Author Topic: [Music] Riverside - Anno Domini High Definition  (Read 880 times)

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Offline Darkes7

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[Music] Riverside - Anno Domini High Definition
« on: September 05, 2009, 06:56:10 PM »
Released: 2009
Genre: Progressive metal
Album line-up:
Mariusz Duda - vocals, bass and acoustic guitar
Piotr Grudziński - electric guitars
Michał Łapaj - keyboards, hammond organ, theremin
Piotr "Mittloff" Kozieradzki - drums


Waking up from the Reality Dream

With their Reality Dream trilogy, Riverside have already proven their ability to create a wide range of different music, ranging from light, melodic progressive rock, to heavy, dark and more metal-oriented music. Although they started with the first option, over time they were heading more into the latter direction, and the album Rapid Eye Movement was the best proof of this, with its thick, dark atmosphere and a bit heavier sound than the previous two albums. Many people disliked it for that reason, others – like me – love it. And this is why I hoped for a lot after hearing the next, and the first non-trilogy album, is supposed to be heavy in its entirety. Not much more was said, so one thing was obvious – it's going to be different. And different it is.

The beginning can be confusing. The opener, titled Hyperactive, welcomes us into the modern world of the album with a calm, atmospheric piano intro, but over time, it reveals its true nature, and the piano slowly passes into a heavy riff, showing us that we are exactly in the place we had been looking for – new Riverside... and their new sound. Anno Domini High Definition concentrates on the problems of modern life, living in constant motion, stress and confusion. For this reason, the band has changed their sound for a more “modern” one – quite raw production of the trilogy has been replaced with a much clearer sound, and it focuses on the more metal side of the band. However, the clear production doesn't soften the album – it simply helps to achieve the goal of making it more modern, but it's just as heavy as it should be. All five songs on the album have something heavy and dynamic about them (only Left Out is a fairly specific case, but we'll come back to it later), resulting in nearly 45 minutes of what is probably the most powerful creation in the band's career, but one thing is important – they haven't forgotten what they've always been the best at: ability to create atmosphere. There's always something more melodic in between the heavy riffing and keyboard insanity, the guitar solos haven't been forgotten -  although there's not as many of them as on the earlier albums, piano is also present at several points of the album. But this is not what Michał Łapaj is focusing on this time...

The keyboards are what stands out on this album the most and is going to catch your attention instantly. During the trilogy, they were working mostly as background and an additional layer of sound – it worked very well, but here... things are different - they take the lead very often, there's a lot of Hammond organ in all the songs, which either works together with the guitar, or creates a wall of sound itself. Łapaj's style on this album seems strongly inspired by the '70s (which is hardly a surprise, as he's often mentioned being a Deep Purple fan), but paradoxically, it adds to the “modern” idea, instead of sounding old. This gives the album a very different, fresh feeling, and is going to please everyone who likes a lot of keyboards (normally I'm not like that – but here I do). This doesn't mean, however, that the other instruments have been pushed back – it just makes the sound more complex. The other band members have also changed their style a bit – some guitar riffs are very different from the earlier albums, at moments being among the heaviest the band has done. The bass is slightly less audible than earlier, but its presence is still strong and working perfectly throughout the whole album. Finally, the drums... Mittloff's style has improved much since REM – and since drums there were very good, it means quite a lot – his style has become much more progressive and very rich.

There are only five songs on the album, which probably means the band has tried to make a shorter, consistent record and avoid any kind of fillers as much as possible (not that there were fillers on the earlier albums) – and it has been achieved here. Starting with the great, straightforward Hyperactive, with its wonderful piano intro, excellent heavy riffing, great vocals and the feeling of constant movement – and resulting with, in my opinion, one of the best short (as in “less than 6 minutes”) songs the band has ever done. The second, with a very addictive bass intro in the beginning, is Driven to Destruction, which switches between heavy and light most of the time, combining heavy riffs with beautiful piano and melodic vocals. During the second half, it concentrates on the heavier side, and if there was any doubt about the role of keyboards on the album – it shows here. Afterwards, the most unusual song on ADHD and probably the most daring experiment the band has done to date: Egoist Hedonist - even though not the longest, the only one divided into parts. We start with a calm and slightly melancholic first part, evolving into a heavy riff and soon moving into part two – the most original moment of the whole album. Hedonist Party, which is the title of part two, has invited not just the band themselves, with a very party-sounding guitar, but also a brass section, making the party a whole lot more fun. Yes, I know what you're thinking and I thought the same at the first listen, but over time it really manages to become extremely fun and relaxing – and if you don't like it, there's part three, with some moments slightly reminding of the earlier albums (sound of guitar at “you already know the steps...” instantly brings Second Life Syndrome to mind), and using another unusual idea – a harp - not a real one this time, but sounding natural enough, leading to the epic, impressive ending. Afterwards, we move into a realm which we already know – although it's also very different than what it had been before. Left Out.

This is my only major complaint about this album and the only thing keeping me from putting it right next to my beloved Rapid Eye Movement. Left Out instantly brings the melancholic, calm songs like The Curtain Falls or Embryonic to mind, though they've taken a different approach this time, and as a whole there's lots of new ideas throughout, starting from a new vocal style at some points which hasn't appeared before, ending at a seriously changed piano sound. What stops me from fully enjoying this song and loving its beauty just as much as the aforementioned The Curtain Falls for example, are the short – and at the end pretty long, hard-rock instrumental sections with a lot of Hammond and guitar sounding a bit like in part two of Egoist Hedonist. The main problem is, they would fit very well in all the other songs, but here they completely contrast the atmosphere and the lyrics, with the result sounding a bit like putting Rainbow Box in the middle of The Curtain Falls – doesn't make much sense, does it? I would understand putting some dark, heavy riffs, like in the middle of Ultimate Trip – which would make sense both with the album theme and the style of Left Out, but unfortunately, the light, technical and melodic sections simply don't fit. It's still a very good song, but it could be better than that.

Finally, at the end, if you thought you've already heard everything, Riverside proves they were just warming up to unleash the most intense 12 minutes of music they've ever created. Like all the other songs on the album, it leaves out (pun half-intended) the usual verse-chorus structure (making them much more original), and like Hyperactive, begins with piano – but this time, it doesn't feel relaxing – quite the opposite, it seems to try to prepare you for the worst. Then, if for some reason the previous songs were still not heavy enough for you, you're going to be satisfied by the closer called Hybrid Times. For the majority of the song, the band is simply going forward and using all their technical skills to create the heaviest and the most complex creation in their discography. Half of the song is basically instrumental, but the vocals that are here definitely show Mariusz's more aggressive side (“OBSESSION!” is very memorable). At several points also the new “toy” of Michał Łapaj – theremin – appears, adding to the complex sound. Over time, Hybrid Times slows and calms down, with probably the best guitar solo on the album, and before we reach the last 3 minutes, the song reaches its climax – with a blastbeat (!) and theremin. And the ending – believe me, if you thought Before is impressive, like I did, this is even better. Slowly going forward, with very atmospheric electronic effects (another completely new idea, and working perfectly) and vocals capable of giving chills even at the 100th listen, we end up in the crowd, and the album ends – having proven everything it was supposed to.

One more important thing regarding the whole album is that it truly grows on the listener and uncovers new, unheard before details with each listen. This time the band has tried to go further than the usual guitar/bass/drums/keyboards set at several points, but also exploited it as much as possible, resulting in a very rich, deep sound. Instead of the minimalistic approach at some songs on the earlier albums, here, for a change, everything is complex, making the album a very memorable experience.

There is basically nothing bad that can be said about this album – with the exception of the problems with Left Out, but that's not very much. The songwriting, with each song being completely different than all the others and unusual structure, is basically flawless. There is a very clearly visible progress in instrumental skills, and they have already proven on their previous albums that they're talented. There's plenty of new ideas, and the style of the album overall is very different from the earlier ones – and basically any other album. Finally, they have created a nearly 45-piece of music that manages to catch the listener for its whole duration and not let loose for a single moment, and with one of the most impressive album endings ever created. In other words, Anno Domini High Definition is truly an example of the word “progressive”, both in the “technical & complex” meaning and “progressing” meaning. It's not far from being flawless, and although personally Rapid Eye Movement is still my favourite (due to it being completely flawless for me), ADHD comes very close and proves Riverside are very far from running out of ideas. If you're looking for original and fresh progressive metal – this is an album for you.

Album rating: 93%

Personal favourites: Hybrid Times, Hyperactive
Least favourite: Left Out
« Last Edit: June 04, 2010, 04:35:47 PM by Darkes7 »