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The River : In Situ

The River's sophomore album is worth checking out if you enjoyed their previous efforts.

This review is primarily directed towards those who already know The River’s previous effort and want to find out about the new developments on this sophomore album. Anyone new to the band is advised to check out Drawing Down the Sun and the respective review first.

It is a bit enigmatic how In Situ came into being. A while before the album’s release, the band had announced the departure of Vicky, the singer, and I remember thinking “Well, that’s it, how are they gonna do it without her?”. Yet, this new album emerged, and the first thing you notice when listening to it is Vicky’s remarkable voice soaring above the music just like before – without any further announcements about the topic (at least none I was aware of at the time). The booklet merely states “Vocals on this recording by Vicky”, so it seems like she is treated as a session member now. At any rate, I do not expect to hear her on any future releases.

After this short digression into background information, it is time to have a closer look at the album itself. Let’s face it: For its better part, In Situ is essentially a rock album with heavy, droning guitar distortion. While this alone would not necessarily be a problem, the album’s paradoxical stylistic position is its potentially weakest spot: For a really good rock album, it lacks the catchiness; for a really good Doom album, on the other hand, it lacks the necessary doominess – as plain and simple as that. On first sight, there is much less of a doomy atmosphere and far fewer downtempo rhythms to be found than on the Brits’ debut album. In fact, it has a stronger aggressive edge to it, which is even the very first impression you get when you press the play- button, for the album starts off with a really fast, rocking riff.

Despite this clear tendency, the difference is not that big after all. This album is strangely ambivalent in its entirety: It gives you the strong impression of everything sounding familiar and very similar to Drawing Down the Sun while at the same time it always feels somewhat different. The production sounds almost identical even though the album was recorded in another studio. The trademark riffing and vocal lines are both present, and the same goes for drumming and bass work, but everything is faster most of the time and – sadly – also less intense. Especially the vocal lines and lyrics are less emotional and captivating most of the time although technically, Vicky’s singing is as flawless as before. This time, the lyrics cannot even be found on the net, which is a pity – but then again, they do not add any depth to the overall picture on this release. Even the artwork is less interesting as if to warn the listener not to have too high expectations.

The album is not as disappointing as it may have come across up to now, though. Luckily, I could reconcile with it after a couple of spins. The first two tracks are really straightforward rocking and aggressive almost all the way through, but things change a bit after that. The title track is an acoustic interlude and comes as a welcome break although it is nothing special per se. “Like Clockwork, Little Happiness” finally brings back the laid-back, less aggressive rhythms and catchy melodies of the debut and even features some nice minimalist lead guitar – a great song indeed. With “Opaque”, the band re-recorded an excellent track from their demo Oneiric Dirges in Mono from 2003 (after having re- recorded “Amber” for their debut album). Naturally, this song is much more in the old doomy vein and therefore highly enjoyable. “Lifer” starts off with straightforward rock riffing again – what a surprise – but makes up for that with some good vocal lines and guitar melodies later in the song. After the unspectacular “Interlude” which doesn’t add anything of particular value, “Frailties” finally brings the Doom of the debut album back to great effect. This song really has it all and presents the band from their best sides. The only downside to the album’s closing impression is the hidden track which, just as most other hidden tracks, is hardly worth the wait.

I adhere to what I said in the beginning and must recapitulate it at this point: If you want to get to know this band, go for the debut. This second full-length is by no means an essential, indispensable release, but it is a nice addition to the collection of those who found Drawing Down the Sun as addictive as I did and desperately want to hear more. A strange aftertaste remains, one of the kind that reveals that your appetite has not been fully assuaged and you had expected a slightly different taste, but this is still better than starving, isn’t it? Good releases are rare enough, and this one shows more profile and quality than most of the watered-down Doom flooding the market these days.

Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. To Bring Closure
2. Broken Spirit Theory
3. In Situ
4. Like Clockwork, Little Happiness
5. Opaque
6. Lifer
7. Interlude
8. Frailties

Duration : Approx. 53 minutes

Visit the The River bandpage.

Reviewed on 2011-08-30 by Dominik Sonders
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