I hold Riverside in very high esteem. By far one of the better acts within the progressive umbrella, I’ve been an admirer of the band since I stumbled across their debut back in 2003. I saw them rise in ability and song-craft towards their fabulous 3rd album “Second Life Syndrome” which I felt sure would elevate the band to the top of their field. They have continued to release excellent material ever since but 2018 finds the band entering a new recording chapter as a trio, enforced by the tragic passing of co-founding member Piotr Grudzinski.
Riverside have always dwelled at the darker end of the progressive rock spectrum, and given the less than cheery circumstances leading up to the recording of this seventh full-length album there can be no expectation that things would have changed in that department. However, that melancholic approach is actually one of the things I’ve always liked about Riverside, something that sets them apart from others. There is continuity here too, a more than tangible musical link to their excellent “Love, Fear and the Time Machine” (perfectly described elsewhere on Ave Noctum by Andrew Doherty). There has been an album between that one and this (“Eye Of The Soundscape”), but it was more a compilation-type tribute to their fallen band-mate, so “Wasteland” is really their first album written by the trio intended to carry the band forward into their new era.
As this new opus unfolds it becomes apparent that there is not only a forward-looking Riverside on display here, but also a band taking with them all the elements of their sound that they still want to accompany them on that journey. Riverside have always pushed their musical abilities, it’s the Prog Metal way, but in doing so they have always done this on their own terms. Long-term fans of the band will know what I mean, just as anyone who owns just one Riverside release will also grasp, Riverside do it their way. If you expect anything from 70’s Genesis/Pink Floyd/Camel through to modern day Opeth, Riverside will deliver, in their own style and this album is no exception. ‘Lament’, ‘Acid Rain’, ‘River Down Below’ and ‘The Struggle For Survival’ are classic Riverside whether it leans toward the heavier, the sombre, the melancholy or the technical, it’s all here. And more…
It seems in hindsight almost predictable (if Riverside can be predicted) that a side of this band should at some point dip into a low vocal gothic area, there have been hints of this previously, and this comes to fruition on ‘Guardian Angel’, then is taken even further with a folk edge on parts of the title track – another new and exciting side of the band that they can explore further in the future. And I simply must mention the absolutely gorgeous modern-day lullaby feel of ‘The Night Before’ which fills you with joy and brings a tear to your eye at the same time.
It seems disrespectful and flippant to state that this album is a fine example of hope that comes from tragedy. From an outside point of view you could certainly see it that way, but I think it is basically a band with stunning talent carrying on with the band they love in the best way they can. It’s a band looking forward whilst grateful and thankful of the past, a past that built their style, their fan-base and their legacy. This is another awe-inspiring example of what this band can do with their music, the way they blend styles that they have made their own and continue to be a spearhead of the progressive genre.
(9/10 Andy Barker)