2015 Album of the Year

Riverside – Love, Fear and the Time MachineIt was extremely hard to choose just one single record as album of the year. Even after I had begun publishing the first few instalments of this rundown I hadn’t been able to make the final decision of which record out of at least three was the best of them all. Karnataka and Amorphis in particular have both made astonishingly good records this year.

But in the end, there can only be one, and it’s from Poland’s finest band.

Riverside – Love. Fear and The Time Machine

Riverside get compared to Porcupine Tree a lot. That’s both a fair comparison and an unfair one. They are the ideal band for anyone still missing Porcupine Tree, it’s true. But they are far more than a derivative copy. Imagine, if you can, a Porcupine Tree with Jon Lord on keyboards, Alex Lifeson on guitar, and a rhythm section with a sense of groove that few bands under the progressive rock banner can match.

Love, Fear and The Time Machine might just be their best album to date. They’ve taken a step back from the dense hard rock sound of the preceding “Shrine of the New Generation Slaves”, taking a pared-back less-is-more approach that gives everything more space to breathe. There are a host of 80s rock references; a guitar figure evoking early Marillion here, a post-punk bass riff or a bridge recalling The Stone Roses there. But it’s all anchored in Mariusz Duda’s distinctive understated approach to melody, Piotr Grudzińsk economical guitar work and and Michał Łapaj’s evocative keyboard playing. One highlight is the shortest and most minimalist song on the record, “Afloat”, which sees Mariusz melancholy vocal accompanied by a simple guitar figure and some atmospheric organ chords. But the whole album is superb, with restrained instrumental virtuosity and masterful use of dynamics.

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8 Responses to 2015 Album of the Year

  1. Paul Turner says:

    Good choice. This was 2nd on my list. Very good album

  2. Chris Hall says:

    Great choice. It’s really good album. As is the additional CD that comes with it

  3. Steve says:

    Not being a big follower of the euro prog/metal scene, I’ve only been aware of this band for a few months after reading so many good reports on one of the Facebook music groups. Seeing you insert this as the no 1 album gave me another reminder that I need to listen to it. I listened to the whole thing on You Tube last night and really like it. There’s certainly a big Steven Wilson influence in there. So I’ll be buying the album. That’s also You Tube in action working to get new fans on board to buy albums, maybe go to gigs, rather than it being used as nothing more than a free streaming service.

  4. Tim Hall says:

    Regret not going to see them live in London earlier this year. Passed on it because it was midweek amidst a flurry of other gigs; people who were there say it was phenomenal.

  5. Synthetase says:

    An interesting choice. It’s certainly a very solid album, but it didn’t grab me like ADHD did. I was thinking about my album of the year last night and I reckon it’s The Gentle Storm – The Diary. I haven’t seen you post anything about it, Tim, so I’m not sure you’ve heard it. It’s well worth a listen if you haven’t.

  6. Tim Hall says:

    I’ve heard “The Gentle Storm”, but wasn’t blown away by it (if you excuse the pun). The idea of back-to-back unplugged and full-band versions of the same songs was an interesting one, but like much of Arjen Lucassen’s work I found it a bit patchy, some great songs but rather too much filler

    I did review the live show at The Garage
    http://www.kalyr.com/weblog/music/live-reviews/the-gentle-storm-the-garage/

  7. Synthetase says:

    Fair enough, I must have missed that review. I agree on the patchiness of some of his stuff. I absolutely hated Lost in the New Real. Why would you put a bunch of spoken words prefacing each track to explain the meaning of the track? Like that’s not going to get really annoying after two (or even during one) listens! What I really liked about the album was the contrasting instrumentation and musical styles. I thought it was an excellent example of using instrumentation to enhance storytelling and set the scene for what the lyrics were describing.

  8. Synthetase says:

    I should clarify: what I really liked about [The Diary] was the…