Riverside - Second Life Syndrome
InsideOut Music
Dark Progressive Metal
9 songs (63:40)
Release year: 2005
Riverside, InsideOut Music
Reviewed by Boris
Archive review

A few weeks ago, I reviewed the debut album by Riverside and praised it to hell. That album was the first in the so-called “Reality Dream” trilogy which deals with schizophrenia and a detachment from life on the part of its main character. The second installment, appropriately titled Second Life Syndrome, is largely more dynamic than its predecessor, and finds the band really finding their niche.

The album opens with After which after a fairly cheesy spoken word intro explodes right into atmospheric vocal crooning. Vocalist/basisst Mariusz Duda’s voice is beautiful but he should refrain from speaking because his thick Polish accent worsens the effect that a whispered intro is meant to have. After sets the mood for the entire album, and is followed by Volte-Face, one of the band’s best songs. Almost immediately, the Floyd-like guitar line grabs you by the balls before a Dream Theater-esque riff kicks into full force. This is already heavier than anything on the debut, and Riverside do a great job of infusing their own sensibilities with these riffs. The song transitions from section to section very naturally, and Duda starts singing around the 3 minute mark. There are some really tasteful little ditties on guitar and keyboard that help the music come to life, and one particular line where Duda croons alongside a guitar that’s about to start soloing that gives me chills. After a brief mellow break, this song really reaches its fantastic climax, which is very reminiscent of a Rush epic but with more aggressive vocals.

Conceiving You is the album’s first ballad, and falls into much the same key that Loose Heart did on the previous effort. Conceiving You bursts with beautiful, interesting vocal melodies and a fantastic guitar solo. John Petrucci and Michael Romeo could really learn from guitarist Piotr Grudzinksi’s wildly emotional technique and fluidity. Next up is the title track, which is the longest track on the album. It starts where the previous song left off, with mellow acoustic guitar and many spacey effects before slowly building up. It doesn’t just build up however—Riverside decided to throw in some twists and turns into this one. The electronic effects give the proggy riff an industrial fill, and kind of remind me of the Pain of Salvation song Idioglossia. Duda comes in eventually, but the vocals in the first part take a backseat to all that is going around them. In the second part of the song (it is divided into three parts in the lyrics booklet), Duda shines again—his vocals bleeding emotion amongst the relative calm that the instruments create.

After the overly-lengthy conclusion of Second Life Syndrome, the best song on the album, Artificial Smile, comes on. The song is faster-paced than pretty much all that came before it, and does an impeccable job of combining beauty and aggressiveness. Hearing Duda transition from crooning to screaming mid-line is provides a chilling effect. Halfway through, there is a really tasteful and catchy bridge that leads into what is by now standard Floyd-inspired guitar fare. I Turned You Down slows us down again and tugs some more on the heartstrings. I particularly like the lyrics in this song, and I’ll take a moment to speak about the lyrics. To a standard consumer, the lyrics might sound a bit funny because as Duda is foreign, his writing is often grammatically incorrect, or he attempts to translate something that may sound beautiful in Polish directly, and it ends up sound funny. However, I’ve found that metal-heads keep an open mind (why else would we accept tales of Knights and Dragons as genuine expressions of artistry), and encourage everyone to take in the lyrics for their meaning and the beauty of Duda’s delivery. After having done so, I’ve found that Duda’s lyrics speak to the heart much more clearly than most American bands, mainstream or not. It also adds a layer of emotional investment in the music.

I wrote that mini-tangent on lyrics ironically listening to the instrumental Reality Dream III (the first two are on the debut album). The song takes some musical cues from its predecessors but twists them and moves forward—dare I say, PROGresses—to some really tasteful heavy proggy riffing towards it conclusion. I must also say that having just talked about lyrics, its wonderful how Riverside manage to make even the instrumentals “speak” and move the story forward.

Dance with the Shadow, clocking in at 11 minutes as the second longest song on the album, slows down to a devastating pace for a few minutes before kicking in with some cool heavy riffing and a bass-driven main riff. I will say that by this point in the album (almost an hour in), a song this long really takes the wind out of you. Listening to this song on its own is a better decision, as it is easier to appreciate the mellower parts, which kinda lull you otherwise. The closer Before (should the album have been listened to backwards? WHAT?!) is really atmospheric much like the intro until a frenetic explosion in its last minute. The juxtaposition of such calm with the climax at the end makes what could have been a repetitive and predictable solo quite surprising as to the direction it takes.

After the album’s explosive conclusion, I am, of course, left wanting much much more from the band. Luckily, at the time of this review, there is already a follow-up (two, in fact) and I need not worry.

Killing Songs :
Volte-Face, Conceiving You, Artificial Smile
Boris quoted 94 / 100
Other albums by Riverside that we have reviewed:
Riverside - Wasteland reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Riverside - Anno Domini High Definition reviewed by Boris and quoted 98 / 100
Riverside - Rapid Eye Movement reviewed by Boris and quoted 87 / 100
Riverside - Out Of Myself reviewed by Boris and quoted 93 / 100
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