Riverside - Anno Domini High Definition
Mystic Records
Dark Progressive Metal
5 songs (44:44)
Release year: 2009
Reviewed by Boris
Album of the month

Riverside are back with their fourth album—one that I have been anticipating since the release of the last one. As you may be able to tell from talking to me or reading my reviews of the band’s other albums, I LOVE Riverside. Ever since I discovered them, I have been repeatedly captured by their blend of Dream Theater-esque prog-metal with Pink Floydian psychedelia. The one complaint I’ve ever had is that occasionally, not often, I wished they were a little bit heavier. On past albums, the mellow beautiful side of the band definitely outweighed the heavier, angrier side. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one with such a desire, as a few weeks into recording the album, frontman Mariusz Duda updated the fans, saying that the new album will be faster-paced, heavier and more energetic. Upon listening to the album for the tenth time, I have decided that this, Anno Domini Hi Definition or ADHD for short, is Riverside’s most accomplished album to date.

Having wrapped up their Reality Dream Trilogy which their first three albums all belonged to, the band are now embarking on yet another series of concept albums, this time expanding from the schizophrenic tendencies of one man to the effect of modern culture of society and where new technologies are taking us. Yes, sounds very pretentious and Porcupine Tree-like. However, somehow Riverside have managed to keep all the lyrical content surprisingly non-preachy. Duda’s lyrics are still all in the first person, telling anecdotes of various characters or speaking directly to the listener but still appealing to emotion rather than reason. Additionally, despite the faster, heavier backdrop, melodies still abound—dozens per song, and I have no idea how they keep them all top notch. Even more amazingly, the band has not lost anything that established their musical identity on their first three albums. In addition to the beautiful, heartfelt vocals (which occasionally, as on opener Hyperactive, turn downright chilling as he transitions into a scream mid-line), Piotr Grudzinski’s wailing, almost-crying guitar lines are still prominent, as are the never-too-flashy but still incredibly technical drum patterns of Piotr Kozieradzki. Added in greater amounts is the presence of an organ, which often doubles the guitar but because of the qualities of an organ, does it with the intention of providing a much darker, more brooding mood.

As for the songs themselves. Well, there are only five, all of them excellent and none of them 20-minute or 30-minute epics, as one would expect in such a case. (Has Dream Theater ever released a 5 or 6 song album without having one song that is FAR too long?). That isn’t to say no songs are long—the final two pieces are both slightly over 10 minutes in length, but they certainly don’t feel like it. Left Out starts off with a lazy bassline and some bluesy acoustic guitar playing before Duda’s vocals come in. In between every vocal phrase however, the band adds something new—a police siren sample, an extra three guitar notes from the blues scale, a theremin part (yes, theremin)—something to keep the music fresh before the vocal melody escalates to its proper crescendo and Grudzinski comes in with his “I-do-David-Gilmour-better-than-David-Gilmour” solo. After the solo, the vocals come back but this time with three-part harmonies so that its not a simple rehash of the beginning. The only part of this song that irks me is one where the vocal harmonies sound exactly like the song After, though knowing Riverside this might be completely intentional—a way to remind the listener that everything is connected in some way and music is just one of the threads. Elsewhere, opener Hyperactive and Driven to Destruction both combine older acoustic sensibilities with a newfound desire to just “rock out.” Both songs start off slow, the former with a cool diminished piano part, but unlike the previous Riverside albums, once they explode in a fury, they do not stop, the pace being considerably faster even when its all acoustic. Hyperactive features a really fun vocal melody in particular. Egoist Hedonist, the first “single” released from the album is divided into three parts, all of which are considerably different but flow really well. The first is a very old-school Riverside ditty with atmospheric guitars and a great melody that explodes into a Volte-Face-esque prog part. The second is mainly instrumental and keeps in spirit with the faster spirit of this album, and the third features a weird up-beat vocal melody backed by a childish-sounding music box part. Another new aspect of the music is the increased use of fuzz-bass and weird vocal scatting from Duda. You can hear this in Hyperactive and Egoist where its reminiscent of David Draiman of Disturbed though done to way cooler backing music and much more melodically, or in Left Out where it takes on a more Daniel Gildenlow-esque quality.

The crowning jewel is the finale Hybrid Times which combines everything that is good about this band into one 12 minute monster. Its beautiful, its vicious, its got the most tasteful organ parts I’ve ever heard in metal, and Duda really lets loose on his bass and singing. This song makes you want to punch a wall, regret it and then punch some more because you’re angry at yourself for punching a wall the first time, all through varied pace of the music.

Anno Domini Hi Definition is probably the best piece of progressive metal released all year, and where the band were previously teetering on the line of even being metal at all, this is a very confident leap into the territory. Riverside will definitely have to outdo themselves to top this album with their next effort, but as long as they keep doing what they feel they need to (ie-putting only 5 songs on the album so as to exclude all filler, even if it means the album is only 44 minutes long), I’m confident they can keep up the good work. For fans that prefer the mellower side of the band, check out Duda’s side project Lunatic Soul which could pass for a Riverside clone any day (actually, most of the members are in both). For those who didn’t check out Riverside on my previous recommendations, do yourself a favor and don’t miss this one.

Killing Songs :
Every single one
Boris quoted 98 / 100
Other albums by Riverside that we have reviewed:
Riverside - ID.Entity reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
Riverside - Wasteland reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Riverside - Rapid Eye Movement reviewed by Boris and quoted 87 / 100
Riverside - Second Life Syndrome reviewed by Boris and quoted 94 / 100
Riverside - Out Of Myself reviewed by Boris and quoted 93 / 100
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