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Riverside - Wasteland review

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Band: Riverside
Album: Wasteland
Release date: September 2018

Disc I
01. The Day After
02. Acid Rain
03. Vale Of Tears
04. Guardian Angel
05. Lament
06. The Struggle For Survival
07. River Down Below
08. Wasteland
09. The Night Before

Disc II [Acoustic Session]
01. Vale Of Tears [acoustic version]
02. Out Of Myself [acoustic version]
03. 02 Panic Room [acoustic version]
04. River Down Below [acoustic version]
05. Wasteland [live intro]

Disc III [Wasteland - Hi-Res Stereo And Surround Mix]
01. The Day After [hi-res stereo]
02. Acid Rain [hi-res stereo]
03. Vale Of Tears [hi-res stereo]
04. Guardian Angel [hi-res stereo]
05. Lament [hi-res stereo]
06. The Struggle For Survival [hi-res stereo]
07. River Down Below [hi-res stereo]
08. Wasteland [hi-res stereo]
09. The Night Before [hi-res stereo]
10. The Day After [surround mix]
11. Acid Rain [surround mix]
12. Vale Of Tears [surround mix]
13. Guardian Angel [surround mix]
14. Lament [surround mix]
15. The Struggle For Survival [surround mix]
16. River Down Below [surround mix]
17. Wasteland [surround mix]
18. The Night Before [surround mix]
+ Lament [video]
+ River Down Below [video]
+ Wasteland [video]

Albums about death are always hard to talk about. And not just albums about conceptual death; those are all right. Albums about one death. Real death. Someone's there and then they're not.

Riverside were struck by tragedy two years ago, when founding member and guitarist Piotr Grudziński died suddenly. With the band's future in doubt, they chose, instead of disbanding or replacing Piotr, to move forward as a trio and have guests fill in for shows and in the studio. The "studio" part was a bit surprising since I honestly didn't expect Riverside to have an album out this soon, unless you also count Eye Of The Soundscape. With shoes this big to fill in, it was clear that there would be a noticeable difference in sound. But it feels in a way voyeuristic, apathetic, and disrespectful to criticize such a personal album.

Despite the abundance of musical moments, Wasteland does indeed often feel like what it is: an album about death and loss. I mean, with titles like "Vale Of Tears", "Guardian Angel", and "Lament", which would fit nicely on a funeral doom album, it's not hard to see how. And the change and grief is also obvious in the sound, though it's not crushingly in-your-face or even omnipresent. This is still a prog rock album and there's plenty to enjoy here from a purely technical and song structuring point of view (instrumental epic "The Struggle For Survival" is a pretty good example of that). So the album doesn't get overwhelmed with grief and still puts musicianship and songwriting as main priorities. The album obviously has its heavier moments, like the aforementioned instrumental or riffs throughout songs like "Vale Of Tears" or the title track.

But with Piotr's absence, a lot of the music feels a lot more subdued and low-key. The drums and keyboards seem to have more of a supporting role here, as well as the occasional guest violin, though that doesn't mean that they've been completely pushed back; they do have the occasional moment where they stick out. While some guests do come and add some guitar work, a lot of it is instead performed by Mariusz Duda, who has the strongest presence on this record. A lot of the guitar work is more acoustic and even in the instrumental song his vocalizations find a way in so that they can move us just a bit more, as if his voice being the first thing we hear on the record wasn't enough. Not only is his performance emotional (the transition from the more standard "Vale Of Tears" to the ballad "Guardian Angel" is quite heart-wrenching), but the album does have a bit of a lyrical concept centered around loss, which obviously ties to the actual loss of the band; lines like "Where have you wandered, my only child? / Why are you not coming back? Your mother is crying her eyes out / And I, in my dreams, hear your voice" or "I do not have too many requirements / Only one wish before you go / And before I crumble back into the dust / Take me to the river down below" do pull some heart strings here and there.

If I were to address some sort of constructive criticism towards Wasteland is that the more prog moments can sometimes feel like they take a bit of the emotional impact away, though not so much that the album feels disjointed. This is still an album that managed to be both musically and emotionally strong, and that proves that Riverside can both grieve and move forward.

R.I.P. Piotr Grudziński.

Written on 01.12.2018 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.


Comments: 5   Visited by: 203 users
02.12.2018 - 01:39
Rating: 8

I really should listen to this. They played a lot of the album when I saw them last month; I felt kinda mixed about the new songs I heard, but interested to hear the studio versions and properly delve into them.
02.12.2018 - 02:11
Written by musclassia on 02.12.2018 at 01:39

I really should listen to this. They played a lot of the album when I saw them last month; I felt kinda mixed about the new songs I heard, but interested to hear the studio versions and properly delve into them.

Almost as if there was a certain list that had to be updated with this
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?
03.12.2018 - 12:30
Rating: 9
I'm surprised as well that they released an album this soon after his death. I wasn't even sure they would continue as a band.

The good thing is that actually this album is great and I love the return to acoustic guitar parts. Duda is indeed a big part of it. I always thought he was an important member before, because the vocals and bass were so prominent but now he seems to have even a bigger role.

I will miss Piotr soaring solos and legendary melodies but at least Riverside are still making beautiful music. So thanks

"still puts musicianship and songwriting as main priorities" from your review kinda sums it up really, the reason why this band is so good.
Written by BloodTears on 19.08.2011 at 18:29

Like you could kiss my ass.

My Instagram
18.12.2018 - 06:15
Rating: 10

What a comeback. Truly amazing and overwhelming work, full of emotion and grief. What an homage to Piotr Grudzinski. There are so many songs i like on this álbum, it´s really difficult to choose only one that stands out from the rest. But i have to say "Lament" is one of the best songs i´ve heard recently. What a masterpiece of a song. "Guardian Angel", " The Night Before", "River Down Below", "Vale of Tears", "Wasteland" are all spectacular. One of the best records of the year for sure.

Btw, saw them live last November, in Lisbon. Amazing show.
19.09.2020 - 01:12
The Sasquatch
I don't know how I slept on this. Riverside has always been one of those bands that I respect a lot, and I know that if I gave enough time it would click with me. I came across Wasteland (the title song) and was immediately hooked. One of the best prog albums I've heard in a very long time.

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