Death is the only certainty in life. From the moment we are born we march slowly towards our demise and that's completely fine, regardless of how bleak it sounds. Now, despite of it being around us all the time, that feeling of pure emptiness when someone loved leaves the mortal plain is horrible. Imagine if you had someone by your side for years, created art, traveled the globe, experienced so much together and now that person is gone in a blink of an eye. This is what happened with Riverside when Piotr Grudziński tragically passed away in 2016. He was a huge part of their sound but the band opted to continue as a trio and here we are with 'Wasteland', their seventh record.
The title is self-explanatory, this is a dark, emotionally heavy and post-apocalyptic journey that raises questions and makes your neurons work a bit harder than usual due to Duda's superb lyrics and vocal delivery. This is nothing new to Riverside but the way they approached it is a bit different. Opener "The Day After" sets the melancholic mood with only Duda singing before fading into "Acid Rain". There are little truly abrasive moments on 'Wasteland' and this due a new, more minimalistic and art rock approach. Aformentioned "Acid Rains" has really Gazpacho and Steven Wilson-like moments but still have that trademark Polish sadboi prog stamp. You would think riffs and solos are scarce but you would be mistaken, there is meat on these radiation-filled bones. Acoustic guitar shines here on multiple tracks, tear-jerking "Guardian Angel" immediately comes to mind. In these more sombre sections of the record, acoustic and keyboards reign supreme by painting a grey, life-ridden picture with subtle yet carefully placed sounds. Just listen to "Lament" whose repetition packs more punch than I would like to admit.
Big instrumental "The Struggle For Survival" gets iffy on certain parts but is overall an interesting energetic prog exercise that shows a more acrobatic side of Riverside. Production is overall satisfying, the snare sounds a bit off but nothing more than that. With 50 minutes of emotional prog 'Wasteland' justifies its length and is a big success. Piotr would be proud you three.