Anno Domini High Definition

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Warsaw's Riverside released three previous studio albums, all of which reflected their influences deeply, while quietly forging an identity all their own. Their deep love of heavy metal and prog rock was shared by some other Polish bands that created the "progski" scene in their home country, formed in the early part of the aughts. Influenced equally by Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, and Tool, their reputation at home and across Europe quietly spread and was enhanced by a devastating live show that combined stellar musicianship and metal dynamics. Riverside is Mariusz Duda, lead vocals, bass guitar, acoustic guitar; Piotr Grudzinski, guitars; Piotr Kozieradzki, drums; and Michal Lapaj, keyboards, backing vocals, and on Anno Domini High Definition (interestingly, the first initials in the title form the acronym ADHD), they have come into their own and stand apart not only from their own early influences, but from virtually every single other band on the prog metal scene.

The album contains five tracks, all linked thematically -- though this is not a concept album -- about the speed of modern culture and the cost born not only by the individual but by the community as well. Its centerpiece is a three-part suite entitled "Egoist Hedonist." While earlier recordings have been paced and balanced evenly between harder songs and ballads, ADHD, while it has melodic moments, is mostly comprised of songs with an intensely high energy. Keyboards and big guitars are out front with a devastatingly intricate yet wonderfully time sensitive rhythm section. Duda's vocals are melodic, clear, and foreboding. He reflects the disintegration of the personality of the individual that is at the heart of the record and in all of its songs, with soul, character, and excellent control. Check the fourth track, "Left Out." It begins as a shimmering ballad with beautiful guitar work by Grudzinski as Duda's excellent lyrics introduce the song's protagonist. At the two-minute mark the power kicks in and the sense of disintegration, alienation, and anger just below the surface all make themselves clear. But there is no chaos. It's all ordered and carefully orchestrated, making the music as complex as a human personality. The blasting riffs at the beginning of "Egoist Hedonist" are answered by enormous organs all before the vocals kick in and the track shifts and morphs throughout its three parts, becoming alternately a straight-up metal riff ride, a horn-driven funky sprint, and a prog rock ballad. Ultimately, ADHD has to be taken as an album to be fully appreciated. At just under 45 minutes, it's an easy listen all the way through, especially with all the musical and atmospheric surprises in its rich textural palette. ADHD reveals exactly why Riverside is a band that all tech- and prog-metal fans should take very seriously.

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