Riverside: The Marble Factory
Arriving half way through the opening set, we were immediately taken by the sight of a lute at the side of the stage. This later came into play during the latter part of the set. Lion Shepherd (8), Polish associates of the headliners, played with aplomb and panache, their progressive tones fused with lush Oriental and Eastern sounds very appealing. A combination of Orphaned Land, Messenger, Porcupine Tree and many others, Kamil Haidar cuts a fine figure at the front of the stage, with a strong and imposing vocal range, demonstrated in fine style on set closer Smell Of War. Sufficiently impressive to prompt me to purchase their debut release Hiraeth (full review to follow but it is excellent).
The Sixxis (6) are confused. The Atlanta outfit are a confusion of influences although Dream Theater stand head and shoulders above everyone else (add in anything from Muse, Alice in Chains and even a smattering of Rush). They certainly put in the effort but a lot of huff and puff doesn't always work if your songs are a bit disjointed. Vocalist Vladdy Iskhakov combined his lyrical duties with synth work at the front of the stage and at one point comically introduced an electric violin which provided Spinal Tap flashbacks. Unfortunately he isn’t blessed with the most powerful of voices and was often smothered by the guitar riffs of Paul Sorah and Cameron Allen. The band appear unclear which direction they want their sound to develop and as a result their songs suffered somewhat. A reasonable response from the crowd indicated that they hit a few of the right notes but it was noticeable that Lion Shepherd attracted more attention at the merchandise table.
No such problems for Riverside (10). A rapturous welcome greeted the band as they arrived on stage and launched into Lost (Why Should I be Frightened By A Hat?), the opening track from the stunning Love, Fear And The Time Machine. Over the next hour and forty five minutes the Poles delivered a masterclass in progressive music, with a range of tracks six of their albums (heavily based on their last two; LFATTM and Shrine Of New Generation Slaves) and a mix of styles; from the Floyd soaked Escalator Shrine and The Same River to the Depeche Mode/The Cure influences in Saturate Me. Whilst all eyes are rightly fixed on the talents and warmth of Mariusz Duda, frontman, bassist and vocalist, Riverside is truly a band where the whole is greater than the individual parts. Piotr Grudzinski’s stunning guitar work, often understated and intricate was breath taking whilst the Hammond organ and keyboards of Michal Lapaj added layered depth and substance. Underpinning the whole sound was Piotr Kozieradzki on drums. The band cleverly book ended the set with Found (The Unexpected Flow Of Searching), the final track on LFATTM and left the stage to a deserved huge ovation from the small but appreciative audience.