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Riverside - Love, Fear And The Time Machine album art

Love, Fear And The Time Machine

4th September  2015 – InsideOut Music

01. Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened By a Hat?)
02. Under the Pillow
03. #Addicted
04. Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire
05. Saturate Me
06. Afloat
07. Discard Your Fear
08. Towards the Blue Horizon
09. Time Travellers
10. Found (The Unexpected Flaw of Searching)

Polish prog rockers Riverside have been steadily churning out hit after hit since their formation in the early 2000’s. This year’s opus comes in the form of Love, Fear And The Time Machine, a loose concept album that explores the more emotional and mellow side of European prog rock, shifting almost entirely away from the metal aspects of their original sound.

This should be anything but a revelation for those who have been following the band, or any of their peers for that matter; there seems to have been a conscious shift in the minds of the old guard of prog metal, moving towards more mellow and chilled out material. You only have to listen to the latest offerings from Opeth, Steven Wilson, or Katatonia to notice a widespread move towards soundscapes and effervescent song crafting amongst these stalwarts of Euro-prog. That’s not to say that there are exceptions to that rule – indeed, there’s still a plethora of unerringly aggressive progressive metals acts strewn across Europe – but the heavy hitters seems to be moving in a different direction in their growing age.

This seems to be the defining aspect of Love, Fear And The Time Machine; soundscapes and ambiance. Riverside’s previous album Shrine of New Generation Slaves (which makes the rather clever acronym ‘SONGS’) was similar, with more drawn out compositions that saw songs drag their heels and rely on repetitious movements and sudden bursts of freedom and change to surprise the listener and keep them in a juxtaposed state of calm and anxiety all at the same time. For every section of wave like repetition and slow build up, there was an almost equal amount of crashing climax that kept the songs interesting and diverse.

However, Love, Fear And The Time Machine doesn’t really do…that. The album is content to string the listener along for over an hour at a slow, mellow pace. The album’s sole intent seems to be to calm and pacify listeners with gentle guitar leads and low mixed drum beats. Even Mariusz Duda’s vocals, which have always been soothing and clean, have lost a lot of the urgency and intimidation that was prevalent on previous records. The bass thrums away in a subtle plodding way, but with enough oomph and bombast to keep things interestingly uneven.

None of these things are truly detrimental per se, but it does feel a bit disappointing. The band are clearly going for something distinct with their new style, and while they are edging closer and closer to that ever elusive Steven Wilson-esque blend of classic and modern prog, they don’t quite reach such lofty heights.

There are a few faster – or rather mid-paced – songs on Love, Fear And The Time Machine, such as gentle romper “#Addicted“, which feels like a weirdly tantalizing dig at the current state of modernity and emotions people feel in an increasingly digital age. There’s also a few heavier moments to be found on “Towards the Blue Horizon“, but that probably won’t be enough to satisfy fans looking for a return of the more hyper-addictive and adrenaline fueled assault that was Anno Domini High Definition.

It should be said that this is not a bad, or unenjoyable album. It’s actually remarkably beautiful, filled with passage after passage of pop-tinged melancholy and a palpable sense of old-fashioned nostalgia for a nondescript period of time. It would be easy to write this off at first listen due to the way songs bleed into one another and form this loose uniformity, but after repeated listens it’s hard not to understand that this is what the band was going for. While not a strong showcase of individual songs, Love, Fear And The Time Machine is a well put together, organic record that effortlessly and subtly twists and turns into a calming treat. “Progressive elevator music” wouldn’t be too far off as a suitable tagline.

Love, Fear and The Time Machine just sits in an awkward stage for the band. It’s clearly a well done album, which may take a few spins to truly get a clear idea of what’s going on, but after seeing how well they can blend mellow and aggressive – or at the least heavier prog rock sounds – it feels like a bit of a let down. There’s still plenty of time for the band to truly find their next aural shape, and as for now, an enjoyable disappointment is far better than something downright bad.

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