I have to say, RIVERSIDE’s first album blew me away with its magnificence back in 2004. But so often a problem when a band brings out an impressive debut is the ability to follow up with a good enough second release. And so to strike me as accordingly as “Out Of Myself” did, “Second Life Syndrome” would have to wipe the floor with my ears to live up to expectations...
So upon first receiving the new album I was greeted with mixed feelings. I really wasn’t sure what to expect – perhaps the band had thought the only way to write an album as good as the last would be to just copy the formula of previous songs, or maybe they had decided to head in a new direction which wouldn’t impress me. But I had no real right to expect anything bad; these new songs could even be their best yet, though I doubted that they could ever top “Loose Heart”. Anyway, so I finally got round to sticking on the CD: the first track is “After” and it gets going in about 40 seconds, following the brief whispered introduction. It has a slightly different feel to the RIVERSIDE I’m familiar with, the drums giving a different mood than those of the previous album. But the song is still melancholic enough, especially vocally, with some high female singing towards the end; a great track which serves perfectly as an introduction.
We move on to Volte-Face, the instruments build up from silence and the feel is a bit more rock orientated. And when the guitar kicks in – now that’s what I’m talking about! Piotr has such a characteristic way of playing and his choice of notes instantly lets you know its him, in both the riffs and solos and that is one of the things that makes RIVERSIDE what it is. The song moves on through some heavier riffs, refreshing when combined with organ sounds and juxtaposed with mellower sections and this demonstrates the variety in “Second Life Syndrome”. “Conceiving You” is a much lighter song, perhaps even the ballad of the album, but don’t let that put you off – some truly brilliant melodies, showcasing the wonderful emotion in Mariusz Duda’s voice and also his talent on bass guitar.
The highlight of the album is definitely the title track, an absolute Prog masterpiece, in every section. So many atmospheres are created and covered and it really is quite amazing that it’s almost 16 minutes long yet never drags at all. There’s not much more I can say about it, the guitar and vocal melodies, once again are so beautifully emotive that in fact this is one of my favourite Prog epics of all time. “I Turned You Down” also need a mention as a truly special track – quite slow paced, but magnificent once again. And following that, the “Reality Dream” trilogy is finished off in part 3, adding more to the addictive 7/8 time signature already established in parts 1 and 2 from “Out Of Myself”.
One nag would be “Artificial Smile”, a song with a more rock vibe to it, which for me is a bit misplaced with the other songs and which I actually find quite annoys me, but then again, that’s my opinion and it’s a solid track nonetheless. The musicianship by all is very good, especially during some of the more Proggy passages and production is very nice too. On the whole, the Poles have thankfully done it again and I can sleep at night knowing that with 2 great albums under their belt, RIVERSIDE are surely paving the way for a promising career. Another incredible, conceptual journey bringing new life to rather an old style, although I’d say it’s not really fair to lump them into any genre as their sound is simply impossible to match.
Lastly I think I should mention that my ears really were well and truly floor bound and in fact I think they’re still recovering. Better than the debut then? It’s really hard to decide, but either way they’re both worth getting. (Online April 24, 2006)