Review by Paul Quinton
Polish progressive metal Riverside played what was, for me, the finest gig of 2013 at the Assembly in Leamington last March, and although it’s usually a bit much to ask lightning to strike twice, especially in a different venue, it wasn’t easy to resist the optimism that this might be another special evening.
Another Polish band VOTUM were tonight’s support, a band that were almost completely new to most at the Robin, I suspect. They play a fairly individual style of prog metal, with some interesting Eastern European influences at times, particularly as the vocals sometimes reminded this listener of Serge Tankian. The main problem for the band were that these vocals were often mixed too low, which robbed them of some of their identity. However, there was plenty to like about Votum, some excellent riffing and some nicely fluid bass playing as part of a very capable rhythm section. The band appeared to have done some useful business at the Merch desk afterwards, suggesting that there were a lot of people who liked what they heard.
Although this was still part of the band’s lengthy ‘Shrine of New Generation Slaves’ Tour, RIVERSIDE had revamped the set slightly from last year. ‘Shrine’ was obviously featured quite heavily, in fact the band opened with three songs from the album, opening with ‘New Generation Slave’ itself, and it was clear the band were on very good form, even after so much touring. It was noticeable too, that they’d brought their own sound man and sound desk, rather than rely on the Robin’s own set-up. Whether this was a good thing or not is a matter of preference, for me the sound, while overall pretty good, was a little bass heavy, with Mariusz Duda’s vocals often a shade too low in the mix. Having said that, it’s Duda’s bass that drives the band along much of the time, with the keyboards and guitars adding colour and shape to the framework, so perhaps a bass heavy sound is somewhat understandable in the context of the band..
As well as featuring the latest album, to vary things from previous tours, the band also looked further into their back catalogue by featuring the E.P.s they released in the early part of their career, in fact ‘Goodbye Sweet Innocence’, from the ‘Memories In My Head’ E.P., had apparently never been played live before this tour, and if most of the crowd weren’t that familiar with this early material, they responded to it really positively, particularly the gothic romance of ‘Acronym Love’. However the highlight of the main set was an utterly mesmerising ‘We Got Used To Us’, which was one of the best single live performances I’ve seen all year, absolutely outstanding. In fact the main set as a whole finished on a spectacularly high note, with ‘Egoist Hedonist’ fully involving the crowd, and an almost hypnotic ‘Escalator Shrine’ casting a spell over the Robin.
Naturally there were encores, a superb ‘Celebrity Touch’ giving way to ‘Second Life Syndrome’ to end a superb evening’s music. In a number of ways, this wasn’t quite the equal of that stupendous show in Leamington last year, where the stars aligned to produce what was quite close to the perfect gig. This time around, it may be that some unfamiliarity with the less well known songs caused the atmosphere to drop at times, and I’m not sure the band themselves were on quite the same imperious form as they were at the Assembly. Nevertheless, this was still one of the best shows I’ve seen this year, a superb band, playing some of the best progressive metal on offer to an appreciative crowd that gave a packed Robin a fine atmosphere. If and when Riverside return to the UK, they should not be missed.