(All Album Reviews by avestin)
I’ve read several reviews of this album since it came out and most were not enthusiastic about it. The opinions expressed showed a mild, if not more than that, disappointment. As someone who loves Riverside’s two first albums, which together with Rapid Eye Movement form the Reality Dream Trilogy, I was both interested and somewhat reluctant to listen to this album. But curiosity prevailed and I’m very glad it did as this is a very good album.
The version of the album I have has two CD’s; the first is the album itself with its two parts: Fearless and Fearland; the second is the bonus CD with 5 more tracks on it and I shall get to it at the end of this review.
The first song, “Beyond The Eyelids”, would actually fit fine in any of the two previous albums the way I hear it. The rich sounding opening with its wonderful enveloping keyboards and the powerful guitar and bass are a perfect setup for this album. Soon they make way for a short dynamic and more aggressive passage that pushes the song forward, coming back to the original opening theme and the vocals floating in the background singing “We are none of us…”. The change to a wonderful bass lead part that is then enhanced with wonderful sounding keyboards and the ever-powerful guitar crunchy riffs with a following lead guitar intertwining with the keyboards and some effects in the background. It is only then, almost 4 minutes into the song, that Mariusz’s wonderful vocals are fully revealed. His voice can be soothing and very relaxing, even when the surrounding is not. His ability to make his voice filled with rage is well done in previous albums and it’s the same case here. Such power is poured on the listener in this song; there is a synergy between all instruments and vocals, bringing this song a few notches upwards. This song continues very well the style portrayed in the previous albums.
The following song, “Rainbow Box”, is an energetic short “box”. It is quite the dynamic song, without the long riffs and spacey nature of Riverside, but is not far at all from what the band did before.
With “02 Panic Room” comes an interesting twist with the use of electronics and what reminded me (and excuse me for the comparison which may sound weird) of a metal-ized Depeche Mode… there is a great use of those electronic effects to create a dark and mysterious atmosphere, but it is done wisely, not overused or overdone. Add to that the use of string section sounding keyboards and you get a full and rich sound (which again reminds me of Depeche Mode in their album Songs Of Faith & Devotion). It ends with all instruments stopping and only the keyboards and vocals going on.
“Schizophrenic Prayer” shows again how wonderful Mariusz’s vocals are and how well he uses them. While there is not much going on in terms of complexity and change in motifs, there is great richness and intensity here.
“Parasomnia” marks a return to the style of the opening song. A very Rivreside-ish style; the familiar brittle and long riffs, wrapping full sound with harsh vocals that do a very good job at taking me far away in my mind. This is exactly what a musical experience should be like. To disconnect you from your current position, your surroundings and grab you to its own reality. This is something that Riverside’s music has done very well for me in their previous albums and it continues to do so in this release. It required several listens for me to be gripped and when it did it was great. This song presents very well how good Riverside are at creating a sound world, filled with intricate passages, captivating and dramatic melodies and excellent musicianship.
Through “The Other Side” is another example of the shorter songs on this album, which stick to a simpler melody, yet have a particular dim mood and make more use of the, say, softer side of the band and their use of effects. This is kept on in “Embryonic” which seems as a continuation of the previous track in relation to the atmosphere it creates and its softness (use of acoustic guitar for instance). In this “camp” Riverside does very well too. A Pink-Floyd-ish influence seems to prevail with regards to the acoustic guitar and the soft singing, though it diminishes somewhat when the lead guitar joins in (still with acoustic backing) and the vocals get more powerful.
“Cybernetic Pillow” returns to the electric side and is in the same “camp” as “Rainbow Box” in its more straightforward approach and minor use of effects, though it does show a fair level of complexity and like all other songs, has this bewitching and affluent sound. Just listen to the keyboards, though not in the “front” of the mix and realize how well they contribute to the feel and frame of mind of the song. The lead guitar is given quite free space to wander around and does so efficiently without “abuse of power”, meaning no futile attempts at “showing off”, but rather good use of its sound and power.
“Ultimate Trip”, the longest song here and the closer of the album, is also my favorite here. It has all the trademarks of the band, complexity, and richness of sound, heaviness… and then some. A catchy melody is the basis here and it is wonderfully built around with their instruments, effects and the passages of this song; building tension as the song goes, they construct the song carefully, develop it as it goes, creating interest along with the enjoyment of listening. Wonderful guitar and keyboards lead parts all over are very well backed up by efficient bass, drum and guitar playing. The shift from higher to lower level of dynamics also works very well, harnessing the power of interchanging intensities. This is a fabulous epic song and it does a great job at being the closing song of the album as it creates in me a need for more and anticipation for their next release.
If you’re not interested in getting the two CD version, then you can stop here and go to the bottom of this review.
Disc two present five more tracks, one of them being a “revised” edition of “Beyond The Eyelids” and the second a remix of “02 Panic Room” from the album. Let me start by saying that if you can get this version of this release, then go for it. It serves as a great “companion” to the album and greatly enhances the listening pleasure from it. It also is great to listen to it on its own and can serve as a teaser for yourself if you want to get yourself in a Riverside mood.
“Behind The Eyelids” opens this CD, the title plays with the name of the opening song from the album (“Beyond The Eyelids”) and the song itself is a lighter version of that track, without the intensity of the backing guitars and drums but with the glory and power of the keyboards, effects and percussion (and vocals). A very good rendition to that song; It’s great to hear this version of it.
“Lucid Dream IV”, continuing with the Reality Dream songs from previous albums, is heavy and compelling. It has an uplifting tune and has a great bass line supporting it and very cool effects towards the end of it. This is a great instrumental piece that would have been great on the album itself; another reason to get this bonus CD version.
The remix to “02 Panic Room” is, like “Behind The Eyelids”, stripped from its heaviness and most guitar elements that were in the original version on the album. It sounds more “poppy” perhaps (even more Depeche Mode in this version) but I think that here it acquires a different kind of magic with its more spacey and light style.
“Back To The River”, another amusing play of words, is a nice space-rock instrumental track with the band making homage to Pink Floyd in the form of playing a short excerpt from “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”. The rest of the track is also very Floyd-ish in style and fits well with the song they’ve chosen to interpret here. There isn’t much in terms of a catchy or proper tune, but more in terms of developing an atmosphere, a frame of mind. The culmination with the short bit taken from “Shine On…” is very well done. Perhaps “Back To The River” signifies this return to the roots of the band’s sound, their influences.
“Rapid Eye Movement”, the title of the album, is the closing track on this bonus CD.
Developing slowly, it builds up tension as it proceeds, relying on the keyboards and interesting effects; it gains power as the guitar gets a more lead role and the drums join in. It turns into a spacey adventure, repetitive in style as the melody is played over and over, sounding “wide” and somewhat odd, but never out of control; as if it were a soundtrack to a hallucination or a daydream. The ending with all instruments “in place” playing has a fabulous effect, cathartic almost. A great tune.
To sum all of this up:
Not only was I not disappointed with this album, as I feared due to several reviews I’ve read, but also I think it proudly stands in line with the other two previous albums. Rapid Eye Movement is a wonderful listening experience and a very rewarding one. I recommend it to everyone who liked the previous albums and to all who want a thrilling heavy and/or prog-metal album with all of the ingredients mentioned above.