It’s been a long four and a half years since we last heard from Riverside. In 2018, the band was still in recovery mode from the untimely loss of Piotr Grudzinski and, as a three-piece, released the spacious-sounding Wasteland, which thematically dealt with the apocalypse, on levels both personal and civilizational. The present year finds Riverside releasing another thematically bi-furcated album. ID. Entity deals with the themes of the impact of social media and, more broadly technology, and its impact at the level of the individual and society as a whole. Given the present zeitgeist, ID. Entity is the timeliest thing they’ve ever done, which is saying something for a band that has albums like Anno Domini High Definition (ADHD) and songs like #Addicted (from Love, Fear and the Time Machine) in the repertoire.
Musically, ID. Entity has a palette as broad as its cover. That’s no coincidence, as bassist/lead vocalist Mariusz Duda has more or less said in a number of interviews regarding the album. Sounds ranging from synth-pop, heavy metal, electronica, and 70’s prog, among others, can be found in what is Riverside’s most musically diverse collection of songs yet. But still, the music has certain threads running through the album that make it unmistakably Riverside.
Friend or Foe kicks off the album, with much of the first half of the song extracted from the 80’s, with synthesizers, a prominent bass line, and a steady drumbeat, before new guitarist Maciej Meller brings a few meaty riffs to the party. And speaking of Meller, the band has done an excellent job of integrating him into the fold. Stylistically, there are enough similarities that he fits in with what Riverside does, while still allowing him enough space to be his own guy. Meanwhile, Duda ponders what the present is doing to our own identities:
Who is behind the filter?
Who Who’s behind the mask?
How much of yourself is left in you?
Landmine Blast follows, a quirky mix of hyper-kinetic electronic keyboards, pounding bass, and guitar that ranges from long leads to power chords. There is a nice mix of dynamics in this song, loud juxtaposed with quiet, fast with momentary interludes of breath-catching. In some respects, this song channels some of the same energy from ADHD, but updated for the present.
The title of Big Tech Brother leaves no questions about its message, beginning with a sarcastic ‘Terms of Service,’ followed by a musical introduction that even includes some brass – a first for Riverside. Lyrically, allusions to Huxley and Orwell are mixed with those of the present for a potent message, underscored by the dark, pounding music. Post Truth musically turns things down a notch, but just a notch. This song seems to point its criticism at the media, traditional and social, and the constant stream of BS that emanates from both. Meller’s guitar work on this song is particularly good, at times hinting at Alex Lifeson and other times sounding somewhat like the work of his predecessor in Riverside.
The most overtly prog composition on the album is the 13-minute mini-epic, The Place Where I Belong. This song has some strong 70’s prog influences, including the use of the Hammond by Michal Lapaj, and within the structure of the piece itself. The quiet interlude in the middle is an especially good touch. I’m Done With You follows, with plenty more of the Hammond and lots of prog-metal goodness while Duda pontificates on cutting poison people out of one’s life. The album closer, Self Aware, begins as a straight-ahead rocker, but has a nice keyboard- and bass-driven quiet jam at the end. It also has a little bit of reggae-beat worked in, reminding me a little of Rush’s Vital Signs.
If you were like me and bought the deluxe edition, you are treated to single edits of Friend or Foe and Self Aware, along with two new instrumental tracks, Age of Anger and Together Again. Both are worthy additions and worth the extra money.
In summary, ID. Entity finds Riverside’s music branching out into new areas and new sounds while still maintaining all of their trademarks that have made them one of the best 3rd wave progressive rock bands around. It’s no accident that they are my favorite band to emerge in the last 20 years or so, but even if they don’t hold that lofty position for you, this album is still worth checking out.