Riverside / Votum

O2 Academy Islington, London on Friday 4 April 2014

The weekend is set to begin in a marvellous fashion for the London progressive rock faithful as Polish proggers Riverside return to the capital again for another volley of emotionally potent rock. Visiting these shores only a year ago with no new release forthcoming, the band fail to deter ardent appreciators from attending tonight's event.

Sole support duty is allocated to fellow countrymen Votum, formed in 2002 and with three full-length releases bearing their logo. Much like the headliners, their take on progressive rock/metal is of the typically European variety, heavy on emotions that thematically champion melancholy rather than technical prowess. Musically, their music conjoins Riverside with the likes of Opeth's more melodic passages and Evergrey's rock-hinged take on prog metal. Aside from this, they contribute their own helping of organic isolation with precise distorted guitars and straight-to-the-point drumming. Keyboardist ZbigniewSzatkowski draws on Dream Theater's first few albums for inspiration andvocalist BartoszSobeiraj's voice meanders in a mid-tone emotive croon that compliments the music perfectly.

This is not music that demands a particular or emphatic stage presence, despite the heavy riffs and the occasional headbanging from band members. The music is immersive and unconventionally atmospheric. Szatkowski is friendly enough to speak to the audience when necessary and the reaction of the audience between songs is undeniably encouraging for their maiden voyage to London. There is definitely creative space in the capital's live circuit for a band like this to return.

Opening with the 'New Generation Slave' from last year's 'Shrine of New Generation Slaves' to a highly-deserved clamour of applause, Riverside navigate a rich musical tapestry coloured with guitar work similar to modern English progressive rock acts such as Porcupine Tree and Amplifier with subtle nods towards Dream Theater's classic works, seasoned with an almost celebratory organ replicated via keyboard.

Half of the setlist continues to hover on Riverside's latest musical output, a smorgasbord of meandering sentiments in a passion-rich yet accessible pill, free of any of the obsession with dramatic time signatures or riffs played at the speed of light that progressive music is unfairly stereotyped as. 'The Depth of Self-Delusions' sounds introspective without being antisocial, 'Feel Like Falling' celebrates modernity with its inconspicuous smile to accessible electronica while the frank and confessional 'Feel Like Falling' showcases the Poles' signature, almost astral meandering guitar work. Interestingly a fair portion of the set is devoted to 2011's 'Memories in My Head' EP, with 'Goodbye Sweet Innocence' and 'Living in the Past'each passing the ten minute mark.

Despite the overall glum mood of the songs, vocalistMariuszDuda is a humorous frontman, effortlessly ensuring the crowd burst into fits of giggles in between songs. Needless to report, the audience are wholly behind every decision the band make tonight, enjoying the selection of tracks from the quartet with ideal clarity. After returning to their latest album with 'Escalator Shrine', Riverside vacate the stage, seemingly leaving behind them yet another fantastic offering of modern prog rock.

However, the call of the audience lures the Poles back to the stage. Duda proclaims that the crowd make the band feel so welcome that they almost feel like celebrities. This prompts the audience to laugh as all is made clear as the progressive meddlers launch into 'Celebrity Touch'.Taking a trek back to their earlier works, the mighty'Second Life Syndrome' from the second album with the same title clocks in over 15 minutes, never once become tiresome or monotonousas it explores multi-faceted and coloured aural landscapes with creative musical competency. There is no more magnificent way to conclude the set and send the attendees away, their minds awash with satisfaction and smiles adhered to their visages with outstanding musicianship.

It seems that with each passing tour, Riverside grow more confident in their music. With two hours of music presented to a fortunate fanbase tonight, many fingers remained crossed that the band returns to the capital again next year, complete with another lesser known progressive talent supporting.

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article by: Elena Francis

published: 08/04/2014 15:34

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