Rarely does a song encapsulate an artist’s decades-long development in such a uniquely retrospective manner as in Polish band Riverside’s latest single, Story of My Dream.
It’s their triumphant first release with guitarist Maciej Meller since the death of founding member Piotr Grudziński in 2016.
Riverside has skirted many different styles beyond their bedrock of cinematic progressive rock. Frequently courting metal, industrial, ambient, folk and soundscapes, the band has always kept one toe in the cascading waters of the progressive genre across.
To celebrate their 20 years, Story of My Dream serves as an exultant appraisal of their history.
With such an ambitious and vulnerable thematic undertaking, one might expect the band to try to squeeze in every element in their bid for self-reflection. Riverside instead opts for the experiential and condenses their introspection with broad strokes, blending the driving progressions of their first decade with the song-based melancholia of their latter era.
The song charges in with a refined confidence, immediately evoking the explosive tendencies of the band’s early albums. Bright bass lines and soaring guitars drive the song with drums floating underneath and keyboard padding filling in the fringes, while the smoky vocals by front man Mariusz Duda fluctuates in tone to support the sonic transitions.
Dream frequently oscillates between the two primary musical identities with an apparent deftness and ease – no one transition ever feels jarring or unearned. The song is also peppered with Easter eggs for those familiar with their catalogue, from explicit lyrical references, to furtive keyboard slithers suggestive of previous riffs.
The starting sections are bookended with resplendent David Gilmour-esque solo passages before the song morphs into a concentrated evolution that charts their aggressive early sound, their keyboard-laden transitionary period and the quieter reflections of their later albums. Still, the song’s trenchant and simplistic structure ensures an accessibility to all listeners.
Like any traditional prog track, the song weaves various parts and melodies with a hail of notes and stretching contours.
Yet unlike many progressive bands, Riverside’s work refuses to alienate listeners with an excess of dizzying and oftentimes exhausting musicianship, allowing the emotive experience of the song to carry its merit. Story of My Dream is no exception.
The song serves as a kind of victory lap in honour of Riverside’s 20-year existence, showcasing a band resolute and prideful of their musical progression married with the heights of tangential experimentations and the depths of crippling tragedy.
It reinforces the band’s evolving character and, perhaps more importantly, hints at an intriguing new era.