Riverside: Anno Domini High Definition
It used to be that that I shied away from Metal. Now I am finding more and more that appeals to me. This is especially true with Polish Prog Metal bands. One explanation could be that these groups have tended toward the melodic side. This theory may have to be abandoned as I find “Anno Domini High Definition” Riverside’s heaviest release to date, their best yet.
Up to this point, Riverside has only been just heavy enough to be classified as Metal, and at times even quite soft. I have often witnessed debate on this point. The emphasis has always been on melody, symphonic arrangements, and of course Mariusz Duda’s dark sense of isolation. It has worked well, but there hadn’t been much growth through the “Out of Myself” trilogy. “Anno Domini High Definition” is where a tremendous leap forward happens. The band is tighter, the music edgier, and exhibits a level of focus rarely seen on most albums.
What strikes me is how they have sped things up, integrated much more thrashing, infuse irresistible grooves, gone big on hooks, and not sacrificed one iota on artistry. The lyrical subject matter is not exactly upbeat. If you are familiar with Riverside, this is to be expected. The entire album is a concept about the stresses affecting the human condition in modern times. This is conveyed very well, and never comes across as forced or trite. Kudos to Mariusz’s talent with verse, especially considering that English is not his first language.
Even with the gloomy overtones, you can’t help getting carried away and rocking out to the music. The musicians sound more alive than ever. Piotr Grudziński wails on guitar, and even gets funky on “”Egoist Hedonist.” What I appreciate most is how a-typical he is of a Metal guitarist. Even on a solo, he plays with the music instead of just using the opportunity to say, “Look at me.” Piotr Kozieradzki (referred to as Meatloaf by Mr. Duda) plays with a fire and determination we haven’t heard on previous releases. In fact, I never really took notice of him before. Michał Łapaj’s swirling keyboards provides the atmosphere that truly carries the musical theme of what the lyrics are saying. That’s not all. Michał has sounds for every occasion. He pulls out classical piano, spacey synths. rockin’ organ, and one hell of a theremin jam on “Hybrid Times.” Mariusz Duda has always been solid on the bass, but he has kicked it up as well. He is as tight with the grooves as the rest of the guys, but his mellower passages also seem more fluid.
Riverside has moved to another level, and raised the bar for what prog metal (or all metal) should aspire to be. Check this one out, even if you aren’t a metal fan. “Anno Domini High Definition” may just surprise you.
Mariusz Duda – vocals, bass, acoustic guitar
Piotr Grudziński – guitars
Michał Łapaj – keyboards
Piotr Kozieradzki – drums
P.S. Artists like this deserve to be supported, so buy the album. If you don’t end up liking it, you are still supporting the cause of quality music. Success for a band like Riverside may help record companies want to get behind real musicians again. In the age of Justin Bieber and auto-tune, they are sorely missed.