RIVERSIDE — Second Life Syndrome (review)

RIVERSIDE — Second Life Syndrome album cover Album · 2005 · Metal Related Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Riverside create an emotionally charged masterpiece of colossal power.

The second Riverside album features some of the most enduring material of the band and the heaviest work until the masterpiece "Anno Domine High Definition". Mariusz Duda is always excellent on lead vocals and also plays bass. The guitar work of Piotr Grudzinski is incredible on this album. Michal Lapaj is simply astonishing on keyboards and Piotr Kozieradzki is wonderful on drums. Every track on this album is superb, and some tracks are indispensable. 'After' begins with whispers that are rather chilling and then a very slow ambient Porcupine tree style sound takes over.

'Volte Face' has a driving heavy rhythm and wonderful guitar notes ringing out over the loud percussion and shimmering Hammond. Then that awesome riff with odd time sig crunches and it is a prog metal sanctuary. The spacey vocals add to the atmospherics until we get to the first verse. The melody is pleasant in the quieter sections and it builds to the aggressive passage "I'm not afraid", and the Hammond quivers over the crashing guitar chords. Masterpiece song without a doubt.

The piano solo that begins 'Conceiving You' is appropriate as Duda really delivers a powerhouse vocal, with emotion and vitality, "been conceiving you for too long, if only I could change all things around." The lead break cries and soars as the soundscape builds to a crescendo. The wall of sound that Riverside are able to create is astounding, and really touches the emotions powerfully.

The first epic is 'Second Life Syndrome' a 15 minute eargasm of intricate virtuoso musicianship and towering vocals. An instant classic, the song boasts one of the best structures of the band's repertoire. It begins with a drone and Pink Floyd style guitar riff and then it gets heavier building in intensity, with Hammond blazing and a divine bassline locks in. The vocals of Duda are crystalline and pleasant; "From day to day, From hand to mouth, We're turning around, Vicious ritual, Getting used to it all, Falling down again, We're waiting for, The decrees of providence." The melody is ultra-infectious and the heavy guitars augment the dark overtones. Soon the lead break takes over and it is superbly executed by Grudzinski. There is no mistaking the massive sound on the keyboards, violently hammered by Lapaj. The song settles into bassline and echoing keyboards, changing feel and allowing the music to breathe. Duda is gentler on part two; "I just want to feel your sigh on my neck, Want to feel your breath, Feel your need to stay, You don't know my name, Don't know my face, Only thoughts I share in my secret place, Secret exhibition, Cure for loneliness, I've ground to a halt, There's no turning back, You know there are things I just can't forget, You've helped me so much, To learn to be detached." The second lead break is spacious and soars with sustained held high pitched notes. Part three, Vicious Ritual, is an instrumental to finish this magnificent track. The music becomes spacey and whispers are heard with footsteps effects. The result is a creepy but compelling sound. As the bass joins in cadence with the whispers, guitars grind out a crushing distorted chord structure. A King Crimson polyphonic rhythm dominates, and some more vocal intonations "you will never suffer." The last lead break is the final drawcard and caps off an absolutely brilliant track.

'Artificial Smile' follows with a fast heavy tempo and some sensuous synths over a melodic hook. The vocals are still clear though much faster, and he occasionally uses a raspy tone to emphasise the anger in the words; "I hate you cos they love you, I'm so happy when they left you, this is my life! Sell me your mind!" This may be one of the heaviest Riverside songs but has still the strong organic symphonic nuances and equable lead guitar.

'I Turned You Down' drips with an endearing bassline and peaceful guitar violining. The spacey textures are the sort of music that would permeate the next album. Very ambient verses follow; "I turned you down so hastily, and it's tearing me apart, in my heart of hearts I'm screaming, in my heart of hearts I cry and it's cold, you're so cold." The lead guitar swells are beautiful over the synths. A heavier riff threatens to break through before a lead break overwhelms the serenity, and it is a darker atmosphere that supervenes.

Following this is 'Reality Dream III' with nice reverberated harmonics in the intro until a bass rhythm fades up. The tempo locks in and becomes an unusual time sig. The instrumental makes a pleasant break and one can just become immersed in the music. There is a heavy metal riff that pounds and chugs along and then a heavy handed piano is heard. The guitars join this new time change and then the Hammond returns like an old friend.

'Dance With the Shadow' is the second epic of the album starting with a low drone and gentle vocals. The Gilmour-esque guitar is prevalent and then an extremely heavy guitar changes it and it is more like Dream Theater with Petrucci riffs. The synthesis of psych space prog and metal is a key feature. The middle section settles into a calmer tunnel I'm standing on the edge about to fall, in the middle of the point o no return, trying to forget those days I failed to act, I can almost see the light, feel its warmth, and as the moment I was waiting or so long, I carry all before me now the die is cast, with open arms I'm standing out against my past." At 10 minutes in the sound builds up and a cataclysmic explosion of Hammond and metal dramatically clash and the riffs intensify till it ends. Incredible breathtaking music.

The final track 'Before' is a slow calm after the storm. It builds to a forceful flurry of riffs and then it is all over, and you long to play the whole album again.

The only conclusion that can be drawn after being treated to this extraordinary music is that this is a masterpiece from Riverside. Everything works perfectly to create some absolutely incredible music; the vocals, bass, guitars, keys and drums are an amalgamation that showcases all that is great about prog rock. Strong melodies, intricate complex time sigs, compelling lyrics and amazing musicianship. This, along with "Anno Domine High Definition", is one album that towers over all the rest.
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Doomster wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Great, great band.


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