone their own way and been proud to defy convention and after the dark melancholy and sadness of recent releases, the band have returned with a brightly shining beacon of light. ‘ID.Entity’ is a generally uplifting album that puts a huge smile on my face every time I hear it and one that, I’m sure, will still be lighting up people’s lives for years to come.
Released 20th January, 2023.
Order ‘ID.Entity’ here: