If you listen to a lot of Prog you can pick out bits here and there that remind you of King Crimson, Van Der Graff Generator, Pink Floyd etc, as well as pieces of Pendragron, IQ, Marillion and there are touches that evoke the spirit of Opeth, Tool, Porcupine Tree and even tiny bits of Dream Theater too.
The thing is though, that Riverside seamlessly blend all the classic, mid-era and modern prog styles together and though a bit of a song here or there will remind you of another band, it still sounds like Riverside as opposed to that band and therein lies the band’s greatest strength and truest appeal.
Riverside go a long way towards summarising everything that’s good about the sound of progressive music without leaning too heavily on any one influence and without being too old fashioned for the fans who normally only like modern music or too metallic for the fans who can’t normally stand metal.
As a Riverside album, Second Life Syndrome is a masterpiece. It is a masterfully executed and top quality example of how intelligent and interesting music can be without having to get so dense and impenetrable that its no-longer enjoyable, or oversimplify so much that it no-longer has anything to say. As to where it sits in the band’s discography, stylistically this second album injects a few more metal moments into the band’s sound when compared with their debut, but the song writing is a little grander and less condensed than on their third album. It sums up the band’s signature sound really rather well and the standard of both song writing and musicianship is simply wonderful.
Mariusz Duda’s voice and singing style is fantastically evocative here and manages to convey a great deal of emotion and information without really conforming to how a lead singer for this sort of music might usually sound. Tracks like ‘Volte-Face,’ ‘Conceiving You’ and the Title Track show off both his key, bass and vocal skills and how much ground the band can cover while never letting a song feel whacky or like a disparate collection of unrelated parts.
Overall; this is an immensely enjoyable record that I enjoy a great deal and which I’d whole-heartedly recommend to any fan of this sort of music. There is a brilliant sense of flow and a lot of variety, and crucially no song feels unnecessary or out of place.