(2013) Riverside – Shrine of New Generation Slaves

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Now, as the Polish prog juggernaut, RIVERSIDE, is about to release their new album ID.entity,” due out on January 20th, 2023, I made a peculiar observation that the timing is almost exactly the same as the release date of their most haunting effort to date, the fifth studio album entitled “Shrine of New Generation Slaves,” that came out on January 21st, 2013, via InsideOut Music. It is too early to say whether the new endeavor will outshine this particular album in terms of musical and emotional impact. Still, if it is about to do so, it will be no small feat – the bar has been almost insanely high. The 2013 album title spells out an acronym, “SoNGS,” and it serves as a gentle reminder that these Polish proggers have always been more about crafting class-A songs rather than overly convoluted fretboard workouts. For a number of reasons, this particular selection of RIVERSIDE songs has stood the test of time exceptionally well. Following in the footsteps of mellowed-out prog outfits such as PORCUPINE TREE, PINK FLOYD, and MARILLION, this album marked perhaps a subtle departure from the heavier sound of those previous RIVERSIDE albums; yet, some of the songs hit maybe even harder – the lyrics, in particular.

The opening track, “New Generation Slave,” does the honors of being a title track of sorts. The song is basically about gritty Hammond riffs dancing fandango around some nicely syncopated prog grooves. As an upbeat RIVERSIDE-goes-DEEPPURPLE endeavor, it does not in any way prepare the listener for what is to come. You might be tempted to expect modernized classic-rock-driven prog à la OSI. What you get is something else completely.

The first curve ball on the album comes in the shape of “The Depth of Self-Delusion.” The song is an almost 8-minute slow-paced journey into melancholy, in triple meter. While the magic of the song has something to do with the band’s deft use of counter-melodies and moody textures in a somewhat similar manner to RPWL, the icing on the cake is provided by the haunting lyrics. Quite a few prog lyrics could be straight-up dismissed as overly pretentious and self-indulgent wankery, but here, Mariusz Duda speaks straight to your soul – that is, if you still have one. Obviously, it is up for debate what the song is really about as the lyrics can be interpreted in myriad ways; whether your perspective of choice is universal and ambiguous or a highly personal one, there is a lot to digest here, that’s for sure.

Okay, there are a few more classic-rock-tinted prog schlagers to come. First, “Celebrity Touch” is a beautiful cross between the atmospheric prog of, say, PINK FLOYD and the gritty Hammond grooves of OSI. The atmospheric section of the song sounds particularly delicious. Then, the grand epic of the album, “Escalator Shrine,” nods toward the Hammond-driven prog and heavy-metal classics of the 1970s for a good bit over the course of its 12+ minutes. So, even though the album does come off a tad less metallic than those previous RIVERSIDE efforts, it does not by any means stand for a shortage of muscular prog riffs. The band’s primus motor, Duda, is such a prominent bass player, so unsurprisingly, the prog grooves are lacking no bite.

Speaking of biting, even the piano-driven ballad, “We Got Used To Us,” packs a punch. It is predominantly an emotional one, as the piano and guitar engage in a melancholic dialogue while the lyrics plunge headlong into deep, dark territory. Of course, the lyrics hit all that much harder if you can find a bit of yourself crouched between the lines – and if you’re old as shit like me, you most certainly can. Yeah, we old grits have been there a few times, no doubt, but nonetheless, Duda‘s lyrical take on the subject is definitely among the most impressive, in terms of not beating around the bush. This is one of those songs that can help you through some of the darkest shit you could possibly come by – you can trust me on this one.

Feel Like Falling” gears up on the robust riffing, once again subtly echoing the modern prog sound of OSI, RPWL, FROST*, and the like; this time the wall of sound is provided by resonant synths rather than the good old Hammond mayhem. The song works as a splendid quicker-pick-me-upper after the dark waters of “We Got Used To Us.” So, among all the other brilliant aspects of the album, also the song order works like magic.

Balancing things out, the selection has two more atmospheric songs to go, of which “Coda” is a sort of reprise of “Celebrity Touch” and does the honors of bringing the album to a close. It does it by being a shortish, acoustic mood piece that subtly echoes the haunting spheres of “Adrift” from the eponymous 2008 LUNATIC SOUL debut album. The other one is “Deprived (Irretrievably Lost Imagination),” which is worth mentioning by virtue of its beautiful soprano sax lines alone.

So, in retrospect, “Shrine of New Generation Slaves” was a pretty damn good way to start out 2013. Two songs, “Depth of Self-Delusion” and “We Got Used To Us,” stand out for me, personally, for a number of reasons – and I dare to assume that I’m not the only one. There is a lot more on offer here, but you really needn’t look further than these gems to understand why some prog aficionados keep making a fuss about this album still 10 years later.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. New Generation Slave
  2. The Depth of Self-Delusion
  3. Celebrity Touch
  4. We Got Used To Us
  5. Feel Like Falling
  6. Deprived (Irretrievably Lost Imagination)
  7. Escalator Shrine
  8. Coda

Lineup

Mariusz Duda – vocals, bass, acoustic guitars, ukulele

Piotr Grudzinski – guitars

Michal Lapaj – keyboards, Hammond organ

Piotr Kozieradzki – drums

Marcin Odyniec – soprano sax on “Deprived”

Label

InsideOut Music

Links

Homepage

Riverside

Instagram