Riverside – Shrine of New Generation Slaves: Review
I’d like to take a minute to brag about Riverside. I mean they’re essentially one of my favorite bands of all time (no exaggeration). There’s not a release in their catalog that I feel is less than great, and that includes LPs, EPs, and frontman Duda’s side projects (haven’t listened to many single releases or live albums by them). In my eyes, they have a 100% hit accuracy when it comes to their discography, and off the top of my head I cannot recall any other band for whom I would make the same statement (Devin… Physicist… So close…). But this is why there was such great internal anxiety when diving into this album blind. It was a leap of faith not knowing whether or not salvation awaited (FYI, it did).
Riverside is usually on the more mellow, immersive, drifty, ambient region of the progressive scene. But they’ve experimented their sound and expanded it vastly from album to album. Their second most recenet LP, Anno Domini High Definition, took a heavier sound and a more complex route with song structure, having only five songs to total nearly 45 minutes. Some were not as enthusiastic with this sound as they were with the more rooted Riverside sound, mainly speaking of their initial release entitled Out of Myself. That one was heavily focused on ambiance and acoustic guitars and atmosphere while carefully and selectively venturing into metal territory. But I said it a dozen or so lines ago: I love it all!
So with that said, there may be some bias with the rave-storm that I’m soon enough going to throw towards this album. Riverside is able to keep such a down-to-earth quality to their songwriting while still impressing a snooty, pretentious audience (myself included). Shrine of New Generation Slaves is no exception to that statement. There are “poppier” hits such as “Celebrity Touch” and more in-depth pieces like “Escalator Shrine”. But even “Celebrity Touch” has sections such as the breakdown and verse variations that veer it away from ever being a pop-hit and instead being super awesome (professionally speaking). Now objectively speaking, there is an undeniable 70s-ish influence on the album as a whole. It’s both in the musicianship and the production as a whole – lots of organ and 70s guitar crunch. Its obviousness in the musicianship is especially notable with the catchy main riff of “Celebrity Touch,” while I’m still grilling that one out. But even with the opener, “New Generation Slave,” very riffy and classic rock sounding beauty. But it also has a psychedelic Floydian touch, especially with the solo on “Celebrity Touch” (man I love that song!) and the whole of “Escalator Shrine,” which is perhaps my favorite of the album. And the amazing rock organs on “Feel Like Falling”… yeah, definitely got that 70s-ish feel… I definitely kind of think so… But the more Riverside-staple ambient touch comes in with some of the tracks like “The Depth of Self – Delusion” and “Deprived,” though I still sense a lingering 70s sensation. It’s a very focused but expansive collection of tracks, if that makes any sense at all… which it doesn’t, not in the context words at least.
Also, I’m usually a head-shaker at bonus tracks. But if any band were to sway my narrow-mind… Riverside. These bonus tracks are not at all like anything on the album, hence they are bouns tracks (“Night Session” parts one and two). They’re similar to the style of Lunatic Soul (frontman Duda’s side project) in that they’re quite electronic and ambient. But it definitely caters to my desires with the jazzy kiss on the cheek (the appropriate cheek). Very seductive, very sensual, very satisfying. They are definitely on par in quality with the album, and the decision to include them as bonus tracks as to segregate them stylistically and contextually with the rest of the album was necessary. Still, they should not be discarded.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m slightly head-over-heels in love with this album. Not as much so as with Out of Myself, but equally to Anno Domini High Definition. The first listen was adequate, but subsequent ones have been of pure enjoyment. It ranks at the same level as some of the other Neo-70s prog albums I’ve loved lately (Pain of Salvation – Road Salt Two; Opeth – Heritage; Ghost – Opus Eponymous). Also, from a hetero-male point of view, I find that Polish accent very exotic and sexy. Ahem. Anyways, this album is a definite recommendation on my part and as of now, is my definitive favorite album (and only one I’ve listened to) this year! Check it out for your own benefit.
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