Album Review: RIVERSIDE Love, Fear and the Time Machine
Since their debut, Riverside has always carried the 'Porcupine Tree's little brother act' label. Yet, with that main comparison now on hiatus during extensive Steven Wilson solo work and touring underway, this may be the opportunity for the formerly mentioned four-piece group to step forward and make a significant impact in the international progressive rock community.
While the 'Reality Dream' trilogy (albums including Out of Myself, Second Life Syndrome, and Rapid Eye Movement) certainly allowed the Polish group to find their footing, the past couple records have also revealed a blossoming of song-writing exploration. As the sixth LP in their catalog, Love, Fear and the Time Machine is a concrete indication of their continual creativity while pushing out previous parameters. Released via Inside Out Music, both the album title and artwork are definitive of the overall sound as the infamous Travis Smith (known for Opeth's Blackwater Park, King Diamond's The Puppet Master, and Devin Townsend Project's Addicted covers) illustrates a glossy depiction of a child observing a moody horizon for a comprehensively gentle aesthetic.
"Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened By a Hat?)," likely a reference to the psychological experiment in The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, smoothly lures you further into a synth serenade that is kickstarted by a steady guitar riff. Already, one can tell that the hard rock/borderline metal edge that the band held dearly earlier in their career has consolidated into a more atmospherical approach. The sleek and fluid aura is continued for "Under the Pillow," containing the first real hook of this album amongst pseudo-sadistic lyrics. Use of the modern 'hashtag' trend at first seemed pandering, but the actual message in "#Addicted" is admirable and relative to the current generation's use of technology as an analogy for an addiction. "Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire" reaches a Katatonia-like gothic style at parts, boasting an excellence in modest dynamics.
As the pacing peaks for the middle-track, "Saturate Me," which features an eccentric instrumental intro followed by a whirring keys accompaniment, the bar is set high for the remaining half of the album. "Afloat" serves as a downtempo, transitional piece to the notable single, "Discard Your Fear," plausibly to be considered the most catchy due to the remarkable bassline and vocal flow. The 8 minutes of "Towards the Blue Horizon" can be best characterized as transformative with minimal qualities shifting to grandeur. "Time Travellers" is where Riverside's melodic talents truly shine through with an unforeseen acoustic anthemic ballad forming. An optimistic ode to 70's prog titled "Found (The Unexpected Flaw of Searching)" closes off the album.
Topics of psychology, disconnection, emotion, and social intimacy have been the common thread woven throughout previous albums, yet this release seems to be the most cathartic with a focus towards topics such as existentialism and introspection presented as up-lifting rather than bleak. Frontman Mariusz Duda's lyrical content in its purest form revolves around the idea of coming to terms with inner flaws through the action of 'navel-gazing' or gaining a positive outcome from self-contemplation of not only the past, but more practically, the future.
And in an attempt to squash the Porcupine Tree comparisons for final, I think it is most fitting to use a scale of progressive rock legends. If Porcupine Tree's chronological musical direction resembled a transition from Wish You Were Here to The Wall, then Riverside would parallel on The Dark Side of the Moon to Animals. To expand on this analogy, both groups shared a common denominator of Pink Floyd in influence, yet differ by evolution in experimentation.
Admittedly, it's a shame to witness a rock or metal band inevitably lose their edginess, but with one door closing, another opens. And in this case, Riverside has opened an element worthy of being explored, with the heavy aspects fading away and becoming replaced for a more refined, mature identity. In what appears to be their most honest album to date, the compositions apply a modern touch to delicate musicalities within charismatic song structures. As a solid stepping stone in the group's career, I highly suggest fans and new-comers alike to fully tune in to Love, Fear and the Time Machine in entirety, surely resulting in an emotionally dynamic experience.