One of the most anticipated albums of 2018 is “Wasteland” by Riverside. This being their first album since the shocking death of guitarist Piotr Grudziński. While the band did debate whether they should continue at all, they ultimately decided to continue as a trio. Well not exactly a trio.
While the almost all of “Wasteland” is performed by the remaining members, new touring guitarist Maciej Meller does perform the solos on the album with bassist Mariusz Duda performing the rhythm guitar parts. So yes they have indeed replaced Grudziński and sadly, I think it’s lacking. Part of the problem is that the songs are just nowhere near as strong as their previous album “Love, Fear and the Time Machine” or really any previous one.
Additionally, it’s clear just how VITAL Grudziński was to the overall sound of the band. Duda is a decent guitarist but the riffs like on “Acid Rain” are often too repetitive and sound more like a bass than a guitar. It’s odd because he has always performed acoustic guitar on their albums (and still does here). Meller is not a favorite of mine when it comes to soloing. His work on with Duda on their side project Meller Gołyźniak Duda was a big reason that I didn’t enjoy the album.
While Meller sounds okay on songs like “River Down Below,” which is easily my favorite track on the album. There are many other times his tone and style just underscores the fact that Grudziński was the sound of Riverside. Also the trio tend to sound a little unsure of themselves and a bit tentative. Drummer Piotr Kozieradzki sounds almost tired during the first part of the title track and in other places as well.
Some of the best moments are courtesy of keyboardist Michał Łapaj who does a better job soloing than Meller and his piano on the closing track “The Night Before” is beautiful. And while Riverside couldn’t make a poor album if they wanted to, “Wasteland” is the sound of a band clearly in transition mode. The album has some great moments and other forgettable ones. “The Struggle for Survival” is a good example of BOTH, along with being very aptly named!
Think of a car that lost a wheel and had it replaced with a donut spare tire. Yes the car still runs but the ride isn’t very good. But it’s better than not having the car at all. I have no doubt if you look around, you will see many glowing reviews. But I prefer to be honest with you, rather than just tell you what you want to hear. This is really 3/4 Riverside so that for me is a valid score for “Wasteland.”
1. The Day After
2. Acid Rain
3. Vale Of Tears
4. Guardian Angel
6. The Struggle For Survival
7. River Down Below
9. The Night Before