[Release date 23.04.18] available at bandcamp.com and at riversea-band.com
Quite how Riversea – an outstanding Northern Powerhouse of a ‘combo’ – have evaded the Get Ready to ROCK! net thus far is something of a mystery. But it’s amazing where internet browsing can lead you …
It all began in 2006 when Hartlepool-based keyboard songwriter Brendan Eyre and York based singer/songwriter Marc Atkinson started exchanging ideas a la Dwight/Taupin, with Atkinson putting melodies and lyrics to Eyre’s compositions.
The duo’s first collaboration Out Of An Ancient World became the title track of their acclaimed 2012 debut album. Almost five years in making, the full Riversea ‘sound’ was created with the help of their ‘regular’ rhythm players – David Clements (bass) and Alex Cromarty (drums), and a plethora of guest appearances – chiefly on guitars and backing vocals – many part of the Mostly Autumn related eco-system of musicians and bands. The album is now criminally ‘sold out’, but thankfully you can still listen to/buy a digital copy by visiting bandcamp.com.
Describing their sound as ‘atmospheric song based music with an element of prog thrown in’ rather undersells the Riversea brand, but unquestionably at its centre are Eyre’s sensitive and evocative keyboard work, and Atkinson’s heaven sent vocals. As reference points musically, think Floyd, Alan Parsons Project and The Moody Blues, and vocally Steve Balsamo.
Like their debut, The Tide was again constructed over a number of years with the help of many of the players who graced Out Of Ancient World, and more, and is the perfect companion piece.
This time around the subject matter reflects the ills of the modern world – from refugees to forced migration, war, tyranny, terrorism, and the rise of right wing politics, to the heartbreak of losing friends and loved ones over the passing years. But The Tide is none the less uplifting.
The album opens with a volley of songs that must surely make The Tide an album of the year contender. The title track, is a breathtaking opener with its swelling keys and Atkinson’s stunning vocals underpinned by Gilmour-esque guitar from Peter Aves, gentle piano and delicate acoustic playing, and some splendid backing vocals courtesy of Olivia Sparnenn Josh and Janine Atkinson.
But then, the lead ‘single’, ‘Shine’ simply blows you away with its power, poise and drive, and is one of the best songs you’ll hear this year.
How do you follow that? Well, with the atmospheric ‘Blasphemy’ – a haunting number inspired by the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks with Eyre’s lingering piano lines and Atkinson’s sublime vocals leading to a blistering crescendo, and featuring some fabulous guitar from Paul Cusick. Spellbinding stuff.
And that’s the ‘clever’ thing about Riversea – there’s no self-indulgence, the songs are all well-structured, with almost all running out around the five minute mark. It’s a format that ekes the absolute best out of each number, cameos never overstaying their welcome, and generally leaving the listener wanting ‘more’. It’s a fact, strong songwriting is the key to a great album. And Riversea excel in that regard.
Elsewhere, highlights include ‘Your Last Day’ – a fitting tribute to a lost friend, the shimmeringly beautiful but equally poignant ‘Strange Land’, the melancholy slow burn of ‘Drowning In Vertigo’ and ‘Uprising’, and the catchy, toe tapping ‘The Design’.
But don’t take my word for it, put ‘Riversea Shine’ into your search engine and see where it leads … ****1/2
Review by Pete Whalley
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