Riverside is a band from Poland that has been active in the prog circuit for 20 years now. With ID.Entity they deliver their eighth full-length album. Band leader Mariusz Duda is the one who often determines the course of the band and that has resulted in music with various styles to date. That's what makes Riverside such a fun band. They don't allow themselves to be pigeonholed because the fan wants it that way, and I like that, their own will and identity. And that's exactly what it's all about on this new album.
By the way, this is the first album where Maciej Meller (Quidam) has become a guitarist and regular band member of Riverside. After the death of Piotr Grudzinski on February 21, 2016, the band had of course had a very difficult time. Besides the fact that they were band members of each other, they were also really good friends. No one expected Piotr to die, which of course only made it more painful. After the release of Wasteland (2018, see review), which was a completely different album due to Piotr's passing, and after the wonderful tour in which they honored Piotr in every performance, we had to deal with the lockdown. The band used this period to write the follow-up to Wasteland, ID.Entity. It is always the question of what the band has in store. The conclusion of many listens is that Riverside has succeeded in writing the freshest album that is possible in my opinion. You immediately recognize the sound of Riverside, you can't ignore it. But why would you want that? Because in all their previous 7 albums they have never written a bad or mediocre album. Let's take a closer look at what awaits you on this album.
Friend Or Foe? Is the album opener. In principle you are a put bit on the wrong foot because you simply hear A-ha from the 80s here. This can't be true, what is the band doing? Well, with pushing boundaries I can tell you. They know how to combine the music from the 80s with the current sound and that is really refreshing. But, do you experience something in the music then, because A-ha was a nice band, but they weren't really spectacular, were they? You can actually say that they used the 80s music and then poured a refreshing Riverside sauce over it. Wonderful keyboard sounds come directly to you and you are actually immediately into the music. Piotr Kozieradski's drumming is immediately nice and tight. Duda's bass is also so recognizable but is so nice. Then literally the A-ha or aha feeling comes up, a feeling of recognizing something often gives an aha experience (the Germans say A-ha erlebnis). The song is nice and varied and again, very fresh because of Michael Lapaj's keyboard playing. The guitars, on the other hand, are tuned a bit heavier, which makes the potpourri sound so good. Quiet passages with keyboard solos and a very tight rhythm section overload you with a feeling of happiness. Give me more of this kind of 80s feeling, just the time when I was growing up and music became important to me. When you've passed the more than 7 minutes and you turn off the music for a while, you can't help but have a wonderful smile on your face and you can conclude that the new Riverside album has already succeeded, and we only heard 1 of the 7 songs .
After Friend Or Foe? we get Landmine Blast. This song immediately starts nice and up tempo and yes, there is the great ode to Piotr Grudzinski by looking up the guitar sound of the first 3 albums. You immediately imagine yourself in that beautiful first phase of Riverside in which they still leaned on the sound of Pink Floyd, but even then they gave it their own twist. After Meller's wonderful solo, which is fantastically supported by Duda's driving bass, the song becomes a bit more hooked, again by Duda's leading bass and such a hooked guitar solo. Everything is held together beautifully by the excellent vocals of Duda and the tight drumming of Kozieradski. Halfway through a nice section of bass and cymbals with some hooked guitar work from Meller. The song is completely different from its predecessor but also a direct hit as far as I'm concerned. This song also makes me happy. The song ends with such a beautiful solo on his Grudzinski's, after which Duda and Kozieradski make short work of it.
Big Tech Brother is the next song. It starts with the following spoken text: Hello listener, if you want to hear the next song, you must first agree to terms and conditions, it won't hurt, well, at least not now, maybe later. Thank you for your cooperation. I appreciate these kind of jokes. Mariusz' bass takes you along, after which keys and drums also come forward. And yes, a true brass band is coming towards you. Nowadays I can appreciate this very much and again I think: how do you come up with this, what a creativity. After the brass section, a heavy sound comes your way, fully supported by the keys of Lapaj. What a nice heavy sound. But before you get used to it, you are immersed in a carpet of keys that, in my opinion, should have lasted much longer. Then it's Duda's turn to tell you his lyrics, supported by calm music. You can actually catch your breath for a moment, after which guitars swell again and the heaviness in the song is back, until it becomes even quieter again. In short, we can say that there is a lot of variety in the song, very heavy, aggressive, to very light. For me this is the strongest song so far. A real Riverside guitar solo passes by, but you hear that it was not played by Grudzinski and yet it has its own identity. After this, a new keyboard carpet is used that lets you float along. Then the heavy guitars are used again, together with another beautiful keyboard carpet and so the song floats to a fade out, and that is understandable on the one hand because otherwise the song would never have ended, on the other hand it could have had a more creative ending for me. But above all this is a fantastic song, what a power and attitude. Super!
After all the Big Tech Brother violence, it's Post-Truth's turn and if you thought you were catching your breath, you're wrong. This song reminds me a bit of the Rapid Eye Movement period, it gives me the same vibe as back then. Here too Duda's vocals stand out again, that man can sing so well, wonderful. And also in this song those wonderful Lapaj keyboard carpets pass by. In my experience he demands much more space than on previous albums, although he was also present there. Also in Post-Truth there is room for a beautiful guitar solo by Meller, and of course completely different from all other solos. After Meller's solo, the song swells again and the song ends aggressively, although, after the aggression, Lapaj is allowed to let the song fade away with a quiet piano sound.
Then it's the turn of the longest song on the album, The Place Where I Belong. In any case, it starts differently than all the other songs, quiet guitar strumming with floating vocals by Duda. This passage is supported with a Lapaj solo after which we return to the first theme. Then Lapaj can pour a sauce over it again so that everything sounds as it should sound. Then, we almost forgot about him, Meller can do a solo after which it all starts to sound a bit oriental, with exciting keys, what will happen? Indeed, a change in the song is coming. Duda can touch his strings together with Kozieradski's drumming, we enter a piece of retro prog with another short guitar solo. Variety trumps in this part with delightful Hammond organ parts, then again only the bass with Duda who claims the leading role with his vocals. Regularly recurring guitar solos and themes characterize this song. Really everything is in the song, quiet, heavy, drawn-out solos, short solos, even Duda's solo work is featured now and then, so that the link with Lunatic Soul is also made, without this being disturbing for even a second. The middle part is a quiet piece accompanied by the acoustic guitar, after which it accelerates again and the typical Riverside sound returns, so familiar but oh so welcome. Then Meller can give another solo and what makes me happy is that he remains himself and does not try to be a copy of Grudzinski. As a result, you also experience that Riverside has entered a new phase of life. Towards the end of the song, Lapaj and Meller alternate solos. When I read back everything that passes by in this song, you can say that there is certainly no shortage of inspiration in Riverside. The great thing is that it all fits, nothing is too crazy, nothing falls by the wayside and as a listener you remain captivated for the entire 13 minutes.
I'm Done With You opens with those delightful bass lines that are so wonderful to watch live. After the nice bass lines, Kozieradski gives his drum kit a beating and we blast into the song. Live this can be a good song because after the intro the drum part is so nice to clap to when you are in the concert hall, the band can take you with them in that respect. There is good support from the keys and slumbering guitar lines. Then it's Kozieradski's turn again to show what he has to offer, because how well he can time his percussion. Duda sings in a restrained way in the beginning, but during the song he becomes more and more aggressive, just like the music. For me, this song contains the most aggressive parts of the album, although variety is also an asset here. When you put the lyrics next to the music, you understand why everything is so aggressive. But don't let the word aggression distract you too much, because there is also a beautiful melodic guitar solo in this song. The further the song progresses, the heavier it all gets and when you think about where it should go, you get a kind of fade out that is completely in place.
Self-Aware is the album closing song. Duda and Meller open melodious, after which Kozieradski joins in the hammering. A little later Lapaj also jumps in and a song sprouts that simply makes you happy. It takes you nicely into rapture while it shakes Hammond nicely now and then. There are even a few reggae passages in this song, who could have imagined that. And it all sounds incredibly refreshing. Halfway through the song it is Lapaj's turn to be fully in the picture for a few minutes with another wonderful keyboard carpet, supported by the phenomenal bass work of Mr. Duda. I notice that I really enjoy listening to Lapaj, what this keyboard wizard can do is really fantastic. Normally you often hear duels in the prog between keys and guitar, but in this case it is between bass and keys. Not that it's a real duel, by the way, that's out of the question. It's a nice story that the gentlemen want to tell you. It ends with fading strumming and then these 9 minutes are over and with it the album.
We can say that Riverside is very successful with this album to become album of the year. The freshness that the album exudes, the musical choices the gentlemen have made to treat us to, so from A-ha to Bob Marley, nothing is too crazy and it's all right. I can only respect the choices the band made in making this album. To be honest, the last three albums were not the best of the band for me personally, but with this album they have added another gem.
***** Michel Stolk (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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