The story of Riverside began in Piotr Kozieradzki's car while he was travelling with Piotr Grudziński. An idea was born in their heads to play neoprogressive music. This idea later materialized in the form of a new band – Riverside. At that time, Grudziński was playing the guitar in a metal outfit Unnamed, while Kozieradzki was playing drums in death metal bands Hate and Domain. To the surprise of Grudziński, "Clutching at Straws", a song by a neoprogressive group Marillion, was being played through Mittloff's car speakers. It turned out that they were both interested in progressive music and would both like to have a try in this genre. A suggestion to meet at a rehearsal was put forward and it came off some months later, in late 2001.
Another person that took part in that rehearsal was Jacek Melnicki – a keyboard player that owned his own recording studio. That first jam session was allegedly not too inspiring but the second one changed everything. Melnicki brought in a new musician – bass player Mariusz Duda. From this point, the newly-founded project was a quartet what is even more important, during one of the rehearsals that followed Mariusz revealed his vocal talents. The other musicians liked his vocal improvisations used in then-still-instrumental early musical sketches and Mariusz became simultaneously a singer and a bass player.
Mariusz Duda was the last part of a jigsaw that completed the first line-up of the band. He did not need much time to prove how valuable he become to this new band. The moment he started to sing, it was obvious that he become a very important member of the band. Being a singer and a bass player, he would soon find himself to be the focal point of the band and its leader on stage. Before joining Riverside, Duda had already been a versatile musician. Apart from the bass guitar, which he played proficiently, he could also play keyboards and the guitar. I play several instruments but the two I love the most are the acoustic and the bass guitar – he told a journalist from "Mystic Art" magazine – I compose using an acoustic guitar. In the band I play the bass because I love the rhythm. This instrument has also other advantages according to Mariusz: depending on musical genre and the song's overall mood, the bass can be used in many different ways, e.g. it can control the whole situation.
The musician explained his versatility and his choice of the bass guitar in one of the interviews:I was never able to concentrate on just one instrument. I was always more focused on composing than on perfecting my playing skills on any of the instruments I was playing. Over time, it turned out that I had the biggest confidence when playing the bass guitar. I liked Geddy Lee's or John Wetton's playing.
Duda, as befits a searching artist, listened to a wide variety of musical genres and as he admitted: restricting myself to one musical style would be unthinkable. That is probably why progressive rock was the most important genre for him – a genre with hardly any limitation. On the list of his favourite albums, we can find highlights of progressive rock's history. When asked about his favourite albums, Mariusz lists the works of 70s giants Genesis and Yes, neoprogressive seminal band Marillion as well as the most important band of modern progressive music – Porcupine Tree. Apart from these, he also mentions albums by Tangerine Dream, Pain Of Salvation, Dead Can Dance and Vangelis, which serves as a proof of his extensive musical search.
When looking into interviews with Mariusz one may come to a conclusion that singing is somewhere at the very end of the list of his musical interests, dimmed by composing and playing the instruments. In an interview conducted by Maciej Stankiewicz from Mystic Art in 2004 Mariusz explained:singing? It always comes just like that and it doesn't matter whether I sing at the particular time. I've been singing for about 10 years now but it was in Riverside that I learned how to use my voice properly. I never had any vocal lessons. But it is the vocal that became one of the most impressive parts of the band's compositions, a crowd-pleaser, its distinctive feature. High vocal abilities of the singer were clearly heard as early as on the first demo. Duda could easily generate anxiety, create an overall climate or simply, without any needles ornaments, tell a story. Delicate melodic singing was just as easy for him as strong, metal-style roar.
It is worth mentioning that Duda is the only member of Riverside with any progressive past. In the 90s he was a member of Węgorzewo-based progressive band Xanadu (an album "Wczorajsze Ślady" from 1996) in which he was a keyboardist. He reflects on that period: It was a great school of playing the instrument and working in a band.This band from Węgorzewo never really took off and its rarely available recordings have become a sort of curiosity among Riverside fans.
Piotr "Grudzień" Grudziński was already an established guitar player at the time of founding Riverside. For ten years he was the guitar player in Warsaw-based metal band Unnamed. Despite not achieving any spectacular success, this band released two LP's – "Id" and "Duality", which gained them some respect among the metal community. Unnamed played music that can be classified as doom/death metal.
Perhaps he would still be a member of that band if it wasn't for his desire to search through new musical areas. This search drew him away from metal, which he described in 2003 with these words: I've never been attracted by its brutal side. I've always been searching for melody, climate, space and this sense of mystery and eventually witch I came across when listening to Anathema. Each and every of their albums is a trip through melancholic wilderness, every sound drips with emotions – and added – I've been always searching for sounds that can go straight to your heart. That's why I've always admired David Gilmour who always hits the spot with only a few sounds.
Grudziński, with his metal verve and his desire to search for emotions, was an amazing candidate for a modern style prog guitarist. He began using his potential in Riverside from the very beginning. His skillful play with emotions could be easily heard as early as on their first demo. Hypnotic riffs on one hand, crunchy metal licks on the other, all spiced up with beautiful gilmourish melodies and solos. Piotr explained the diversity of his guitar's sound this way: the reason for this is that people are obviously touched by different emotions, both positive and negative. We want to express beauty as well as darkness, harmony and anxiety.
The list of Grudzień's favorite albums is long and, similarly to Duda, it shows a wide variety of his interests. The first spot goes obviously to Anathema, which followed a similar path to Grudziński – from metal to atmospheric rock. Piotr mentioned some bands from outside the progressive genre – Dead Cam Dance, Depeche Mode, Cocteau Twins and Seal. The list would not have been complete without records by Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree and Pain Of Salvation. Piotr also mentioned Marillion's "Fugazi".
From the very start, Grudzień was positive about the new challenge:Riverside is by all means a full-time band and to be honest, I have high expectations for it. I believe it's a band that I've always wanted to be a part of, where I can fully realize myself and learn a lot. It's hard not to believe those words when you see the satisfaction he gets while performing live. Grudziński feels at home with Riverside's fusion of art rock and prog metal.
Piotr 'Mittloff' Kozieradzki is a well-known and respected figure in the world of death metal. Long before founding Riverside, Mittloff earned his reputation as a gifted drummer. In early 90s in Warsaw he founded Hate – a death metal band. Later he joined Domain – a group from Łódź playing similar style of music. He was a member of both those bands in the 90s and at the beginning of the 21st century. He worked with Domain for a short time still after founding Riverside.
Kozieradzki was always interested in heavier sounds. It did not prevent him, though, from discovering Marillion back in the 80s. It became his favourite band and their 1994 album Brave had for a long time "no competition", according to his words. And so, while he listened to Slayer, his soul fell in love with progressive music. Apart from Marillion, Piotr was also very much into heavier prog – Dream Theater, Pain Of Salvation and Porcupine Tree.
Hate drummer hardly ever spoke about his inspirations and few knew about his love for Marillion. However, it was in Mittloff's car that the idea for Riverside originated. Right after my first conversation with Grudzień about the band I knew that was it – he says about that memorable drive with Grudzień and after a while he adds:after our first rehearsal with Mariusz I knew that it would be the only band which I would be 100% in. And so it happened. In 2003 the only band Piotr Kozieradzki was still a member of was Riverside – a band fulfilling all his dreams:It's the first band in which I feel I'm alive. It has all that my previous bands lacked. Cool music, climate, the people and overall involvement not just on my part.
The change of musical genre obviously influenced also Mittloff's playing style. In a progressive band there is no place for the tempo and aggression present in death metal. Kozieradzki slowed down, he concentrated on his technique and varied emotions. However, that doesn't mean he got rid of all his metal characteristics. There was no need for it as his playing style fitted perfectly in Riverside's somewhat progmetal sound. This change was good for him as he admitted in one of the interviews that: it's only now that I really started to play.
In 2002 Kozieradzki, Grudziński, Duda and Melnicki, already as Riverside, made their first serious steps. They performed live twice with their own material and in October they entered the studio to record a promotional demo. It was released in March and it gained a lot of attention in the music industry.
Demo, entitled Riverside, was the quartet's first sign of future success. The record contained 5 compositions – "The Same River", "Out Of Myself", "Reality Dream", "Loosing Heart" and "The Curtain Falls". The tracks served as an early example of the band's already big potential. They marked their wide musical territory clearly stating what might be expected from the band. They revealed their inspirations and at the same time declared their desire to look for innovation and develop the band's own style.
300 copies of the demo were gone almost immediately. The band sent them to radio stations and record labels but the bulk of it was given to their friends and the audience that came to their spring show in Kopalnia club in March 2003. Then the music spread thanks to cd-recording devices. The demand for their music grew bigger and so it was time to record the first full album.
News of a fresh, promising band spread. Metal Center was one of the first to discover their potential. They published a review of the demo recordings in which they wrote: I would be very confused if this record wasn't known outside this country very soon… and I want more! This music is addictive.The band itself was sure there was a demand for rock music with climate and metal verve. They had to write more songs and go back to the studio to record their first proper LP.
Despite having six finished songs (five used on the demo + "Reality Dream II") and almost 45 minutes worth of music, the band had to work hard on their recordings. The LP didn't see the light of day until December 2003. At that point it was clear that only three musicians were fully involved in the group's work. Keyboard player Jacek Melnicki was not able to devote the amount of time needed and it became obvious that the first personal changes were ahead.
The LP was recorded with the old line-up but in a new studio with Magda and Robert Srzednicki mixing all the tracks, including the ones from the demo CD. New compositions – "In Two Minds", "I Believe" and "OK" balanced the album and showed a more delicate and acoustic side of Riverside. The debut album, eventually entitled Out Of Myself, was released as a concept-album, as it was decided by Mariusz Duda who wrote all the lyrics.
The Same River – great opening. Characteristic art-rock suite full of climate. It develops slowly but consistently, deliberately building up the hypnotic mood. This mood changes many times. We have the first examples of Grudziński's guitar and Kozieradzki's drumming skills. Good job also by Melnicki on keys. Last but not least, great vocals by Mariusz Duda, soon to mesmerize thousands of ears. The entire song lasts for 12 minutes but it's so full of emotions and melodic and rhythmic ideas, that it doesn't seem lengthy at any point.
Out Of Myself – decidedly shorter, lasting for less than four minutes, built around a simple, yet outstanding riff. It opens with a hypnotic verse whispered by Duda ("voices in my head"). It is a result of the group's progmetal influences.
I Believe – it shows the softer side of the band. The melody is led by Duda and his acoustic guitar. It was rearranged for live performances.
Reality Dream – in contrast with the previous composition. It is instrumental and demonic Riverside. It opens with a minute worth of psychodelic and disturbing sounds followed by a quick keyboard motif. There's a strong, heavy bass sound and an outstanding guitar solo by Grudziński. Definitely progmetal.
Loose Heart – released as a single. It appeared on the demo CD as "Loosing Heart". It's something shorter and more like a traditional song. It starts with a nice melodic riff by Grudziński and concludes with Duda's scream and Kozieradzki's heavy thump.
Reality Dream II – The second part of "daydreaming". It starts with Mittloff's characteristic drum lead-in. Repeated distressing motif creates a demonic ending.
In Two Minds – again, the melodic side of the band. Duda's elevated voice in the front with a nice keyboard background.
The Curtain Falls – eight minutes. First a nice melody, then a hypnotic, bass-driven instrumental part. Along with "The Same River", this is probably the most interesting composition on the album showing a whole range of the band's moods and abilities.
OK – the album mellows towards the end. It is the most subtle of all the ballads on the album, supplemented with the sound of a trombone. It ends with a very short, hidden piece of wordless vocals.
"Out Of Myself" was surprisingly mature and coherent. Members of the band were of course no beginners but it should be noted that only Mariusz Duda had anything in common with art rock and progressive rock before. Therefore, in a sense, "Out Of Myself" was a debut for Kozieradzki, Grudziński and Melnicki. Nevertheless, the album is not a collection of random tunes. This CD from the very start up to its final seconds tells a story, both in the lyrical and musical sphere.
Lyrical concept was created by Mariusz Duda. It tells a story about human struggle, his failure and subsequent attempt at coming back to life in a society. "The Same River" is an attempt at coming back to the same life again. In the last song – "OK" – the character in a sense comes to terms with himself. Duda points out an excerpt from the text: there's sadness in my mind, ok, which serves as a declaration of accepting one's own sadness.
Lyrical coherence was easier to achieve as it was the singer who wrote all the lyrics alone, but musical coherence had to be achieved by all four members of the band and the success was not all that easy and obvious. It is one thing to write eight good songs, but writing them so that they fit like eight parts of the same story is another thing. Riverside succeeded even though at that point they've been a band for slightly over a year.
Another success was taming their own musical inspirations which, although heard on "Out Of Myself", are not brazen enough to accuse the band of ripping off other bands. Certain names of other bands appeared in the reviews: Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, Anathema, Marillion or even Dream Theater, Tool and Pain Of Salvation. All those names are more or less appropriate when describing Riverside's music but the crucial thing is that the quartet headed for their own unique sound from the very start.
When listening to "Out Of Myself" it is hard not to believe Mariusz Duda, who said in an interview for Mystic Art: from the start we decided that we would try to distance ourselves from certain hackneyed patterns, that we would ignore our inspirations from the bands that every new progressive rock musician tries to copy. And even though in another interview he said about "The Same River": We know that we play something that's been played before – it's still subtle enough not to spoil the sincere pleasure of listening.
The reception the CD got exceeded any expectations. The album sold very well for a non-mainstream genre and the reviewers were almost unanimous in their positive opinions on the release. "Rzeczpospolita's" reviewer announced: progressive rock is alive! We have a brilliant Polish debut. Then he pointed out the band's versatility: Riverside can record a great ballad ("I Believe"), heavy-rhythm track in Dream Theater's style ("Out Of Myself" and "Reality Dream") as well as a complex composition built around a great melody ("The Curtain Falls"). "Teraz Rock's" journalist was no exception giving "Out Of Myself" 4 out of 5 stars and writing: what we have here is a promising piece of music, certainly interesting for every fan of Pink Floyd or Purcupine Tree. There were many more positive reviews, from those saying about hope for the future, to those already putting the band at the artistic top. Without a doubt, it was a success.
The band knew that they should embark on a tour in order to promote the record properly. Those plans, however, had to be put off because right after the release of "Out Of Myself" the group had to find a new keyboard player.
In 1999 Jacek Melnicki opened a recording studio DBX and despite good perspectives for the band, it was the studio and its proper functioning that was still a priority for Melnicki. On the other hand, the group required more and more time and involvement. It was no longer possible to divide the time between the studio and the band in a way that would keep everyone happy. A replacement had to be found. The vacancy was soon taken by young and talented Michał Łapaj.
Michał and his new band quickly started speaking the same language, although Michał admitted to be sceptical at first: When I got the CD from Grudzień with an offer to join I thought: another project, another bunch of guys with 'huge' ambitions and fantastic ideas for the future. But when I listened to the album I had no more doubts. I just had to be in that band.
The line-up change went smoothly. Michał turned out to be the right person in the right place. Young, not as experienced as Grudzień or Mittloff, but with strong desire to succeed, full of faith in music and, obviously, very talented. He used to play a C flute and attend classes in The Institute Of Organ Playing. From his early years, he was much into music which was very much present at his home. The organs were his favourite instrument. Among his favourite artists he mentions Genesis, Yes and Deep Purple and number one on the list is his idol Jon Lord, to who he attributes inspiring his love for the organs.
Michał quickly understood that Riverside was his way to the top. "Out Of Myself", which he got from Grudzień, made a huge impression on him. Nevertheless, it was only after his first rehearsals with the band, during which it appeared that they shared mutual understanding, that he could happily admit: I finally have a great band! Although I haven't played with them for too long yet, I feel like we've been doing this for years. Riverside is the aim of my perennial pursuit. A river of ideas from which I fish out sounds that make my soul happy. It is my place in music.
The new member of the band quickly learned their songs and by the beginning of March the group was ready to play their first gigs. During their two concerts at Warsaw club "Progresja", they were applauded by more than 500 people which is a very good number for club gigs. One of the shows played in March was reviewed by a reporter from rockmetal.pl: I think nobody expected such an amazing performance. The four musicians played some wonderful, truly beautiful and sometimes calm tunes that had their whole hearts put into. This music is a true poetry inspired by Pink Floyd, Marillion, Porcupine Tree and some progmetal bands. Fantastic musical landscapes, brilliant keys and marvellous guitar parts – I'm trully speechless, it was amazing. Of course, the audience welcomed them warmly and didn't hesitate to cheer and clap their hands.
Another gig took place in "Kolor" club in Wroclaw on March 27. From that evening, the capital city of Lower Silesia became the band's second home for a long time. The reception was great. A reporter of artrock.pl wrote about that evening: The reaction for the first track exceeded my expectations. Euphoria. Chanting the band's name. And it stayed this way until the end, it didn't matter whether they played tracks from "Out Of Myself" or newer compositions. Many people knew the lyrics and sang with Mariusz, one of the examples being the single "Loose Heart" or the title track from the debut album.
The band promoted "Out Of Myself" during two countrywide tours called "Progressive Tour". The first of those took place in spring, and the second in autumn 2004. The band played over 20 gigs in the biggest cities, the concerts usually taking place in small clubs for 300 or 400 people. This was also a success, as it needs to be remembered that hardly any Polish progressive band is able to play regular tours. Another big moment for the band was the opportunity to open for Anathema in Bydgoszcz (club "Kuźnia").
Wroclaw was one of the cities that hosted the band both in May and in October. The gig in autumn was especially unforgettable thanks to its atmosphere. The audience that filled the "Diabolique" club liked the music so much that they requested four encores from the band. Duda, Kozieradzki, Grudziński and Łapaj played for over 90 minutes until they simply ran out of songs. So, for the 4th encore, the band played "Out Of Myself" for the second time that evening. It is worth mentioning that apart from their own songs, the band performed a cover of Porcupine Tree's "Radioactive Toy".
It was obvious from the start that if the band wanted to survive, it had to attract attention in Western Europe and America. Even the best band may not survive playing this kind of music only in Poland. About nine months after its Polish premiere, on September 21, 2004 "Out Of Myself" was released worldwide under the Laser's Edge music label. Positive reviews in the foreign music press encouraged the band to set up a small tour outside Poland.
The second album was first planned for early 2005. Unfortunately, the reality was slightly different. The band needed more time to write new songs. The musicians knew how high they set the standards with their debut. The follow up to "Out Of Myself" had to be at least equally good, but different at the same time so that the band would not be accused of copying their own ideas. In the meantime, Mariusz Duda came up with an idea to continue the story told on "Out Of Myself". We could hear the first declarations – the second album was to show the heavier side of the band and continue the lyrical concept of the first album. It was also decided that the debut album as well as its follow up would be a part of a trilogy called "Reality Dream". The second album was to be released in autumn 2005.