Vera : Goosebumps! Touching, emotive, true beauty… These words spontaneously cross my mind after listening to ‘Wasteland’. In February 2016, Riverside was struck by an immense tragedy. Guitarist Piotr Grudzinski suddenly passed away, totally unexpected, few days before his 41st birthday. Not only as a band, but most of all as friends and human beings, everyone of them got to face and cope with this heavy burden. It needed some time, for sure. With heavy hearts they finished ‘Eye Of The Soundscape’, but this ‘Wasteland’ happens to be the true successor of ’Love, Fear And The Time Machine’ (2015). And – obviously – it happens to be a new start for the band.
The band decided to go on as trio. Mariusz plays some of the guitar solos on this new album, in four of the songs we hear guitarist Maciej Meller (who also supports them live) and Mateusz Owczarek can be heard in ‘Vale Of Tears’. That’s how Riverside tries to deal with and slowly recover from this great loss. In the meantime vocalist/bassist Mariusz Duda has created two solo albums on which he tried to get over his massive sadness, but the deepest emotions, the inner scream, that was Riverside’s prerogative. Here they pay tribute to their lost friend in a very serene manner. From the introductive ‘The Day After’ on, it goes straight to your heart. Deep-draught a capella chants, only graced with violins towards the end and Mariusz who wonders: ‘what if…?’. A familiar feel. In ‘Acid Rain’ (made up of two parts) chunky riffs and prominent bass lines join in, vocals are determined and storytelling. It gets marvelous with fluttering spacey sounds and a spoken fragment with howling guitar solos. Impressive! ‘Vale Of Tears’ happens to be a firm rocking song. The guitar accents sound kind of eerie and the vocal lines about wading through the desert instantly haunt you. They continue on top notch level with the very melancholic ‘Guardian Angel’, graced with very beautiful acoustic guitar skills. This song has remarkable low-ranged vocals. Mariusz says that it is one of the new features, together with a kind of new storytelling way of singing, from time to time even with any Slavonic influences. Mark the eminent guitar soloing of newcomer Meller in ‘Guardian Angel’.
Captivating as well, is ‘Lament’, with singer-songwriter vocals, rather calm timbre, but regaled with a couple of exiting outbursts. This is the song in which the violin playing of guest musician Michal Jelonek is featured the most, first during serene chants, then mournful towards the end. The nearly ten minutes long, instrumental ‘The Struggle For Survival’ (again made up of two parts) gives the band the chance to cut loose with progressive structures. We hear energetic solos, intricate drum patterns and indeed, also a beautiful acoustic fragment with refined ornaments. Goosebumps rise again during the fragile sung ‘River Down Below’. The Pink Floyd-ish guitar sounds (also kind of albatross screams) made me shed a tear and the solemn Hammond organ is always in the back. The second lengthy track with progressive, instrumental escapades is the title track ‘Wasteland’. Here we have Duda’s low-ranged voice again, with astonishing instrumental parts and towards the end very Pink Floyd-ish. Mark the nice sound of Theremin! Occluding track ‘The Night Before’ has beautiful, sensitive vocals and classical piano and it even gets more striking with any pontifical chants. This almost hurts to listen to, so intense and moving. A more beautiful tribute to Piotr they could not have created!