“Shrine Of New Generation Slaves” is the fifth album by Polish Progressive Rock/Metal act Riverside, one of the last decade’s most beloved European bands of the genre. They started off with a trilogy of albums, which begun in 2003 with “Out With Myself”, continued with “Second Life Syndrome” and ended with “Rapid Eye Movement”. These albums all had a very similar sound that combined heaviness with Pink Floydian atmospheres, with a greater dose of the latter. 2009′s “Anno Domini High Definition” was a complete direction-shifter, thanks to a sharper, more modern sounding production, more futuristic and advanced sounds, and more Metal. This last release stunned me completely, and I still keep it dear to my heart for it is now one of my favorite albums. “Shrine Of New Generations Slaves” at this point has quite a bit on its shoulders. Luckily, the band proves they are still in great shape, and that they can still amaze.
In many ways, this is the album that should have been midway between the trilogy and “Anno Domini”: the production is a good mix between the two, because while we still have the Floydian atmospheric sounds, there is still a lot of sharp, modern sounding Metal. Like also the trilogy, there is a lot organ playing to give thickness to the guitars and keyboards, and there are quite a bit of piano bits, synth pads, and some additional instrumentation such as the sax or the flute. In fact, this album is again another pleasantly varied piece of work, instrumentally speaking. But the variation doesn’t end here: in terms of mood, this is also quite a diverse album, as we find melancholic songs, but also fun, heavy ones, and some others veiled with a shroud of mystery. But it never feels like a mixed bag, everything is so perfectly in balance, and when a different mood does kick in, it comes in just in time.
The depth of “Shrine Of New Generation Slaves” is really outstanding, almost to the levels of “Anno Domini”, in the sense that the music brings you deep into a world, very similar to ours, but where a melting pot of emotions is an everyday thing, where social discomfort reigns, in a time where every one is closed in, and where everything happens from within and never coming from the outside. It is a very introspective album, and the flow of it almost feels like an unconscious stream of emotions, a strongly linear journey with a beginning, and with a pleasantly suffused ending.
Particular highlights that mark this beautiful journey are songs like the wonderfully complex ” The Depth Of Self-Delusion”, the meditative calmness of “Feel Like Falling” the more urgent, fun pieces like the single “Celebrity Touch”, or “Deprived”, and the second-to-last track, “Escalator Shrine”, which has the most powerful closing minutes Riverside has ever managed to write.
“Shrine Of New Generation Slaves” ought to be remembered as one of the finest examples of Progressive Metal, and to be part of that still-growing bulk of masterful releases coming out of this decade. Its approach is very new, the atmospheres are very innovative, and the level of sophistication is extremely high; with these attributes, there is no reason for this to not be part of the best of the best.