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Riverside - "Memories In My Head" (CD/EP)

Riverside - "Memories In My Head" CD/EP cover image

"Memories In My Head" track listing:

1. Goodbye Sweet Innocence
2. Living in The Past
3. Forgotten Land

Reviewed by on June 17, 2011

"Few albums can bring a listener to their knees and back up again in half an hour, but 'Memories In My Head' does just that."

The first part of this 33-minute spacious chunk of prog, "Goodbye," unfurls itself in waves of ambient electric guitar sounds drenched in spacious reverb, accented by mystical synthesizer plinks. During this, the sound builds to a peak as the droning beat turns into synthesizer laced with B3 organ, whirling in like an unbidden but pleasant memory, making a dreamscape. Mariusz Duda's bass guitar signals the beginning of the formal composition.

"I am covered in dust lying next to you, waiting for my judgment day," brings in the first lyrics and gives us an idea of where this is headed. The full band comes together shortly after to bring in a blissful passage of slowly-moving synths reminiscent of "I Believe," from the band's first album, "Out of Myself." The band adds more instrumentation and vocal harmonies in future recollections of this passage, compounding the feeling. I'd almost believe that Steven Wilson had a hand in the making of this song, as it fits right in with "Stupid Dream" era Porcupine Tree songs.

The band deftly handles several well-paced verses and passages before diverging to keyboard and guitar solos over bass and pizzicato strings. Fans of Rush, Arjen Lucassen, and Richard Barbieri will get their fill here without dropping off the deep end of noodling. The band closes out by elaborating on a melody established earlier on for the third time and flows into the next piece, "Living in The Past."

The drums here build for about a minute over a steady one-note synth line with atmospheric programming all around. A somber guitar solo leads into a dual melody played on synth and guitar, much like on "The Same River," from "Out of Myself." This song will flow much like "Second Life Syndrome," with more very strong memorable melodies and vocal harmonies within a big sonic soundscape. An angrily longing chorus sums up the feeling of this song -- "I don't care if those times are over, I am not gonna live like everyone. I don't care if those times are over, my future is living in the past." Duda even puts a little fire behind his voice for this.

The instrumental passage following this is very B3-intensive before giving way to an eerie break in the intensity. Slowly, the vocals are showered with reverb, much like the moment in the oft-overlooked film, "The Rules of Attraction," where Harry Nilsson's version of "Without You" is progressively drenched in reverb as a girl slits her wrists. The feeling of this Riverside passage is much the same as the girl committing suicide -- this person is unwilling to move on with life. More coordinated instrumentation moves the song forward to the most energetic passage and leads into the final piece, "Forgotten Land."

This final piece connects the tone of the later Riverside albums with the compositional skill of the early albums for a well-constructed and beautiful melodic experience. At halfway through the piece, the band develops a melody that could very well work as the defining musical passage in a film, much like Hans Zimmer's "Time" immediately identifies the movie, "Inception." After a few listens, it's nearly impossible to get out of your brain. The experience of the entire album is well-paced and feels satisfyingly long despite being only half an hour. Not a minute of the album feels like its dragging or drifting away from the point.

Few albums can bring a listener to their knees and back up again in half an hour, but "Memories In My Head" does just that. Not to mention, the production is top-notch in established Riverside style, with the band producing it itself. Admittedly, not everyone's going to like that the band pushed a more rock style rather than metal this time around, but shift happens in progressive music.

Highs: Skilled songwriting and near-perfect pacing combines for an unforgettable experience.

Lows: Purposely less metal-leaning than earlier releases and more rock-leaning.

Bottom line: Riverside comes full circle with a career-defining EP on its tenth anniversary as a band.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)