Riverside – ID. Entity


Not quite five years after their last studio album, the superb Wasteland, Riverside’s 8th studio album, with its mildly punning title, is not just a loose concept about self and, yes, identity, but also musically quite a different animal from its predecessor. Whereas Wasteland was written with the band still recovering from the tragically early death of guitarist Piotr Grudzinski, and had a clear theme of survival, ID.Entity, has a much less bleak feel, even with its serious subject matter.

Opening track ‘Friend or Foe’ has caused a bit of a stir on line, as often is the case when a band strays a little from what has gone before. In this case Mariusz Duda’s exploration of electronica in his solo project, and which he’s often claimed has become his main passion at various time, has leaked into Riverside’s music, and appears to have caused a number of people to clutch their pearls, in a way that’s reminiscent of the stir Steven Wilson caused when he blurred the edges on To The Bone and The Future Bites. The opening passage definitely has elements of the so-called ‘progressive pop’ of the 80s and 90s, and a lot of this track and the album is dominated by Duda’s bass and Michal Lapaj’s keyboards, rather than the guitar, but when Maciej Meller’s guitar does come in on the instrumental sections it gives the music another dimension and the almost instantaneous jump from the verse to the much heavier chorus is just exhilarating.

Second track, Landmine Blast’, brings more Prog, with a complicated time signature, and Meller’s insistent guitar, and another instrumental passage that draws you in. ‘Big Tech Brother’ introduced by a brief voice over satirising phone selling and some more instrumental gymnastics, including some of the heaviest riffs on the album, contrasting with Mariusz Duda’s almost plaintive vocal, sometimes even whispering, at least until he almost roars a line near the end. ‘Post Truth’ is one track that does remind you of the band’s earlier work, with its spitting, staccato riff,

This leads to the longest track on the album, ‘The Place Where I Belong’, weighing in at over 13 minutes, moving seamlessly between its various sections, from its gentle acoustic opening, to the faster, exhilarating instrumental sections, with Machal Lapaj’s solos bringing to mind the great Jon Lord. Bands usually take a lot of trouble over album running orders, so it’s interesting that the longest and most complex track on the album isn’t its climax. Instead, it moves into ‘I’m Done With You’, with its buzzing, synthesised bass opening, and while the vocals come in more quietly, it’s not long before Michal’s spiralling keyboards and another insistent, biting riff takes over.

The album proper concludes with ‘Self Aware’, in which the band becomes becomes the latest to write about social media, ‘Scrolling, watching, reading’, leading to Mariusz’s angry confession that he needs it maintain contact with others. It has another compulsive riff, and is almost a straightforward rock song, all the way up to the reggae riff toward the end, but for all the anger and passion, the album ends comparatively quietly, as the individual instruments fade in to the silence.

There is a Special Edition of the CD version that includes a bonus disc, that contains not only ‘single edits’ of ‘Friend or Foe’ and ‘Self Aware’, but two bonus tracks, both instrumentals, the near 12-minute ‘Age of Anger’ and ‘Together Again’. Apart from the duration, the two tracks are similar in many ways, with gentler, almost ambient openings, going through many, mostly thoughtful moods, punctuated by some enjoyable angry and heavier guitar riffs.

For all the debate about some of the musical elements of the album, it’s still recognisably Riverside and another high quality album, from one of the best bands under the Prog umbrella to have emerged in the last couple of decades.

Track List:

  1. Friend or Foe
  2. Landmine Blast
  3. Big Tech Brother
  4. Post-Truth
  5. The Place Where I Belong
  6. I’m Done With You
  7. Self-Aware

Bonus Disc Tracks:

  1. Age of Anger
  2. Together Again
  3. Friend or Foe (Single edit)
  4. Self-Aware (Single Edit)