RIVERSIDE are back in the game. The band who have been around since 2001, who have so far released six long-players, a compilation, two mini-albums and two live albums, and who have played numerous tours across the world. That band is coming back this year with their seventh studio album called “Wasteland”, recorded as a trio: Mariusz Duda – vocals, guitars and basses, Piotr Kozieradzki – drums, Michał Łapaj – keyboards and Hammond organ.
“I remember the moment when we officially announced that we would continue as a trio,” says Mariusz Duda, the vocalist and main composer in the band. “We were doing a photoshoot at the Polish seaside. I said to the guys, ‘Let’s remember that this is just the beginning. Many of our fans can’t imagine an album without Grudzień and for some of them the band ceased to exist when he died. We have to prove that we are able to survive not only by playing concerts but, most of all, by recording a new album.'”
The tragedy that befell in February, 2016 called into question the very existence of RIVERSIDE. The co-founder and guitarist of the band, Piotr Grudziński, died suddenly just before his 41st birthday. RIVERSIDE cancelled all the concerts planned for that year, including RoSfest 2016, and dedicated the album “Eye of the Soundscape”, released in September 2016, to their late friend.
“‘Eye of the Soundscape’ is a compilation of old and new things,” says Duda, “but it’s not a successor to ‘Love, Fear and the Time Machine’. It is not yet a new music chapter. The new chapter begins now, this year.”
Earlier, in the spring of 2017, RIVERSIDE resumed playing live. During the “Towards the Blue Horizon” tour the band were joined on stage by Maciej Meller who officially joined RIVERSIDE as their live guitarist. Why has he not become the official fourth member of the band?
“It’s not so simple,” Duda explains, “To catch up with 15 years takes time. I love Maciej but everything has to have its place and time. For now we are a quartet only live.”
Back then, Duda had already had an idea for another release. To begin a new chapter of RIVERSIDE, they would have to record an album from the point of view of someone bereft, someone who has survived a tragedy. The fact that the album would be recorded without their guitarist might result in having to experiment musically a little more than usual but, most of all, it might translate into deeper symbolism and carry a more profound meaning. “I had a feeling we would be alright and we could make something beautiful and exceptional,” he recalls.
The band entered the recording studio in December 2017 and Mariusz Duda assumed the duties of the band’s guitarist. “Since I play different instruments and compose mostly on the acoustic guitar, we decided that we would do everything just like we had done before, but this time I would play the electric guitar as well. I also wanted to use my newly acquired piccolo bass, which at times sounds like an electric guitar. We recorded a demo. It turned out alright and we had come to the conclusion that I would manage to play all the rhythmic parts, all the melodies and some of the solos. Naturally, to enhance the sound of the album, we left some space for guests.”
And so on the new RIVERSIDE album, you can hear a few guitar solos by Maciej Meller, as well as one by Mateusz Owczarek, a young, talented guitarist, who played with the band during their Warsaw memorial concert for Piotr Grudziński. For the first time in their music, there are also violins played by Michał Jelonek.
“‘Wasteland’ is undoubtedly one of the musically heavier and more emotional albums in our discography”, says Michał Łapaj, the keyboard player of the band. “In a way, it reaches the beginnings of our playing, there are lots of guitar riffs, darker elements and space. It’s all combined with a new, raw sound that we had never had before, which makes the album quite an explosive mix. We’re literally going through a second life syndrome and when we were recording this album, we consciously added some elements referring to our second studio release, which sort of makes ‘Wasteland’ a second part of ‘SLS'”.
While writing lyrics for the new album, Mariusz decided on an idea for the titles of the first and the last tracks, which makes a very clear reference to “Second Life Syndrome”. The album begins with “The Day After” and finishes with “The Night Before”. Additionally, “Wasteland” begins with a-cappella vocals, just like the band’s second release and both albums comprise nine compositions.
The main theme of “Wasteland” is attempting to survive in a world after the Apocalypse, which is referred to in a few lyrics and song titles (“The Day After” is also the title of a post-apocalyptic film from 1983). On social media, Duda clearly admitted to being inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s book, “The Road” as well as games from the “Fallout” series. However, the symbolism of the album refers not only to the post-apocalyptic visions of the world, but also to the death of Piotr Grudziński, to the band’s attempt to find themselves in new circumstances, and, in general, to the current situation of the increasingly turbulent world full of new divisions and conflicts.
“‘Wasteland’ is a big album,” says Robert Srzednicki, the sound engineer and co-producer of the album. “It’s emotional and full of contrasts. Serious and, for what it’s worth, heavy, but at the same time extremely melodious and even potentially ‘hit’ in a way. The core sound is made by ‘live’ instruments. Sometimes spacious and soft, at other times raw and harsh. Starting from the incredibly extended drum kit through a very wide range of basses, acoustic and electric guitars, Hammond organs and analog synthesizers, to the whole spectrum of vocals.”
“I had never thought that after 17 years of RIVERSIDE, after 6 studio albums and a whole lot of different releases, I will feel again as if I was about to release the first album,” says Piotr Kozieradzki, the drummer of RIVERSIDE. “It feels to me like we’re doing a ‘second debut‘. A very important debut, almost as important as ‘Out of Myself’. The album itself carries a lot of emotions which reflect everything that has been happening to the band for the past few years. It’s a much heavier and darker face of RIVERSIDE.”
There are a few key elements that make the new release a very original one. First: the characteristic and rather unusual overdriven sound of guitars and basses. Second: the heavy drums. Third: Mariusz Duda singing lower more often than ever before. And fourth: elements referring to soundtracks of… western movies.
“RIVERSIDE have found their style for good,” says Duda, “and widened their horizons. It’s a quirky mix of contrasts, western movies, road movies and Slavic melodies. All that, together with incredibly emotional fragments, creates an exceptional and original combination. It has very little to do with the music of the bands we used to be compared to.”
This time, the characteristic RIVERSIDE guitar solos are played by three musicians. Duda, Owczarek and Meller make the album very rich in this respect. The majority of guitar solo fragments are played by Maciej Meller who guests on four tracks. Here is what he has to say about the new RIVERSIDE album:
“Perhaps it is easier for me to evaluate this release because I’m a little more on the outside,” he says. “For me, ‘Wasteland’ is a synthesis of those elements from the entire history of RIVERSIDE that I like most. But there’s also a lot of new things! There is the emotional weight of ‘SLS’ but also the space of ‘OOM’, there is the twisted guitar blow of ‘ADHD’ and the melodiousness of ‘LFATTM’. And then there’s a new kind of storytelling, something I haven’t heard before. It’s very epic and cinematic, these are music pictures. An empty road, dust, burnt soil and the main character tormented by sad experiences. The end but perhaps also a beginning? These are the things I see. And however silly it sounds, at the moment for me it’s the best and the most coherent RIVERSIDE album.”
Mariusz Duda: “I’ve been listening recently to the whole discography of RIVERSIDE, to the way our music has changed. There are a lot of production flaws on the early releases but there is also innocence and the non-repeatable, specific kind of emotions, depth, the ‘inner scream’, which was later lost. It resurfaced for a moment on the black album of my solo project, Lunatic Soul, but got lost somewhere as well. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not, but these kind of emotions, this depth is back on ‘Wasteland’ and it’s back with a vengeance. I honestly can’t remember listening to new RIVERSIDE music with tears in my eyes, and there are such moments here. The music very often grabs you by the throat. I have recently released two solo albums, ‘Fractured’ and ‘Under the Fragmented Sky’, both talking about coming to terms with a loss, but those were the stories told by someone who had already made the decision to get up from their knees and start a new life. ‘Wasteland’ grabs you and says, ‘wait, tell me more about what had happened before, tell me how you felt at the beginning, tell me what you haven’t told me yet’. And so I go back. I go back to the darkest moment. And it turns out that I had saved the ‘inner scream’ for last. It looks like I had to finally deal with it in RIVERSIDE.”
“Wasteland” is an exceptional release which clearly underlines the most important elements of RIVERSIDE music. The incredibly emotional nature of each of the tracks has a huge potential to move every listener. The seventh album of the band marks a new chapter, a new hand, a new beginning. We will find out whether RIVERSIDE together with their guests stood up to the pressure and the formidable task on September 28th.
And in mid-October, the band will go on the “Wasteland Tour”, their biggest tour yet. The concerts in 2018 have been planned in bigger than before venues in Europe and more legs of the tour will take place in the spring of 2019.
Mariusz Duda – vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, bass, piccolo bass, banjo, guitar solo on ‘Lament’ and ‘Wasteland’
Michał Łapaj – keyboards and synthesizers, rhodes piano and Hammond organ, theremin on ‘Wasteland’
Piotr Kozieradzki – drums
Out Of Myself – CD/LP 2003
Voices In My Head – EP 2004/2005
Second Life Syndrome – CD/LP 2005
Rapid Eye Movement – CD/LP 2007
Reality Dream – 2DVD/2CD 2008/2009
Anno Domini High Definition – CD/LP 2009