January 11, 2023

In contemporary times, is it possible to still be yourself and not be interested in what’s happening in the world? Can you live amongst people but not be interested in the societal transformations which are occurring at an increasing rate? On ID.Entity, Riverside claim this isn’t possible and, to survive in these difficult times, we need ‘self-awareness & empathy and community’, as well as ‘the wisdom to distance from those who seek to antagonise and divide, and inject venom into our lives’.  This new album is grounded in what band leader Mariusz Duda considers to be ‘the current contemporary crisis of identity’ … are we still ourselves while the world changes around us in ways we may dislike, or do we change into someone else? Or, as Traffic once asked, ‘am I what I was or was I what I am?’   

Their previous studio album, Wasteland, arose from the existential crisis Riverside had found themselves in when guitarist Piotr Grudzinski, one of the founding members of the band, died in 2016. Had Wasteland  not been as well received as it was, it could have been the end of the road. Happily, since then, with a new guitarist in Maciej Meller, Riverside have rediscovered their mojo, and ID.Entity sees them turning their focus outwards towards what surrounds them in the modern world, with a return to the sound of their early career and, as the band prepares to enter its third decade, the beginning of a new path.

Photo: Radek Zawadzki

Riverside returned to basics to record this album. Rather than create their songs in a studio, the band decamped to a rehearsal room to ‘recapture the energy which comes from playing together’. They’ve come up with what can best be described as a ‘concept album’, rather than a random collection of songs, with the focus on the role of the individual in society as social media and technology changes it – and it’s a piece of work riven with quality and substance, with some intelligent musical compositions and some of the most biting lyrics Mariusz Duda has ever written.

Friend Or Foe, with an incessant metronomic beat running through, is a tune reminiscent of early 1980s Rush and asks what happens when you bend to another’s will rather than be yourself. Landmine Blast says, ‘we’ve lost our sense of community, racing past each other, disconnected.’ In the face of ever changing technological advances, Big Tech Brother asks, ‘what is it like to stick your head in the sand, to choose ignorance?’ This is possibly one of the most powerful tracks Riverside have recorded for several years, with some punchy playing and incessant riffing. Post Truth is almost a nod to prog metal titans Dream Theater with some gigantic riffing. The 13-minute Place Where I Belong is almost two separate songs and features some lovely guitar work from Maciej Meller as well as from Michal Lapaz on Keyboards. I’m Done With You, released as a single, concerns removing yourself from a toxic dysfunctional relationship, and the classy Self Aware also has hints of 1980s Rush, closing the album with a message of hoping we might still be able to communicate with and understand each other, with Duda stating, ‘the future’s in our hands, but first, let’s unsubscribe from those who make us hostile.’

What comes across on ID.Entity is the sheer quality of the musicianship, with every player at the top of his game. Anyone wondering whether Riverside could still cut it without Piotr Grudzinski can be assured they still have the chops they’ve always had, they’re still atmospheric progmeisters and their music still has its discernible edge. This is probably as good an album as Riverside have ever recorded, with a sound and feel harking back to their Rapid Eye Movement period, containing all the elements making them a great band, as well as some of their best playing. Piotr Grudzinski can rest assured his legacy is in safe hands.