Welcome to the latest instalment of my Album of the Year 2018 top 30 countdown. No time for a lame introduction today, as I gather pace towards my top 10…
As always, if you’ve missed any of my previous posts, head down to the bottom of this post to check out the links for numbers 30-16.
And now for today’s main event…
Score of Much Metal: 9.25
I’ve had an up and down relationship with Riverside over the years, having loved some of their music and been fairly unimpressed with some of it too. However, one thing that is most definitely unquestionable is their ability and quality. Whether or not I have liked their music, I am the first one to admit that it is always of a high standard. In my review (link below), I made the realisation that my love of Riverside material is almost entirely proportional to the amount of melody on offer. That’s why I loved the debut and more recently, ‘Love, Fear and the Time Machine’ but I didn’t get on so well with the likes of ‘Anno Domini High Definition’ for example.
And that is why, fundamentally, I like ‘Wasteland’. Despite the loss of their extraordinary guitarist, Piotr Grudziński, who brought a unique style of guitar-playing to the band, this still sounds like a Riverside album. A dark, sad and emotional Riverside, but Riverside nonetheless. And that is testament to the remaining trio who have stayed true to the core principles of the band and have soldiered on without their dear friend.
Given the context, ‘Wasteland’ will never be the kind of album to play if you’re feeling low or need a cheerful pick-me-up. If anything, it’ll probably make you cry. The final track, ‘The Night Before’ gets me every time, primarily because of a devastating combination of minimalist music and achingly beautiful, yet simple lyrics. However, it is such a wonderful, pure progressive rock album that it pulls you in, and shares with you some deep, dark secrets that you feel privileged to be a part of.
With hindsight, I also think I was too miserly with my score – 9.25 was never high enough, a fact borne out of just how much I have enjoyed this album since its release.
To quote my review of 12 September 2018:
“For a while, no-one knew whether Riverside would stay alive or die with Piotr. The fact that the remaining trio of Mariusz Duda (bass, vocals, guitars), Piotr Kozieradzki (drums) and Michał Łapaj (keyboards, Hammond organ) decided to continue is cause for some celebration. But it is celebration tinged with huge sadness, a pain that becomes even more real when listening to the first studio release without Piotr, ‘Wasteland’.
It would be all too easy to get caught up in the emotion of it all and declare this record to either be the best of their career or the worst of their career. Given the background, there are bound to be those who sit in either of these camps. But the truth, at least from my perspective, is that ‘Wasteland’ sits somewhere in the middle, albeit closer to their best. It is a very good record with some excellent material on it and, if you can get past the fact that it sounds different in some respects because of the line-up changes, it becomes apparent that ‘Wasteland’ is very much a Riverside album and to most of us who love this band, it should be instantly recognisable as such.
The very best thing about ‘Wasteland’ however, is the palpable sense of emotion. It’s hardly surprising, but this record is full of raw feeling, of anger, frustration, despair, hope and a great deal of sombre melancholy. It is for this very reason that I like ‘Wasteland’ as much as I do. You can tell that the emotions are real and it gives the compositions an added layer of honesty and realism.
You knew it would be raw and you knew it would be emotional. But you hoped more than anything that it would also be good enough to stand proudly within the high-quality Riverside back catalogue. After all, it could have gone so horribly wrong. Well, I’m here to tell you that it most certainly didn’t go wrong. Riverside are just too good to release anything under-par and they demonstrate that here beautifully, delivering an album full of strong compositions, heartbreaking emotions and evocative melodies. Thanks for not giving up gentlemen – the world is most certainly a better place with you and your art in it.”
Read the full review here.
If you missed the previous posts in my 2018 list, click here:
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 17
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 18
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 20
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 21
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 22
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 23
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 24
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 25
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 26
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 30
If you missed my ‘best EPs and compilations of 2018, you can read that here:
And here’s a reminder of my countdown series from previous years: