RIVERSIDE — Second Life Syndrome (review)

RIVERSIDE — Second Life Syndrome album cover Album · 2005 · Metal Related Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Conceiving greatness.

Riverside is one of the new progressive metal acts of this (well technically last) decade. However, one thing really separated Riverside from the rest: they’re damn good. Unlike the countless number of new progressive metal acts that have flooded the scene, most of which are just copies (or slight variants) of Dream Theater, Riverside really exemplifies the spirit of creativity and inventiveness in the genre. The band is exquisitely unique and enjoyable, combining softer heavy prog with a deliberate and ambient avant metal. From all this, we get a tasty blend of a new brand of progressive metal, Riverside style.

The album starts with After, a haunting vocal piece, before breaking into an ambient and mellow “ethno-fusion” track with some cool percussive effects and some great textures to go along. Overall the track acts as a spectacular transition to a slowly crescendoing album full of tricks and tasty treats.

Volte-Face fades in from After and slowly crescendos into a rocking and experimental groove fit for kings. The song is the first taste of Riverside’s incredible ability to dish out intensely creative music. The song has no trouble modulating between feels and utilizing Hammond textures and supreme riffs and instrumental sections. The band obviously has intense compositional skill, and they are able to utilize it in fantastic ways. Overall, the track poses the first taste to Riverside’s great ability on this fantastic album.

Conceiving You is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Blasting open with a near tear-jerkingly beautiful piano melody, the song shows Riverside’s interpretation of Progressive Metal’s compassionate and melodic side. Overall, the track is easily one of the best on the album and shows how Riverside can effortlessly take music and meld into the beautiful form it deserves – a skill not many possess.

Second Life Syndrome is the monster 15 minute track of the album (every album needs one!). The song has a long buildup wait, which is highly paid back by the catchy bass line and atmospheric and highly infectious guitar playing. The song slowly builds into a rocking and highly amazing epic of, well, epic proportions. The song is very traditional to the great Riverside sound, with much slower tempos than much of Prog Metal and an overall very atmospheric and reliant more on sudden accents for excitement than crazy instrumental sections. Overall, the title track is another fantastic track, with high points at the atmospheric instrumental sections, some damn infectious bass lines, and just an overall sense of intense inventiveness. The melodic structure of Duda’s voice is very unconventional and refreshing. This song is just great!

Artificial Smile is the first real “rocking” song on the album. Starting right off with a great riff and breaking into a still great rocking and atmospheric verse and easily modulating in and out of that feel. We hear a strong influence of harder metal influences like Opeth in this song especially. Overall, this song is yet another great track of the album, exemplifying all the great qualities of Riverside’s music.

I Turned You Down is one of the more atmospheric and ambient of the album’s track. It has a much greater emphasis on vocal melody than instrumental value. It has a slower, more deliberate and moving feel to it than the others. Overall a great track also.

Reality Dream III is the final in a trilogy of Reality Dream instrumentals, and it does not disappoint. It has a slow crescendo into a rushing and amazing dynamic that is very atypical of the album’s music feel but also has strong ties with the “ethno-rock/metal” feel of their music. Overall, the track provides one of the most musically refreshing rides that I’ve experienced in a while. The band really goes all out on this one. Each member has his say in where he plays, when he plays, how he plays, just to make the absolute perfect track.

Dance with the Shadow is just a fantastic track. Opening with an ominous and atmospheric melodic vocal section, the song slowly builds into a rocking and greatly dynamic track, mixing great metal riffs and slower more deliberate and hard progish riffs and ethno rhythms. The song is really the first to show the band’s true connection to the genre with a great and crazy instrumental section with a cool synth solo that just drops right back into the slower and melodic beauty of Doma’s voice and bass playing. Overall, it is the next epic and a fantastic show of the band’s skill in every aspect.

Before, the ending, ends the album on a similar to note to what it began, a more atmospheric and ethno sounding track. It closes the concept of a man who can’t stand his own self and refuses to accept reality (at least my perception, I haven’t looked into the lyrics very much). The song is a fantastic “summary” of what you have just experienced, mixing some of the heavier aspects of the song with more of the slower and deliberate and melodic feels of the album in a marvelous amalgam of music. Overall, the track ends the album fantastically, leaving you excellently satisfied with life.

ALBUM OVERALL: It’s easy to see why this album is considered one of the best of the progressive metal genres, even though the band and the album aren’t even 10 years old (well the band is 10, but the album is merely 6). To see such a “youngling” excel amongst 25 year vets like Dream Theater and 20 year runner ups like Pain of Salvation is extremely impressive. The album success is mainly due to its great new style – nothing that the average prog metal head has ever heard of. The band fuses a delicious blend of ethnic metal and progressive rock to make an infectious brand of music – Riverside style. Overall, the album is nearly perfect, except some of the atmospheric stuff could have been forsaken. But, other than that, the album has not a single flaw and provides one of the most exciting and refreshing musical rides the genre has heard in a long while. 5- stars.

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