REVIEW: Riverside – ID.entity

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The last few years have been quite the rollercoaster, which to many of us also meant re-evaluating our lives. Maybe you’ve been through similar times in your life too. Maybe you’ve questioned who you are, who you have become, or where you stand in life. Maybe you’ve had to cut out a toxic person from your inner circle, or maybe you’ve taken a break from social media because the pressure of seeing other people’s seemingly perfect lives was too much, or maybe you burnt out because of the unethical big tech company you worked for that always pulled more from you than you were able to offer? These are all questions that Polish progressive rock act RIVERSIDE pose in their latest post-modern outing, a concept album about the “crisis and search for identity,” entitled “ID.Entity,” out via InsideOut Music on January 20th, 2023.

A-ha! For somebody born in the ’90s, RIVERSIDE managed to transport me back to the nostalgia of the ’80s and make the guilty pleasure of time periods slap me in the face. That’s what the first track, “Friend or Foe” feels like. Mixing in the poppiness of Norwegian synth-pop act A-HA with RUSH‘s progressive rock stamp turns out to be everything we never knew we needed in life – a very strong beginning. Lyrically, it gives me massive throwbacks to Latin class, where we learned all about Plato’s allegory of the cave.

There is no prog without incredibly intricate and weird time signatures, which is something we can find in the groovier “Landmine Blast.” This already shows a different facet of the band, focusing more on riffing rather than synths or keyboards. Not only are the interspersed guitar lead melodies the chef’s kiss, but the bass is also beautifully present in this song.

Back in the day when physical promo albums were still a thing, sometimes there were voice-overs in between the songs or over the songs, warning the listener that this is a promotional copy. When “Big Tech Brother” started playing, I admittedly got a little worried that they re-introduced this method of anti-piracy again, however, the voice-over in this case introduces the theme of the song. Admittedly, the voice-over is a little weird and I keep on wondering if it would have been better to pick a more robotic voice than a standard American voice actor, or whether it would have even been more interesting – considering the themes in the song – to have an AI-powered human-like voice. Nevertheless, the song starts off with a heavy bass melody and then turns into a very heavy prog extravaganza. I think this is going to turn out to be an exquisite live track! Around the 2-minute mark, the song becomes very ominous. I love the detailed staccato synth sounds layered over the sound – they’re only a small detail, making the overall sound of the song also fit the theme better.

“Post-Truth” has some very cool moments as well, but mostly stands out because of the very cool keyboard work in the intro and the top-notch keyboard solo, as well as Mariusz Duda‘s emotive vocals. This song might just have some of the most beautiful, melancholic vocal melodies that are slightly reminiscent of his work inWasteland.” It ends with a beautiful piano part that is surprisingly uplifting and hopeful. Slowing down with “A Place Where I Belong,” “ID.entity”‘s longest track starts off with a strumming guitar and Duda‘s vocals taking a storytelling approach. The sweeping lead guitar melodies that follow before the song takes off in a different direction are not unlike YESSteve Howe‘s tasteful playing. In another section, Michał Łapaj‘s Hammond organ skills steal the show in a Jon Lord-esque manner.

The first single that RIVERSIDE released was a song that hit home very hard: “I’m Done With You” talks about cutting toxic people from our lives; you know, the type of people who are not letting you be you. Admittedly, the lyrics have a little bit of a Malcolm In the Middle theme song vibe (“you’re not the boss of me now“), yet somehow they’re very motivational and hopefully if you – like me – can sometimes be a bit of a pushover, this song can give you the power to stand up for yourself a little bit more. One of the reasons this song is very dear to me is because I went through a similar experience not too long ago and it does also make you often question your self-worth, which is ultimately tying back to the whole theme of identity. The lyrics are very simple, on the borderline of cheesy, but I can see a ton of people recognizing themselves in this song. Musically, the song is perhaps one of the most simple offerings on this album, yet its straightforwardness is what works very well for it. The grittiness in Duda‘s vocals shows an angrier side of him, one that we haven’t heard yet in this journey.

Some more RUSH influences are found in the rocker “Self-Aware,” another strong outing. It was surprising to find this track at the very end of the album, but it is the most introspective song on the record that does almost force you to reflect on its meaning. It also makes sense to end the album as a unit with a sense of togetherness and spreading the message that we all have to work together to fix everything we did wrong to the planet, the world, and society. The extended version of the track adds another 3 ambient minutes to the mix, which begs the question of whether they were actually necessary in the first place – in this case: heck yeah!

RIVERSIDE‘s previous album, “Wasteland,” was perhaps one of my favorite prog albums of recent years. The fact that it sprung from a place of trauma (the passing of late guitarist, Piotr Grudzinski) made the album incredibly vulnerable. Since then, guitarist Maciej Meller joined the ranks, launching RIVERSIDE to a new era, which brings us to “ID.entity.” There’s a little bit of everything stemming from the band’s entire career in this record: the heaviness of “ADHD,” the diversity of “Shrine of New Generation Slaves,” the catchiness of “Love, Fear, and the Time Machine,” and even the melancholy of “Wasteland.” All-in-all, if we’re talking about identity, “ID.entity” is possibly the best illustration of what RIVERSIDE was, is, and will be.

Written by Laureline Tilkin

Tracklist

1. Friend or Foe?
2. Landmine Blast
3. Big Tech Brother
4. Post-Truth
5. The Place Where I Belong
6. I’m Done With You
7. Self-Aware

Lineup

Mariusz Duda – vocal, bass
Maciej Meller – guitar
Michał Łapaj – keyboards and Hammond Organ
Piotr Kozieradzki – drums

Label

InsideOut Music

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