Riverside – Love, Fear, and the Time Machine

Album two of the massive release day that occurred last Friday. In a way, I kind of enjoy that the official release date for music is now on a Friday instead of a Tuesday. It gives me an entire weekend to soak in the entire depth and scope of each newly released album. I had the chance to do just that last weekend, focusing much of my energy on Riverside’s latest album “Love, Fear, and the Time Machine.” Having listened to their single a few weeks ago, I was more than ready to listen to the rest of this album

Before the album was released, the only information I heard was universal: this album is soft. Allow me stand besides those critics and confirm that, yes, “Love, Fear, and the Time Machine” is indeed softer. With each listen of the album, though, I started to not only understand why the band chose this direction, but began to appreciate their decision. Their last album “Shrine of New Generation Slaves” was my least favorite album of theirs, considering the overly dark nature and soundscape of the album. Although the sound was an homage to classic progressive rock techniques used by bands like Yes and Genesis, the album was very depressing, dark for the sake of being dark. Instead being a fan of their first three albums (classified as the “Reality Dream Trilogy”), I particularly enjoyed the lighter approach to a darker themes in those albums. The softer synth and acoustic guitar in “I Believe,” the Pink Floydian nature of “Second Life Syndrome,” and the beautiful guitar arrangements in “Ultimate Trip”; I’ve been waiting for another album like this. I believe “Love, Fear, and the Time Machine” perfectly cures that itch.

riverside band
Photo by Wikimedia

A more refined sound, Riverside’s newest album is softer and more approachable. Take the opening track “Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened By A Hat?),” which is arguably one of my favorite tracks on the album. The delicate synths by Michal Lapaj are spotlighted in this song, an especially catchy tune that follows Mariusz Duda on vocals. The complementary notes in the chorus (“Come / Follow me / We’ll go down where the river flows”) is absolutely beautiful, and perfectly sets up the rest of the album.

Speaking of the delicateness of the album, “Love, Fear, and the Time Machine” also contains some of the most uplifting subject matter in their discography. The second song “Under the Pillow” is an urge to get out of bed and do something (“Hey you, Rise and shine! / You must learn to stand your ground / How long can you hold your breath under the pillow?”), while “Found (The Unexpected Flaw of Searching)” shines a light on self-reflection (“Oooh, it’s a lovely life / Sun emerges from behind the clouds / Oooh, it’s a lovely life / You gotta go with what you think is right”). But it wouldn’t be Riverside without some downer moments, especially “#Addicted” and their commentary on contemporary life (“Hashtag me and go / I’m addicted to your love / I’m addicted to my aimless drive”), and “Towards the Blue Horizon” with the loss of a friend (“Where are you now my friend? / I miss those days / I hope they take good care of you there). The themes touch upon all aspects of life, and are the most relatable than on any album they’ve released. (All lyrics found here)

As for the instrumentals themselves, Piotr Grudzinski on the guitar takes more of a backseat on this album than any other. As he is spotlighted in previous Riverside albums (especially the “Reality Dream Trilogy”), the guitar arrangements don’t seem to stand out as much to me. Don’t get me wrong, each song contains that Riverside-esque rhythm and the slower but artsy lead solos. But overall, I feel Grudzinski is delegated to rhythm guitar most of the album, letting others in the band shine. It’s undeniable that Duda is spotlighted the most in this album, considering his vocals and bass guitar are more present in this album than any other. I feel the bass grooves are louder than any other instrument, whether I’m listening through headphones or through speakers. Duda’s higher register voice matches wonderfully with the lighter nature of the album, and is a great opposite to the deep bass he provides. Lapaj’s presence seems greater on this album than prior albums, with all the classic sounding keyboards and synthesizers. I thoroughly enjoyed the contemporary approach to modern progressive rock that has been happening lately, and consider “Love, Fear, and the Time Machine” another great addition.

riverside band
Photo by Billboard

Riverside has outdone themselves with “Love, Fear, and the Time Machine,” being one of my favorite albums they’ve released since their original trilogy. With a more approachable sound, fans of most types of rock music should enjoy this record as well. If I were to change one thing about this album, though, it’d be to change some of the song titles. Two in particular come across as a little childish (why would someone be afraid of a hat anyways?), and maybe a little trendy (the pound sign is unnecessary in the title). That’s honestly it. The album otherwise is amazing. Please support them by checking out their website, and by following them on Facebook and Twitter for band news. They will be touring North America in select cities, so be sure to check out if they’ll be playing near you!